Persons, places and things: back surgery and marriage vows


By Barb Arland-Fye

Pulling my husband Steve’s socks onto his feet each morning since his back surgery Oct. 10, I couldn’t help but think about how he tenderly assisted me after I underwent surgery to mend a broken leg. He helped me in the shower and endured my complaints when I couldn’t sleep because of the cast, the boot or the pain that impeded my movement. He served my favorite meals, bringing them straight to the couch. He didn’t protest after I played Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “What are you doing Sunday” for the umpteenth time while exercising my upper body, since I could no longer run.

Mary Anna Parris Steve Fye and Barb Arland-Fye pose after Mass Oct. 15 at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.
Mary Anna Parris
Steve Fye and Barb Arland-Fye pose after Mass Oct. 15 at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.

Now it’s my turn. I dress his incision daily and cover it with plastic wrap and duct tape to keep it dry when he showers. We joke about me, “Doctor Arland,” inspecting his stitches and staples and ensuring that he’s behaving himself by following doctor’s orders. And I’ve assumed (with a little trepidation) the domestic engineer duties that Steve has handled for the 31-1/2 years of our marriage.

Even though I lived five years on my own before we married, I still find grocery shopping a bewildering experience. Earlier this summer, when Steve was writhing in pain from a bulging disc in his back, he asked me to pick up chicken for dinner and identified the brand name. When I asked the employee at the meat counter if he could help me find Bare Naked chicken, he didn’t miss a beat. He took me to the refrigerated section where “Bare” chicken was located.


We’ve experienced other trials and challenges in our marriage, including raising one son with autism and another who struggled to relate with his peers. Both have blossomed into fine young men because of our faith in God to guide our family, and our participation in a faith community that embraces us.

Physical health challenges, for some inexplicable reason, have been more daunting. A diagnosis of osteoporosis followed the long-drawn-out healing of my broken leg. A second fall (yes, while running) resulted in a couple of fractured ribs. I began to feel more fragile and vulnerable.

Steve provides the encouragement I need to continue to pursue physical fitness activities that give me a sense of vitality. He promises that when he mends from back surgery, we’ll go bicycling and walking together.

Our family felt anxious seeing Steve, a physically strong man, exhausted and weak in the months preceding his back surgery and immediately afterwards. His strength has always given us a sense of confidence. I took my younger son, Patrick, to visit Steve at the hospital hours after the surgery. Patrick wanted to leave 10 minutes later. He couldn’t bear seeing Steve in a hospital bed.

Steve was in otherwise good health when he underwent back surgery and had an excellent surgeon and surgical team. Prayers for successful surgery are already being answered and we are so grateful. We know that other people undergo far more complicated surgeries and illnesses, and some don’t recover. This experience helps us to celebrate the preciousness of each day even more.

The marriage vows that Steve and I made 31-1/2 years ago inspired the give and take rhythm of a relationship that with God’s grace, continues to grow in love. Pope Francis observes “Growth can only occur if we respond to God’s grace through constant acts of love, acts of kindness that become ever more frequent, intense, generous, tender and cheerful. Husbands and wives ‘become more conscious of their unity and experience it more deeply from day to day’” (The “Joy of Love). Maybe I, an avowed non-cook, will make dinner for Steve.

(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at

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