In nineteen ninety-four, my whole life, as I knew it, changed drastically. I was sailing through life, quite happy with whom I was and what I had accomplished throughout the years, but alas, over night, menopause hit and everything changed.
If I'd know when I was twenty what I know now about "Tha Change" as my mother and great aunts called it back in the sixties, well, I'd have jist killed myself then and gotten it over with. But, no, all those well-meaning female relatives couldn't be bothered to tell all us younger females jist how terrible menopause was really going to be. So, now that I've endured thirteen plus years and counting of this unending hell on earth, I'd like to tell you about it.
Married to a very good, hard working man and living the ideal life in a lovely log home in a small Maine town, in the foothills of south, central Maine, I had the world by the tail, or so I thought. Boy was I ever wrong!
From the very second that Mother Nature bestowed menopause on me on August 14th, 1994, everything went to hell in a hurry. From day one, I was hit with unremitting hot flashes every forty-five minutes, twenty-four hours a day. Nothing I tried would help. During the day at work, co-workers would stop what they were doing to watch as my normally pale face turned beet red and beads of sweat began running down my face as the latest "flash" overtook me.
People who didn't know me that well, would take one look at my reddening face, slide themselves away and covertly watch me from a safe distance to see what tha hell was going to happen next. I'd jist fan my red face and head for the nearest door to find some kind of cool air, or take myself to the kitchen to bathe my sweaty face in cool water.
As the years drug by and the hot flashes were unrelenting, I availed myself of every opportunity I could think of to rid myself of this terrible scourge. I called and saw every doctor within a fifty mile radius who might be able to help me but none could. I saw radiologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, physiologists, acupuncturists, hypnotists and gynecologist to no avail. I read every medical report ever written about this friggin malaise like: "Coping with Menopause," "Moving Into Your Mellow Years," "Men-Oh-Pause," "Dealing With Your Change of Life," "Getting Hotter by the Minute," and nothing they suggested worked for me.
I sought help at the "health food" stores and ingested such herbal remedies as "Black Cohash," "Liquorish Root," "Pennyroyal" and "Hoodia." I read that caffeine was a major contributor of hot flashes so I gave up drinking, Coke, Pepsi, coffee, tea, wine and eating chocolate. One doctor even went so far as to prescribe male hormones for me to see if that would help but all it did was make me feel very aggressive. When I told the doctor how the medicine made me feel, he advised me to stop taking it. "I'd be glad to, I told him. I'm aggressive enough without taking this stuff." Still no relief in the war against hot flashes, I came away from that process with nerves jangling and a much lighter checkbook.
As the years passed and this terrible scourge still plagued me day and night, my husband ceased to give me any sympathy at all. We'd be peacefully sleeping, when a flash would hit and everything would fly to hell and gone. He complained that I was constantly waking him up by thrashing around trying to find a cooler spot on the sheets or kicking all the covers off both of us in order to cool down. He'd roll over and eye me to see if I was still alive then he'd snarl, grab his share of the sheets and blankets and mumble something to me about "goin to see tha doctor and git rid of those shittin things!"
In the morning after having endured another night of thrashing and disrupted sleep, my husband could barely nod a good morning to me as he stumbled out of bed and headed for the shower. Years of not sleeping and feeling over-heated at the slightest stress, I wasn't the easiest person to live with either. But the final straw came on the day that my mother-in-law came for a short visit and I heard her and my husband talking quietly in the kitchen.
"Does Martha still have those terrible hot flashes like she had the last time I stayed here?" she asked. My husband was silent for a couple of long seconds and then he said in a low, guilty voice, "Not only does she still have them Mother, but they're worse than before! I don't know how much longer I can take it. I haven't had a good night's sleep goin on fifteen years!" "Well," my equally unsympathetic mother-in-law sniffed, "I had them too but they only lasted a year or two and as I recollect, they really weren't that bad. Maybe she's jist lookin for sympathy."
Outraged and hurt that my French mother-in-law, another woman, didn't sympathize and support me, she didn't know how close she came to meetin her maker prematurely as I crept away from the door jist as another hot flash hit at hearing my long-sufferin husband spilling his tale of woe to his mother. I quietly closed my bedroom door and hurried to my bathroom to bathe my sweating face in cold water and it was then that I came up with a plan. If my darling husband thinks like his mother that I'm over reactin or jist looking for sympathy, I was going to show him jist how bad my hot flashes really were!
Bright and early the next mornin as my husband and mother-in-law waved goodbye to me as he was taking her home, I put my plan into action. I waited until I was certain that they were quite far ahead of me and then I drove myself down the road behind them to Big Lots, a discount store where I especially liked to shop. I hurried into the store and found exactly what I was looking for, a dual control heated mattress pad. I whipped out my checkbook, wrote a check for thirty dollars and headed for home. I smiled to myself all the way down Brighton Hill Road as I envisioned my ultimate revenge. Oh! It was it going to be sooo sweet!
I ran up the cellar stairs with my bulky package and into my bedroom. I knew that I had a couple of hours before Leo would come back because his mother always persuaded him to take her out to eat at her favorite restaurant, Cole Farms, in Gray, which was about a forty-five minute drive from our house, so I took my time to get everything jist right!
I stripped all the bedding off the bed right down to the mattress. Then I ripped open the plastic bag and took out the heated mattress pad and slapped it into place on our king sized bed. I slid the electric cord behind the headboard and plugged it in and then I tucked his remote control behind my side of the bed. Satisfied that everything was perfect, I remade our bed with his favorite percale clean, crisp sheets and pillowcases an added a nice warm blanket, the bedspread and I was done. Jist for good measure, I turned down the sheets and fluffed the pillows and as I turned to give the room one last check, I smiled to myself. Yes sir! The bed was very enticing and I couldn't wait for night to come. I was ready!
Leo finally straggled home around three pm with all the usual complaints about having had to run around all day for his elderly mother. He went on and on about how she had to go to about five different stores because Wal-Mart or K-Mart hadn't had what she'd wanted. I listened sympathetically and waited for him to wind down and then I sent him outside to the shed, upstairs to get stuff, down to the basement on one "fool's errand" after another until he was really worn out. I figured if he could run around for his mother all day, then he could do it for me. Besides, in order for my plan to work, I needed him dog tired and dead to tha world.
When the time finally rolled around for us to go to bed, Leo ran for his bathroom, showered in record time and headed for his nice, freshly changed sheets and a good night's sleep. Since it was still early September, I opened the window an extra couple of inches and for once, he didn't complain as the cool air wafted over him. I kept him awake for as long as I dared jist asking him inane questions about his mother, his day and any other stupid thing I could think of. Jist as I sucked in more air to ask another barrage of sleep-delayin questions, I heard a loud snore and he was gone to la-la land. I turned off the television, slid down into my nice clean, cool sheets and waited, silently counting off the minutes like a person on death row.
Finally, I heard our grandfather clock strike ten and Leo had been sound asleep for over two hours. I decided to put the first phase of my plan into action. I slowly and carefully slid my hand down behind the head board until I found the remote control for his side of the heating pad. Finding it, I dialed it as far to the right as it would go to number ten, or High. I turned over towards Leo to watch what was going to happen. I couldn't wait to see his handsome face flushed with his first bonified "hot flash!"
It didn't take too long before I had the desired effect either. As the heating pad revved up, Leo began to mumble a little in his sleep and then he began thrashing around and pulling at his pajamas. He kicked off his covers jist like I did when a hot flash hit me. As he lay there in his heavy, flannel pajamas, he brought his arm up and wiped his sleeve across his sweating face. Jist as he was about to fully wake up, a gust of cold air from the open window blew across his fevered brow and he slid back into a deep sleep. I dialed the remote to "Off" and waited for him to fall sound asleep again. I had to slide down off the side of the bed onto the floor so that I wouldn't wake him with my laughter. My planned "hot flash" revenge had worked even better than I had anticipated. It was perfect! Oh! The hot flashes he was going to have!
Hour after hour, all through the long night, every time I heard the grandfather clock strike the hour, I dialed the heating pad control to high or carefully pulled his covers off him so that he'd be cold and each and every time, I got the optimal result. I didn't feel even the slightest twinge of guilt as I replayed in my mind, the unsympathetic conversation I'd overheard between him and his mother that very morning.
The clock on Leo's bedside buzzed at his regular waking time of four o'clock and mumbling to himself, he reached over to shut it off. I hadn't slept a wink that night either but this morning, I didn't care, I couldn't wait to see his face and besides, I hadn't had a hot flash all night long! Well, not that I could remember anyway.
He stumbled towards the shower and I made for the kitchen to cook him a cheery breakfast. I smiled into the warm sunshine coming through my southern- facing window. I hummed as I listened to all the depressing television news of the day; I danced along with the music coming from our radio over the sink. Nothing could get me down this morning. Revenge was long in coming but brother was it sweet!
Leo's shower seemed to take an extra long time that morning and finally I heard the bathroom door slide open and heard him swear as he stubbed his toe against the shower door. It seemed to take him forever to finish his normal bathroom ritual, dress and come into the kitchen.
I kept my back to him as I poured steaming, hot coffee into his favorite cup and added the cream and sugar. As I turned to hand him the coffee, I had all I could do not to burst into laughter. He was slumped on the kitchen stool in his underwear and he looked like death warmed over! His usually pink complexion was haggard and gray. His hazel eyes, normally bright and sharp, were dull and slow and he had deep circles all around them. He wasn't sitting in the chair in his usual upright ready to take on the world manner either, he was slumped back against the wood, looking all tha world like a man who had met a monster and lost! Ah, revenge is sweet!
I dropped two pieces of toast into the toaster, slid four pieces of bacon and two eggs onto his plate, poured his orange juice and took it over to the table. I turned around and said, "Ok sunshine, your breakfast is ready!" He blearily looked at me and then he said in a slightly hostile tone, "I don't feel like sunshine. If the truth be known, I feel like dogshit! I didn't sleep a wink all night. I tell you, first it was hot then it was cold! I don't know what's wrong with me! I must be gittin tha flu or somethin. I don't know why you have to have tha friggin window open every night. I musta caught a cold or tha flu because every time I turned over, I was freezing or roastin! Could you check to see if I have a fever?" he whined. And with that final complaint, he slid off the stool and pulled out the chair at his place at the table.
I walked over to where he was sittin and slid my hand across his cool forehead. "Nope, no fever, you seem jist fine to me." Upon hearin this, he brought his hand up and laid it on his forehead to double check. "I don't know how I'm going to make it through tha day," he whined. "I've got all those meetins and we have a new paper run scheduled for this afternoon or I'd jist stay home." "Oh honey, you're jist fine, once you get to work, you'll feel better, I'm sure." "Oh that's easy for you to say," he whined once more. "You've got tha day off, you can rest or take a nap or whatever. Me, I have to go to work." He fastened his blood-shot eyes on me as if it were all my fault. And it was, it really, really was! I felt like dancing naked around my kitchen and out into the bright sunshine on my back deck. I felt fine, no hot flashes killing me this morning! I was as cool as a cucumber!
Finally, his breakfast was over and he gathered his lunch pail, his beeper, his cell phone and headed for the car. Jist as he was about to close the kitchen door, he turned and said, "Could you please get me a couple of aspirins? I feel like I have a headache comin on." "Yes dear, I'll get you some." I replied and I hurried to the cupboard to get them for him. He gulped them down with a long drink of water and walked slowly down the stairs to the cellar like a man goin to the gas chamber. "Goodbye hon, have a nice day!" I called out cheerily to his retreating back and he lifted a tired hand in a slight wave of goodbye. As I softly closed the kitchen door I barely made it to the kitchen before I collapsed laughing into a chair. "Revenge is oh soooooo sweet!"
Martha Stevens-David Column Magic City
The Most Recently Republished Articles include:
The Manure Spreader
Aroostook River Fishin
Vengeance is Mine Pt. 1
Aroostook County Memories
Childrens Stories include:
See also Vengeance is Mine a short mystery novel published at Magic City over 4 days.
All works by Martha Stevens-David published at Magic City Morning Star News are her copyright property and may not be reproduced without her permission.