Tag Archiv: sickness
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.
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.
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.
photo compliments of morguefile.com
In the spring, I had a miscarriage that went beyond sad, straight past to scary. My then nine year old was home sick from school. Sick, but quite recovered enough to be enjoying his first Indiana Jones movie while I was passing out on the bathroom floor. Everything was trending with a distinct downward trajectory, so I eventually made him stop the movie and call his father, who could not be reached. Against boy’s strong wishes, but saving him from finding me unconscious and unable to be revived later, I made him call 911. (I would have gotten the phone myself, but the inability to stand and remain conscious was challenging me at the time.)
Son relayed when a police car arrived in the driveway. I had to argue him into answering the door. The ambulance came followed at last by my husband. I worried about my son, but there wasn’t anything to say other than please not to worry, and the ambulance people would make everything better.
In the days that followed, we said thank you. We told him we were proud of him. In the quiet spaces, I tried to check in.
“How are you doing about when you were home with me that day?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I just didn’t want to talk to the 911 people.”
“So really, you’re ok?”
“Yeah. I really liked that movie.”
A check in a week or so later yielded similar results. I decided not to push the point. If he wasn’t traumatized because he didn’t understand how serious things has been, I didn’t see anything good about changing that. And if he was upset, he wasn’t ready to talk yet.
Last week, a little more than six months since that day, we were sorting through his clothes.
“What’s with these shorts?” I ask. “You never wear them.”
“Give them to charity. I hate them.”
“They don’t fit or you don’t like them? What’s wrong with them?”
“I hate them. They fit but I’ll never wear them. You were wearing shorts just like that the day the ambulance came.”
“You don’t wear these shorts because I was wearing shorts like this the day I went to the hospital?”
“Yeah. I’m never wearing those shorts. ”
“So you were scared that day?”
“I was so scared. I didn’t even know what would happen. And then they took you in the ambulance. It was a really bad day.”
“I’m sorry all that happened.”
“Are you ok now?”
“Yeah, but I hate those shorts. Give them to charity.”
“They sound like pretty lousy shorts. Maybe we should burn them.”
Boy slowly grins. The thought of the shorts on fire is in his eyes.
“Maybe, I’ll burn mine too,” I say. “I don’t really like the shorts I wore that day either.”
“Yeah, we can burn them both.” Boy laughs, then looks me in the eye. “We can just give them away. It’s ok, Mom.”
My heart lets go a little more, because finally, I believe him.