I’M NOT SCARED.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, getting a knock-down-drag-out virus was scary. Living alone with a small person means that one person is available to be the grown-up, and that person was me. I had very good neighbors and an even better boyfriend to lend a hand or deliver soup, but being alone and too sick to go out made me feel a bad kind of vulnerable. What if I slipped in the bathroom in my rush and hit my head? What if my fever, the one that comes with hideous-real nightmares that send me screaming from the room, shows up and I scared my little girl? What if I just couldn’t drink enough and fried my electrolytes and didn’t wake up at all? The what-ifs fueled the adrenaline that kept me on my feet when I should have been under a blanket.
Now, we live here. I got sick, and I did the usual “leave me be, I don’t want to infect anyone” behavior. Being sick is bad, but being the introducer of some viral nastiness to someone I love is so much worse.
Here’s the amazing thing about this round of flu: no one got angry at me for being sick and I didn’t worry about making my little girl sick, either. I was fed and checked on, up here in the empty top half of the house, and my grossness was not acknowledged. I’m gross, to be sure.
The small person had no reason to need me to touch her food or drinks or silverware, thus risking infection and continuation of the grossness. Oh, she hates to throw up. Only once since age two and mobility arrived has she ever missed the bowl or the bucket. She simply can’t abide vomit anywhere but AWAY, and the only time she missed was outdoors. She was outside the hospital after a concussion, on our way to the ER, and convincing her that the inevitable throwing up could happen on the ground took some work. I had to promise not to make her walk past it on the way back to the car.
This time, I didn’t worry about my fever spiking when I fell asleep, because help was steps away and I know he crept upstairs to peek now and then. I didn’t worry about falling down when my legs wobbled, because he would have heard the thunk. He helped, and kept me at a distance so lovingly that I forgot I hadn’t been hugged in twenty-four hours until he did finally hug me, unexpectedly…and delicately removed that shirt to put it directly into the wash.
I’m not alone any more, and I wasn’t worried about a thing besides missing work. I do miss my small person, but she is supposed to be with her daddy right now, anyway. I’m sort of used to that part.
I was never afraid to live alone, at least, not until the last moment I lived alone, but being a sweaty, dizzy, feverish mess always sent me to a bad what-if place in my head.
The small person makes a joke of her fears, with a funny face and a “Mama, aaahm skerrrd!” Then mama stands nearby and makes her scary what-ifs go away, but I can’t be my own mama all of the time.
When I might have felt skerrd in the other versions of my life, those bad what-ifs never showed their ugly faces.
The bad what-ifs haven’t made much of an appearance lately at all. Some of them actually happened in a big way, not too many months ago, but now we are here. Other what-ifs could have slipped in to take their places, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to let them hang out with us any more.
The cat stayed in bed with me. The ginger ale flowed like wine. The eggs, always my first test of food tolerance, arrived perfectly boiled with toast.
Now, I can take another try at sleeping. I didn’t get much of it done last night, so I think I’m due for a few uninterrupted hours.
Let the nightmares come. I’ll wake up to the sweetest dream of a life.