Category Archives: Sickness
photo compliments of morguefile.com
In addition to severe hearing loss, my children no longer have interest in or aptitude for school, music practice, chores, responsibilities, basic personal hygiene, or conversation about any of the aforementioned.
Girl two has been the egg collector for ages. She has two modes right now.
#1. Going out to get the eggs after wailing, tears, and stomping (I see her veering towards the Charismatics when she’s older). On the way, she sees a sibling, a bird, or a bug, and forgets why she went outside. If you can find her after that and lead her to the door of the coop, she sometimes remembers to get the eggs.
#2. She wails, stomps, dries her eyes and heads to the coop. She returns a few minutes later with at least one broken egg, sometimes more. She cries and says she just isn’t good at getting the eggs. She suggests that perhaps it would be best for the sake of the eggs if another more skilled child were assigned the job of egg collection. She is shocked at suggestions of intentional egg breakage.
Boy two and Girl one are reading like there’s no tomorrow. A friend couldn’t quite get how I could be getting my son in trouble for reading. I’m not sure what there is to explain. Both of them hide (closets, bathrooms, small spaces) to read. Both expect that a good page trumps coming to dinner or responding to verbal commands. I have endless conversations with people who only appear to be in the room with me. I yell their names a foot from them, sometimes twice before they realize I am speaking. Boy two speaks (and works) primarily on Saturday morning because I’ve taken to using an after lunch library trip as a way to his heart. It’s a mixed blessing. I get to hear his voice for a few hours. Then he wants nothing to do with food, life, or people for the rest of the day. I am planning to call a no reading zone for a day or two this summer just so I can remember what it was like to have kids who talk to me about their thoughts when they came in from outside.
Boy one continues his preparations for law school. By my estimation, he will soon be ready to take on, if not the world, at least the ruling communist party in China or the mafia. I do my best to be a good training ground. An analysis of his time would look somewhat like this: Homework: 3-5%, Responsibilities: 5-7%, Recreation (soccer, music): 15% Verbal exercises (philosophizing, debating, honing socialization skills on the phone): 75%.
The lack of focus around here is maddeningly contagious. I myself have not had clear consecutive thoughts for days now. When I can remember what the issue is, I ponder important questions slowly. Like is there a cure for spring fever? If so, what does it taste like and where do you buy it?
County Road 21 is closed for today. The few thoughts I had in my head got said yesterday. I went to bed standing up at 6:00 last night. From there, I wandered between children issuing barely intelligible directives. They got bored of me and went to bed early. You know it is bad, when no one even asks you to read to them. I made it to my pillow by 8:30 and that was that.
A fine day to you all. I’ll aim for a good walk before dinner and hope you have the gift of the same.
It’s -30C outside (-22F). Inside we are feeding the wood stove steadily. The stomach flu which meandered through the ranks at the end of last week, took a more direct and steady course beginning yesterday at 4am. All stomachs are now settled. The wan and weak are on separate couches in the livingroom. I am bringing toast and applesauce in small increments.
“Thank you for loving us so much when we’re so disgusting,” said a kneeling 13 year old fresh up for air from an encounter with the toilet last night.
His face from last night has stayed with me. My boy of boundless energy and not a small amount of cockiness these days, all humility, softness and gratitude. Some days I don’t have a lot of bold conclusions. Today I am pondering these things and not much more.
1. What it means to know we are disgusting and feel embraced by kindness in the midst of it. What it means to us to be loved and accepted not because we don’t have puke on our face, but while we do.
2. What this says about grace. How it might long to catch us up short and change us forever. Redeem us, with the vomit of our shortcomings still clinging to strands of our hair.
I am sorry to be bringing up a very, very bad day again. Blame the forgiveness project. After the whole miscarriage, pass out repeatedly, call 911 incident in the spring, I ended up at the hospital of my not-choice. The paramedics were wonderful. They acted at all times as if something was wrong with me and I needed help. Given my state, I found their attitude encouraging.
Once at the ER, I was left in the hallway for more than an hour. This did not feel nice, but at least I got to keep the paramedics. After that, they rolled me into an empty room and shut the door. Here, I inherited nurse primary and nurse other. For another couple of hours they did as little as possible to assist me. By request of my husband, I received oxygen and an IV drip. Otherwise, I was told to walk to the bathroom and sighed at when it was explained that I couldn’t go two steps without passing out. Help bells were rung and ignored when my husband was worried about how long I had passed out for, or about me having a seizure. Nurse primary was rather uncomfortable with the sight of blood. (It made it hard for us to develop a positive relationship as my entire condition was all about continual bleeding.)
Dr. in charge, came by a couple of times, as in twice, possibly three times, for about 45 seconds each time. He was sure the worst was past and I’d be going home soon. It was difficult to see what he was basing his diagnosis on, as no one, nurse or doctor, ever did an assessment of me. In fact, oddly, until I was transferred to the angelic OB/GYN’s no one actually touched me, except to draw blood. They glanced briefly at my face, but mostly they looked at their charts or the machines that told them about me.
That was in March. This is December. I know. I should have forgiven them by now. I have tried not to think about them. They kind of popped out after I thought about vegetable man. Did I mention also that my disgust for them feels justified?
I too have treated people as interruptions rather than human beings. I have failed to see fear and vulnerability, and so failed to provide empathy or care. I have failed to see the people I am assigned to care for, bleeding to different kinds of death right in front of me.
To the nurses and doctor assigned to me that day, I forgive you. I have been you too. May we all have fresh eyes to recognize the very real needs around us. May we have to grace to respond with compassion, and the humility to say, I’m sorry. May you and your families be much blessed this Christmas and always.
Can I have a drink?
How long til you read me a story?
I don’t feel good
Mom . . .
Plus five. Times ten. So eighty or so times later . . .
Will you say soothing words to me tonight?
Sorry, dear, what did you say?
Will you say soothing words to me tonight?
Will I say soothing words to you tonight?
Yes, I will say soothing words to you tonight.
Later . . .
Are you going to say soothing words to me?
Yes. I’m just thinking of them. I can think of some words that are not soothing right now. Can you think of some?
You shouldn’t say I hate you for soothing words.
No, you really shouldn’t.
I love you.
I love you too.
You are a very beautiful little girl.
I’m going to finish clearing the table now.
And still later . . .
Time for bed beautiful girl.
Are you going to say soothing words to me now?
Yes, but let’s get you tucked in first.
Good night little one, I’m so sorry you aren’t feeling well. Mommy loves you so much.
I love you too. Are you going to say soothing words now?
I’m trying to think of more.
I don’t know soothing words.
You don’t know what soothing means?
Where did you hear it?
From Christopher Churchmouse. The mother in the story said soothing words.
So I explained soothing words and said as many as I could think of. Girl two smiled, closed her sleepy eyes on puffy exhausted cheeks and made me very happy in my messy house and life that can’t quite keep it together.
Florence Nightingale, mother of modern nursing
My mother was a nurse. My husband is a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, a teacher, a missionary, a social worker, and run an orphanage. I never wanted to be a nurse, but have come to believe it to be part of who I am. My first nursing role was taking care of my mother when she was sick. She wasn’t a terribly good patient, but I liked doing it. It was a good way to say, I love you. Something that helped me with goodbye.
My mother’s lifelong love of nursing didn’t translate into a degree until I was in my twenties, but to me she was always a nurse. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of her nursing me when I was sick. I often had terrible sore throats. During one particular illness, where I was dizzy with an especially painful throat, a bell was found so I could ring for help. That silver bell became my special privilege for every sickness thereafter.
We weren’t an overly physical or affectionate family. We practiced humor more than touch, but sick meant my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, running her fingers through my hair. She would wipe my head with a cool cloth, feel my neck to see if my glands were swollen, listen to my endless thoughts and questions. When I was sick, my mother belonged only to me. Our family troubles were a fuzzy dream. My mother was present then in a way that allowed me to let go of all that. Her fretting about me set everything right. If we went to the doctor, I believed it was to get what my mother had already figured out that I needed.
It has been difficult this fall to get the kids healthy and keep them there. This weekend we cancelled everything, but at the end, everyone was closer to beating the extremely tenacious hacking cough that has plagued us.
Monday morning, girl two arrived downstairs with cheeks blazing and a sore stomach. Boy two was looking cadaver like, still not hungry, and exhausted after 12 hours of sleep. My partner in crime felt lousy as well.
Boy two is better now. Girl two spent most of Monday night throwing up so was fit to go nowhere Tuesday. It was slow going but at least her stomach had settled. The waiting game of, “who is next or is it done?” has begun.
I wish I could tell my mom that I take kids heads off over stupid things (wet boots kicked off in the wrong place, toothpaste spit dried on the sink, doors shut loudly), but I get up fifteen times in the night to clean up puke, rub backs, and wipe heads gently without any effort at all. That I always want them well, but I cherish the exhausted moments spent beside a fevered head, whispering soft words, and running my fingers through their hair.
Here on County Road 21, we are battling the stomach flu. The first fallen hard was up all night, so I was too. Others appear to be teetering on the edge. We shall see. I am pleading like there’s no tomorrow for boy one to make it through unscathed until after his concert on Thursday night. He sings all day with the joy of anticipation and practices his trombone happily with no reminders. Feel free to add to my prayers that at least he and one driver/audience member make it there. And who knows, maybe we’ll all be tip top by then.
All this is simple and true. The beautiful requires more explanation than I can afford the time for at the present.
Boy one is coughing again. Boy two has been down for the count since Saturday. We got home from picking out the Christmas tree and he disappeared. We found him sound asleep in his room. He’s been see through white and pasty ever since, hacking like an old man. Girl one is coughing and complaining of an ear ache. Girl two is tired and also coughing. After wracking her whole little self, she breathes in again and smiles at me through watery eyes. Whatever the weather of our lives, this one smiles. Her eyes say, it’s ok, mom, life is good.
My grandfather tells a story about two brothers at Christmas. The first opens a large expensive electric train set. “Hopefully it doesn’t break,” he says. The second boy opens a small box filled with poop. “Hurray!” he yells jumping up and down. “When do I meet my pony?”
My grandfather says that’s the definition of an optimist.
It reminds me of girl two.
The frustration of kids that don’t get better and limp in and out of health for months is really starting to get at me. A musical evening to sing at each other isn’t the only thing on hold while I try and figure out how to help them beat this virus. We cancelled and postponed and sent regrets this week and last. The kids are sick of me pushing hard on bedtimes and healthy eating. They want candy and late nights NOW. I’m sick of pushing too, but I want them well.
Common-sense-me says to stay the course. Life happens. Paranoid-me is fretting that school teachers, and music teachers, and cub leaders, and the grand everybody will think we don’t care, that the kids couldn’t possibly still be sick. Perspective is a little mouse loose in the kitchen. I have a pot lid and have reached to catch it again and again. Just when I think I’ve got it, it squiggles out. Soon, I will get a broom, I tell myself. With nothing else in control, at least I can send that uncatchable mouse through the kitchen window.
Girl two has recently shared her long term vision for the future. She loves our home so much, she says, that she is never leaving. When she is a grown up, she will hire a special builder to come and make a new kind of bed. This way, she and I and her father and sister can have our own beds but have them hooked all together. (I imagine the neighbours will want to take a look someday but that’s another story.)
For girl two, nothing really matters as long as we’re together. Construction plans aside, it reminds me to take a deep breath and let it go. With sore throats, ear aches, and coughs abounding, we’re in this together. That’s a pretty good gift.