It's been an impressive week.
The author would like to be begin with an apology for her recent absence. She wont bore you with a list of excuses because the list consists of a single distracting item: The State Licensing Exam for Massage Therapy.
The test actually took place nearly a week ago (hallelujah I passed) and for the two months prior, all pockets of free time were dedicated to re-filling my head with intellect of the anatomic and physiologic variety, force feeding my brain as if attempting to fatten it up with smartness.
Believe-you-me, my out of shape writing-muscles were chomping at the bit and I've been dying to write all week, but Opal and I have been battling a full-body bout of a food poisoning/flu bug combo. Up until today, the only appealing way to spend nap-times was horizontal and reading the new Franzen novel. So, pleased to report that I'm feeling as if my insides and my outsides have re-establised a general sense of alignment—poor little Doodle threw up a few times this morning, but she also seems to be improving—I feel it's time to initiate a reunion with my blog.
So far so good.
Anyhow, what shall I say about the world from inside the vantage point of my trusty noggin?
Which words to choose and which route to take? Again with the sore muscles.
Let's touch back in on the sick stuff.
Monday night, I was sicker than I can remember being in my entire adult life. (Rivaled only by a blurry recollection of spitting into a bucket due to a throat infection from Mono when I was in the 8th grade.) I puked. I shat. I did both at the same time. There were accidents. I was unable to stand without my knees threatening to collapse and my skin going cold and damp. It was a solid 12 hours of wild physical elimination with no reserve, no abandon. It was a fast-track cleanse. And the following two days were a blur reminiscent of the grand partying escapades of my youth.
By the time the brillo-patch of smoke cleared, days later, Opal came down with the pukes.
Thankfully, her version was a much softer, gentler one. But even still, if given the option, I'd have easily taken on her two hours of puking for my twelve. No questions asked. I'd have just perched myself over by the toilet, pleased to be doing my time for some higher good, while she remained healthy and continued to amuse herself by putting balls of tiny socks into the egg carton and discovering various angles from which to harass the dog who slept on the chair.
But clearly, I wasn't given that option and that's not how it went.
Jesse was sleeping downstairs to prepare for leaving on a trip to Halifax in the morning where he was to lead a program of 150 people.
So it was the dog and I who heard her through the baby monitor—a cough followed by gagging followed by the evident and liquidy audio signals of vomiting. I raced into her room to find her sitting with her impeccable baby-posture and heartbreaking vulnerability, covered in a putrid, rejected combination of what she'd eaten that day along with mucus and sprinkled with hundreds of tiny kiwi seeds (her new favorite food). Nothing in the crib escaped unscathed. The sheets, the down comforter, the stuffed animals (thank goodness for the fact that we made an unsolicited yet concerted effort just one week earlier to find a back-up for her favorite stuffed animal, her lifeline B the bunny—), not to mention her jammies, her hair, her hands. The look on her face as she turned her water-dish eyes my way, crying, was a combination of shock and something-is-totally-wrong-here-and-I-need-my-mama-bad.
Within moments I'd stripped the baby and the bed, cleaned and re-dressed both in fresh, unsullied goods, and snuggled next to an unsure little Doodlebug along with B's understudy (everything about the replacement stuffed bunny is the same, same size, brand, shape and texture, though the original is noticeably more worn and has whiskers while the other is clean shaven and has finger-digits inexplicably sewn in) and Opal's favorite book with the pop-up rainbow. By the third or fourth page, Opal was grabbing to help me turn the pages and by the time the book was complete, she looked up from inside her nestle in my armpit, flashed me a big just-two-gals-up-late-reading-books sort of grin, gently poked my face right about my lips and said, noh. (nose).
As I write this, I am remembering a line that came from an Alzheimer's training I took a few weeks ago. The instructor described how folks with this kind of dementia have no ability to put on airs in any way and so they respond best when genuineness shows up before them. What a gift, she said, to work in a field that challenges you to remain connected with the truest version of yourself. (I work giving massage to residents with Alzheimer's and dementia.) It was something that to that effect, though the exact words may have been slightly different. She talked about how the elders often became agitated when someone came at them with their own agenda, not taking a moment to check in or inquire about what they may be needing. Interpretation and translation of these needs often requires nothing more complex than simply slowing down and clueing in. Babies are strikingly similar.
As I rocked with my daughter in the same chair we've shared for nearly a year now, reading speedily and strategically skipping words to keep up the pace with her rapid page-turning, kissing the top of her head again and again, able to smell a faint sniff of lavender from her bath that night in a spot of hair in the back that was left untouched, I had the overwhelming desire to thank her.
She does this, unwittingly, and all the time. She calls on me to show up in front of her with 100% of my finest mama self, the prime cut, the cadillac. And, in so doing, leave what it is I think I would rather be doing in a drawer somewhere with the lighters and twistees and moist hand toilettes. Those arbitrary ideas, e.g.: sleep, are most likely not to be visited again because once I get to where she calls me to be, I would almost always prefer to be exactly there.
The rest of the night wound up being quite merciful. We spent a few hours caving up in her low-lit room, wading through the minutes as we read her favorite books, sang my favorite songs, rocked and cleaned up a few more bouts of vomit, until sleep was close enough to touch. She was eventually able to fall asleep (in spite of a strangely timed, uber-lengthy and wall-shaking thunderstorm that arose just as I was leaving her room) and slept through the night. I'd have slept in her room or with her in my arms in the rocker (or curled up with her in her crib!) if it seemed the most comforting for her, but she is a girl who needs her space to sleep. So I lied in my bed across the hall with my eyes slitted like mini-blinds, prepped and ready to leap to her side.
These last few days have passed quietly and spent close to home as we both healed up. (It took until yesterday for me to be able to eat real food again without feeling devastatingly nauseous.) No day care or work. No meetings with friends. No long list of errands. We've clocked in many slow and mindful walks together with the dog, often more than once per day. We've spent hours sifting through the depths of the toy bins in the living room, discovering long lost items we hadn't thought of in months (Hello Baby Einstein Pelican that plays a Beethoven symphony in four parts! How we've missed you!). No agenda and no particular place to be.
Grandma has payed us many welcomed visits, bless her heart. The two of spent many meals at the table with Opal, marveling at her ability to say the words purple, mirror and oatmeal with unmistakable precision. We applauded as Opal pushed her little walker back and forth in front of us, proud as a peacock, with teeth brimming like tulips from her bottom lip as she grinned so intensely she pushed out rivers of drool. We shook our heads at the mention of what Opal was wearing on that particular day, as if the beauty of it all was just too much to bear. Stacks of undistracted sweet moments.
The days have felt deliciously loose-waisted and elastic, edgeless and fluid, a lot how we passed the time when Opal was much younger. These kinds of days don't work so well as the norm now that Opal is older and more mobile and longing for the things that stimulate her to continuously change. But as for now, post-test and post-sickness, spending time with her (and her grandma) in this way feels about as medicinal as it gets.