This morning I thought I might have a good shot at the day. Haven’t had a clear sight on any target since before Thanksgiving. Maybe longer than that.
“If I ever tell you I didn’t get a flu shot, would you just kick me in the ass?” I asked my husband today, riding the pocky streets towards The Landry Rehabilitation Center, off in Baylor Land.
“Right in the fucking butt,” he agreed grimly as I’d thought he would. When I konk out, he’s the one who gets it square on the chin: lousy meals, a dusty house, smelly catboxes, weird shit in the refridgerator, gray laundry, mail piling up like no tomorrow, unanswered doctors’ calls, unmade doctor appointments, stroke questions left dangerously mouldering, all this ghastlihood accompanied by a sound track of loud sobs and cursing, because there’s no backup here. Just me.
Seems I’ve had the flu for a while and didn’t know it, but then I’m rarely aware I’m sick because I can’t get sick. For days now, I’d struggled awake, knowing however raw, stripped, and unlovely the morning routine was going to be, it had to be done, no bullshit. And somehow I was going to have to navigate the outside world for meds and food. Somehow the animals would have to be fed, the plants watered, the mail picked up.
“Call Jessica,” my husband instructed like the sensible man he is. Jessica is our serene Kenyan caregiver who floats over for eight hours a week, smelling vibrantly of the rose lotion she uses.
“I gotta call Jessica fucking off,” I mumbled, wondering if a raw egg on my forehead really would sizzle. Yeah, no doubt Jessica could take care of the Stephen King special in the kitchen. No doubt she’d mop my gluey floors and carry out the smelly landfill swelling by the back door. But I would have to tell her what to do, form sentences and zing them out to another human being, and that was absolutely beyond me.
Plus, Jessica couldn’t change my husband, couldn’t deal with the bed and its wet pads and sheets. Somehow, by God’s grace and his own considerable grit my husband isn’t incontinent any more, except some nights when he can’t get awake, can’t get to his wheelchair and can’t navigate through the dark house to his bathroom. But Jessica wouldn’t know how to lay out his meds, wouldn’t know how to bathe and dress him, might not do a check of his skin for pressure sores. When she brushed his hair, she might not ask him to smile: that quick check for a stroke in the night. And she might not grill him about his dreams: those fascinating tales of a brain repairing itself.
And then too, there’s my unspoken pledge: However you are, however you will be, I will care for you.
Back when all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse first arrived and decided to stay, then late, late, late at night I’d chatter on the phone with the Chairman of the Board over in Las Vegas. He was looking after a high-tech train wreck I consulted on, was funny as shit and a Buddhist to boot. He was exactly the right company for me and my Night Caller conversations.
“Y’know, everyone’s acting like won’t it be great when this is over, but it’s never going to be over,” I said one night and heard the Chairman grunt in assent. “I’m in hell right now, and it’s going to stay hell. S’all right with me. Lotta Buddhists want to go to hell because there’s stuff to do and it’s the most interesting place around. You didn’t know that? Well, you’re one of those Tina Turner Buddhists who chants. Me, I’m just a Soto gal doing farmer Buddhism: put your good where it’ll do the most. Obviously I’ve been drafted for hell duty.”
And hell it is. Lots of backbreaking work and plenty of chances to look stupid.
When I can remember to, while frying in in the flames, feeling the heat lick me like a momma lion, I pray.
Let me fly in this fire, God. And keep it hot.