Feb. 20, 2017

Its Just a Cold

As with everything else about a marriage, how things go when someone gets sick evolves over time.  I liked to baby Butch when he was sick.  But he seemed to expect me to baby myself.  He just didn’t engage.  I had a bad case of the flu when Jeremy was a toddler.  I knew that a relative would be visiting in a couple of days, so before I tucked myself in to ride out the symptoms, I hired the teen down the street to spiff up the kitchen, living room and bathroom.  I let him know that if he and the kid could just hold it together until the company came and went, I would appreciate it.  I came out two days later to find a disaster.  I was not a happy camper.  

I didn’t often get sick, but once the cold or flu set in, it was regularly followed by pneumonia (thank God for pneumonia vaccinations), bronchitis, or some other nasty infection.  This was primarily caused by my ignoring my symptoms and taking care of everyone and everything but myself. I would continue to say, “It’s just a cold.” until I dropped.  It was Butch who would finally force me to seek medical care. 

 It took a little coaching, but he was eventually a great caretaker.  He even pitched in with the kids in the middle of the night.  In fact, I’m sure he could get up, tend to a sick kid, and go back to bed without waking up.  The last time I had the flu, he had to work.  Before leaving, he stocked me up with medicine, water bottles, hot lemonade, (a traditiond started by my paternal grandmother) and tucked me in bed.  At some point, I received a text message with a picture of a bowl of chicken soup and a reminder to eat. He checked on me when he had a break, when he got home and when he got up during the night.

I hadn’t thought about any of that until I got sick after he died.  In November, shortly after I began packing to move from the home we shared for 30 years, I came down with a terrible cold.  Without him here to worry about me, I picked up my old mantra, “It’s just a cold.” But only for one day.  Realizing it really was up to me to baby myself now, I went to bed and stayed there until I was genuinely well enough to get up. My son and daughter-in-law checked on me via text and invited me to come and eat when I was well.  But the sadness was almost worse than the symptoms.

Tending to ourselves won’t ever be the same as being spoiled by them but it will be important that we learn to do just that. This is another opportunity to allow others to lighten our burden.  Checking in with our support people can make it feel a little less lonely.  It gives them a tangible way to help us.  More importantly, it helps us fight against the sense of being utterly alone when the people who love us step in to fill the gap if we let them know what we need.   

Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” Give it a try……………….