This picture of Carmen reminds me to enjoy the simple things in life.
Like cereal in the morning.
I sense the sun before I see it. I know it’s morning but I don’t want to acknowledge it, not yet. Awareness slowly seeps into me, seemingly one cell at a time. Automatically, I brace for that familiar sensation. That burn, that unbidden fire.
I realize I’m lying on my side, that side. The fire is quiet, muted, muffled. Perhaps compressed out of existence between my weight and the mattress. Oh, if only.
There is movement beside me. I don’t turn and I don’t open my eyes. I stay still. Enjoying the quiet of my body along with the quiet of the morning. Footsteps pad out of my room.
Water gushes in the kitchen; teapot hits the ceramic stove top. I wait for its piercing whistle.
Soon, a spoon clinks round and round inside a cup. From my bed and behind my closed eyes, I can see the circling swirls of cream and sugar turning that fragrant black liquid into a beige concoction.
Footsteps return to my room.
“Wake up, sleepyhead.”
I hear the clunk of the coffee mug set down on the table, near my head. The aroma is eye-opening. I inhale its scent as I carefully pull myself to a sitting position, testing, testing.
Before I can determine where it hurts, or if it hurts, a toasted bagel joins the steaming mugful.
“You all right, baby?”
How can I not be?
But then again, the above mentioned wasn’t nerve pain. That falls into a category all by its unique self. I call it the invisible pain.
The rash has subsided, gone to pink again, but the swelling persists. I have a lopsided belly and my hip area is exquisitely tender, yet hard to the touch. I had no idea there was so much swelling involved with shingles. And since it’s the right side of my belly that’s inflamed, I feared for my liver. After nine years of methotrexate, I should fear for my liver!
But, my doctor palpated and said it was fine, just inflammation. A word I’m all too familiar with. And because of its immunosuppression side effects, he took me off the mtx until further notice. Today, I should contact my rheumatologist and tell him about it. Maybe he wants to start something else.
I’ve hesitated to call him because I’m afraid he’ll want to see me and a visit to him is a three-hour sitting around marathon. I can’t sit right now, not for three freaking hours! But, perhaps we can speak on the phone.
I never thought something could make RA take a back seat, medically speaking, but hats off to shingles. The pain is akin to having a flaming torch applied to your side, while a thousand knives hack away at you by turns.
After twelve days, the temperature on that torch is somewhat diminished and the number of knives has decreased to the hundreds. The area they now concentrate on is thankfully smaller. Maybe that’s why the effect feels lessened.
Yet strangely, amidst all this, I feel inner peace. I am being tenderly cared for, dare I say even pampered and catered to. I’m receiving the type of medicine one can’t buy, and has no price. One whose value can never be quantified, and best of all, comes with no side effects.
Unless, you count love.
I remember when I used to scour the stores looking for just the right basket. And when I found that, I went hunting for the just the right gift. What was it they were into at that particular time, in that particular year? Their whims changed with the wind and turned me into a weather vane, always pointing in a different direction.
It gave me untold pleasure to follow their beckoning. I would hide to arrange everything in their baskets just so. And then hide the baskets themselves until that Saturday night when I had to stay up and wait till they were sound asleep. Only then could I sneak into their rooms and place the basket where it would be the first thing their eyes would light upon come Easter morning.
Those days, those moments are now filed away in my memory banks. They are images of times past, marching before my eyes like clips of a movie collage. I needn’t worry anymore about constructing the perfect Easter morning surprise. Now they surprise me. Now they give to me. The most precious of all gifts.
My granddaughter Carmen (for some reason reminding me of Carmen Miranda).
Happy Easter everyone!
She keeps popping in and out as I work at my desk. Every few words I have to stop typing to see what she needs. Her tiny flashlight that’s blue and not pink. A Beanie Baby kitty that sits among my books. Paper from my printer to draw a green robot.
Finally, she bounces in wearing totally different clothes and shoes.
“Why did you change your clothes?” I’m amazed she’s such a quick-change artist.
“I want to look beautifo.”
“You know where you look really beautiful?”
She eyes me expectantly.
“In your chair watching Sponge-Bob.”
She sucks in her breath and runs.
My firstborn gave me a gift last October. Well, he and his wonderful wife. A most precious gift. Carmen joined our family and took up permanent residence in my heart. There is no greater joy, no medicine more effective than my two precious granddaughters. Their pictures surround me as I work. Thoughts of them buoy me throughout the day. Here’s the other love of my life.
I love you, Carmen!
Waking up to café con leche and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel. There’s nothing better than that. Unless it’s having it served in bed. We’ve established a give and take that has only taken us 32 years to perfect. Or try to perfect.
The only thing missing this morning is a little voice saying, “Na, I want some juice.” After a week with her, I got used to having my granddaughter around. But, her mother came yesterday morning and whisked her away. Now I feel robbed, but strangely rested.
My heart, though, needs no rest. There are vestiges of her presence about the house. A pile of Legos on the floor by my bed. I left them there all day on purpose. To remind me of her, and anyway they weren’t on my side of the bed. I needn’t step over them on my travels and her Pa was gone to work all day.
The living room is littered with her books and crayons, her throne askew, her pint-sized easy chair in which she installs herself and pronounces, “I want SpongeBob, Na.” Thankfully, SpongeBob is usually on TV when she requests it because Na forgot how to work the Xbox, and the Blu-ray player, forget it.
She is back to her usual self, thank goodness. And Na must get back to her usual self and her usual duties. There is an editing class final to do and another writing class to sign up for. And seriously explore setting up a freelance editing business. Why not? I do it for free already!
The clock is ticking and my nursing license expires in a few weeks. I’ve lost the debate with myself. I will renew it, but that means I have to order a Continuing Ed class and pronto. I’m still toying with the idea of having a job where I have to punch in. Keeping my license active gives me the freedom to keep toying.
I just don’t want to learn any more about breath sounds or heart sounds, and definitely not bowel sounds! I want to learn something interesting. Something that suits my needs and interests of today. How about health care journalism? Now that I could sink my teeth into.
But, I might settle for a class on humor. I’m a big believer in humor therapy. Laughter is the best medicine. I used to give up precious sleep back when I was a nursing student. M*A*S*H came on at 11:30 at night and I had to watch, had to laugh. To wash away the stress of the day. Working, studying, keeping house and raising my young son while going through a divorce was no picnic. And there was nobody to bring me coffee in bed then.
She throws up her little hands before pronouncing the last “more medicine.” She is reclining on my bed, relaxing against a bunch of pillows. I am setting up her nebulizer for her 1 pm aerosol when she starts reeling off the “more medicines.” But, she is complaint to the nth degree. She knows the drill. Sadly, she knows the drill.
Her compliance breaks my heart. No three-year-old should be hogtied to a medical regimen. No toddler should be thinking about more medicine. They should be free to run and play and the only concern should be how to avoid naptime. Or how to delay bedtime.
But, here we are. And thankfully, here we are. We can employ the verb “to be.”
Amid all the hubbub of her illness and hospitalization, my “more medicines” became less medicines with my having forgotten my own drill. It hardly seemed important at the time. Vaguely I knew I was due to take something, sometime, and I managed to get around to it, sort of.
I missed some. I know that. My hand knows that. My ex-friend/lover, insidious little entity that he is, came calling. Wanted to renew the relationship. I said OK, for a little while. I kind of like having a flexible right hand. So I let him give me ten kisses today, I mean ten milligrams. Tomorrow I am cutting him down to five.
And I’m thinking I will allow him to hang around for a fleeting moment each day. 2.5 milligrams worth. For a while anyway. Prednisone, he is both enabler and disabler. Need to walk a fine line with this guy.
But in the end, I want the “more medicine” story to be mine, not hers.