I’d made plans. Beginning with yesterday, life was going to resume normalcy. School books were going to be found and dusted off, movies were going to be returned to the basement closet and we were going to start eating properly again. Three squares a day!
I was looking forward to it. Ready for the embracing of it, but then they got sick. One by one, fever after fever and each taking a turn on the couch. And it’s been ginger ale and toast and movies, since.
They are sick in different ways. The oldest gets silent and still, barely moving from the cocoon he makes for himself. I touch his forehead from time to time and ask him what he needs, but there’s never anything. He just retreats and copes.
The second is the opposite. He takes his brother’s place on the couch, but he sets himself up for comfort. A table beside him, and a glass of water, please and thank you, and could I please find such and such movie for him to watch. And yes, he’d like some toast with butter. And maybe a bit of this and could you please fetch that. And when he is better, he reflects on the fun of being able to ask people to do things for him.
But for the smallest of them, all gangly little boy body, it lingers. Still warm with fever, he asks me to sleep in the living room with him for the night. He curls himself into a ball on the small coach, and I am on guard on the other. He’s restless.
Could I have another blanket, please?
Could you make me some tea with honey?
He is the commentator of his sadness…
This pillow doesn’t feel right. My back hurts now. Isn’t there a pill I can take? I just want it to stop. Now it’s my eyes. They really hurt. Why am I being tortured like this? Why won’t God just make me better, right now?
Finally, he drifts off and I do too, until his feverish talking-in-his-sleep wakes me.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. My back hurts. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet.
I’m shocked awake and I’m wounded by his words. Did he think I was annoyed? Did he think he was a bother?
I lean over him, kiss his hot forehead, cover him again with the quilt.
And I’m reminded again of the vulnerability that each of us, grown or small, carries within.