Inevitably, I think of my childhood illnesses while stricken with an upper respiratory virus that has kept me totally in bed for a couple of days. This helpless misery of feeling so ill that nothing can take you away from the experience of suffering, reminds me of being sick in my bed as a child. My mom was a sporadically nurturing type. I do remember Campbell’s canned cream of tomato soup with buttered Pepperidge Farm bread sliced into small squares floating on top. Or soft boiled eggs with crumbled Saltine crackers and ginger ale if it was tummy trouble. After the nursing mother role wore off, she just hoped I would get better already so she could get back to her life. Apparently I always did.
When I was six, I was stricken with Rubella measles that lasted three weeks. For that bout, I stayed with my baby sitter’s family which I had often done in the past. One afternoon, I heard weird moaning sounds that frightened me. The family was going on about their business downstairs and I had no idea what to do. Finally, I realized that I was the one making those noises. I had a high fever and must have been a bit delirious.The shades had been drawn the whole time as it was feared my eyes would be damaged by exposure to the light.
As a young adult, I was stricken with a severe case of chicken pox. I taught nursery and kindergarten classes in a private Montessori school. Though it was rampant in the public school system, I was the only one in our whole school who came down with the illness. The itchy white blisters covered every inch of my skin both outside and some inside. It was torturous. When my older daughter had a moderately bad case of it when she was eight, she said through her tears, “Mommy, the only good thing about having chicken pox is that it will be over soon.” The only good thing about being in bed with an upper respiratory ailment is that it will be over; sooner or later. Most of the folks I know who have had this say it took at least three weeks just to stop coughing, let alone regain their energy.
The other good thing is that right now I am in lying on my bed in my new room full of painted yellow sunshine. It is much more spacious than my old dwelling, with distance enough to see across to my living room area. I am taken care of by nurse mommies, checking my temperature (no fever), bringing me menus for meals, (soups, salads, and tea), and distributing Robitussin and an albuterol nebulizer in a face mask so I can breathe better. They have decided it is not bronchitis or any other dastardly disease; so no antibiotics. That is also good news.
I do sound like several croaking bullfrogs fighting over a lily pad. It may well interfere with reading my poem at a sharing with my Writer’s Bloc group this Thursday. It would be distracting for an audience to interpret frog ribbets. Ah well, that is what happens when you are ill. All those plans lie fallow until you get back on your feet or reclaim your voice. Not a tragedy by any means. Just a delay.
Yesterday there was a misery moment of suffering such deep weakness, disorientation and pressure from overstuffed sinuses, and gasping, wracking coughs, that I knew that only Richard could understand just how badly I felt. Since he wasn’t here…poor me. Daughters and friends near and far check in and I actually am not lonely. Plus, I feel a bit better today and was very bored with lying around: a good sign that my body is moving in the right direction.
My inner mommy, who is also a body centered psychotherapist, thinks perhaps this woman is carrying more unshed grief in her chest. I think she is right but I cannot press a cathartic ‘deep weep’ button to deliver on command. Grief has her own ways and timing of expression and I am confident that once I can breathe freely and not burst into gut wrenching coughs, she will emerge for a thorough cleansing. In case I needed a catalyst, Richard’s one year death anniversary is coming up in less than three weeks.
It is still unbelievable to me. His death, our almost fifty years together, our entire history of life accomplishments, have drifted far from my everyday reality. He is ever present; not as he was, as ‘that man, Richard’, but as the presence he radiated from within all those years. His unique attitudes or opinions about my current earthly life sneak into my ear from time to time, and I chuckle when they do. I know they are my thoughts offering a different perspective cloaked in his speech patterns. His internal essence is quietly there in any moment I choose the awareness of being. How can he ever be far away from me?
I can turn my head on my pillow and look into his eyes in my favorite photograph of him. Hanging on the wall beside me, he is slightly squinting into the sun wearing his Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association cap. My Dutch friend Daphne snapped this when we were together on Mount Blanc. I love it because his eyes are looking directly forward at me. The vast distances beyond the observation deck peering into Switzerland or Italy or France inform his gaze. His eyes reflect the intensity of the man and his serious, playful nature captured in that one moment of our lives. It is but a thin disguise of Love I am seeing there, and it nurtures me.