Alive and Well

I cannot imagine how our mothers and grandmothers used to take care of five, nine, even 12 children. I just got out of a two week long rendezvous with the Flu Bug.  How does one manage to take care of two sick children?  I barely got out alive.  Actually, I got out of it with heavy-eyed, out-of-breath, bone-tired, half-dead.  You put out a strong front while your insides churn worrying what their insides are like every moment.  You sleep with one eye open, watching their chests rise and fall as they sleep, if they are still breathing.  You become best friends with towels and basins, as you place your faith on footbaths and chest rubs, hoping the thermometer’s red line drops a wee bit. You feel every ache and pain, wishing this once you were truly a witch with a mending spell.  You seem unruffled and unflinching, but you suffer: with each cough; each forlorn look you see; each time you feel their neck burning.  You yearn for a tiny smile, a chuckle, a dance step or two, one more spoonful of porridge, that they play again.  But they linger in bed, drifting in and out, not understanding the pain, but always, always, calling for you. You do know that fever is the body’s silver bullet that would annihilate germs.  The body warms up to burn the abominable virus or bacteria. So you anxiously wait, relentlessly holding on to their cold feet, counting every second until warm feet signals dwindling fever. And still, there is a stark temptation to stuff them with antibiotics and suppressants until the illness disappears.  I try as much as I can to let the fever take its course.  But one line off the 38.5 mark and I’m reaching for a Paracetamol as I guiltily breathe through a tad few hours when they seem fine. For two weeks, life asks you to forget your everyday, take stock and heed a child who is vulnerable without you.   Sometimes I feel as though my children and God, the entire Universe, and those naughty germs are in collusion, feigning illness so I stop and slow down, stay home, and nurse my children. For two weeks you realize the new Easter product does not have to be edited now, the courts can wait a few more days, your emails don’t even have to be answered, not just yet, and the red appointments on your calendar can actually be blue.  And this time, you have no excuse to snatch forty winks or read another page curling up on the couch.  Your child is crying out for you, and now is the time.  So you forego everything, and it does not feel like you are foregoing anything.  Call it what you may- love, motherhood, human nature, but a gigantic force compels you to selflessness.  You are your great self, relinquishing your entire being, without thought of reward, recognition, not even a hug.   Sheer commitment.  Empathy.  Agape.  And one day, your child’s secret collaboration with the divine to keep you home ends.  Just like that.  Without knowing how it happened, the illness leaves.  No curtain calls, no thank yous and goodbyes, not even applause.  One day, they wake up to their cheery selves, wolfing down soup, with toothy grins, back to giggles, and back to their playstands, while forgetting you who slaved away for two weeks. And how do you feel?  Elated.  Ecstatic.  Overjoyed.  You do not need the grateful hug, the appreciative nod, not even clapping hands.  All you need is their cheery self, wolfing down soup, with a toothy grin, a giggle and they can run back to their playstands without a backward glance.  I believe we carry our children in our minds, our hearts, in our every limb, long after they are on their own.  Each tear, ache and pain, we feel with our entire beings.  That is exactly why we feel we carry the weight of the world when all they have caught is a cold, or that we burn in hell when all they are is a little warmer than usual. So now my daughters are back to wrecking havoc, while I, having been on forced night shifts for two weeks, would have to contend with my zonked voice and lost sleep that’s taken a toll on my health.  And how do I feel?  Elated, ecstatic, and overjoyed.  Exactly the way our mothers and grandmothers used to feel after taking care of five, nine, even 12 sick children. It’s not too tough taking care of two sick children after all.  Just get out of it alive.

She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.  ~Margaret Culkin Banning

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