As we were running errands the other night Dick was suddenly overcome with a sharp pain in his lower back.  At first he thought it was a back spasm but after a few minutes spent writhing in pain on the sidewalk it became clear to me that we were dealing with a kidney stone.  With confused and inquisitive children in tow, we piled into the car and rushed Dick to the ER. 

As Dick tried to breathe through the pain and answer questions from me like, “When was the last time you peed?  What color was it?” and from Adam like, “How do you get stoned, daddy?”, I would try to intervene on Dick’s behalf to spare him the agony of sounding calm while formulating a rational explanation for a 5 year old.

“Daddy isn’t stoned. He has a little ouchie inside his back.  Mommy’s going to take him to the hospital so the doctors can help him.”

Apparently still concerned Adam peppered me with more questions, “But will the doctor take away Daddy’s stone?  Can I see it?  Will daddy’s head fall off?”

“No, sweetheart.  The doctor will help daddy with his ouchie which is called a kidney stone and it’s in his back; it has nothing to do with daddy’s head.”

Looking at his face, I could tell he was processing the information I’d just given him.  Finally satisfied, he confirmed his assessment of the  situation by saying, “Getting stoned is bad and it could make your head fall off, but doctors can help with that.”

“Um…yeah.  We’ll talk more about it later…like, when you’re old enough to understand what a PSA is.”


They say that kidney stones are like the male version of childbirth and I can see why.  By the time we reached the hospital Dick’s breathing had become quick and shallow and he was holding his lower back and pacing like a woman about to give birth. 

As the hours wore on, my poor Dick become more and more like an Hollywood version of a woman in labor alternating between exhausted declarations of love and swearing at me like a sailor.  I couldn’t tell which Dick I was trying to comfort - the one who loved me desperately or the one who wanted Jesus Fucking Christ to stop the pain.

Being the partner of someone in immense pain gave me a new appreciation for what it must be like for all those hapless husbands who sit around fussing with the camera equipment or spitting out trite motivational statements like, “Way to go, babe – you’re doing great” as their partner is literally ripped in two from the inside out.   As I stood there next to Dick, wailing in pain, I found myself wondering, “What should I say?”  I mean – it’s a little awkward to say the least.  Communication with someone in agony is a tricky business.  Chatty & overly supportive and you become annoying but quiet and distant only gets you labeled as useless.  Basically it’s a no-win situation for everyone. 

Unsure of what to do, I opted for making light-hearted wisecracks.  I soon learned that it’s hard for your comic stylings to be heard or appreciated over the howls of a loved one screaming in agony.  Then I tried being the sympathetic, comforting type – mopping Dick’s sweaty brow, covering his exposed feet with blankets, and harassing passing nurses for his next dose of narcotics.  That was met with annoyance, as I obsessively mopped, covered and harassed with the zeal of a fat kid at a candy-eating contest. 

In the end I’m sure I did no better and no worse than most hapless male spouses caught in a birthing situation.  At least I gained some insights about myself as a result of this experience, mainly that A) This excruciating pain represented an unwelcome shift in attention away from me and onto Dick and  B) I don’t like to be upstaged.  I also learned that it’s simply no fun to watch someone you love suffer – even if they really did have it coming over their repeated failure to get the recyclables outside in time for Friday’s pick-up. 


After some serious narcotics the doctor proclaimed Dick to be the proud father of twins – one 3 millimeter stone with a second 2 milimeter stone waiting in the wings – yet to pass.  To add insult to injury, he was told that his stones were too small for them to do much more than prescribe pain relief while nature takes it’s course through Dick’s dick.  For all the excruciating pain, he didn’t even end up with a follow-up appointment with a urologist.  As births go, Dick’s kidney stones were more annoying than worrisome and more painful than joyful.  

At least I can take comfort in knowing that Dick has scored some pretty hefty pain meds which he will, in all liklihood, refuse to take.  That means mommy has something to kill those quarterly migraines when the Excedrin doesn’t cut it.  To me, getting stoned on Vicodin is way better than screaming in pain as Dick tries to be helpful, and reclaiming my rightful place as the center of Dick’s universe is way better than playing nurse. 

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