Every couple has differences they head butt on from time to time. We are not excused from that reality here at the Pond. Sad, but very, very real.
One of the issues we can never resolve is about colds. I come from a family with multiple kids. When one of us came down with a cold our Mama was tough enough and smart enough to place the sick one in isolation to prevent the spread throughout the family. Blowfish is an only child. When he had a cold his mother moved him to the living room sofa so grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins could all dote and wait on the poor little sick man. Thus, before we even get to the reality of dealing with the actual cold you can see where we are poised for conflict.
It is complicated.
I have over the years provided Blowfish with reams of data on how colds are spread, what are the best protocols for not spreading a cold , not catching a cold, the ways the cold virus becomes airborne, the typical contagion periods, the best ways to manage a cold once you become afflicted and how to shorten the duration of a cold. I must have shared all of this data in some foreign language because not one syllable of one word, nor any knowledge, has stayed with the man.
This conflict is an annual event at the Pond. I have not had a cold in years. I employ protocols into my daily routine to reduce my susceptibility to catching illness from others. Blowfish refuses to. Even Santa Claus tries to help Blowfish by placing things like hand sanitizer or immune boosting supplements in his Christmas stockings. They all pretty much live in the graveyard of his bedside table drawer. He often mocks me for the fight I wage for my health but fails to notice it is the mocking man who falls. Not me.
Back to my mother. She made our time in isolation as pleasant as possible, there were coca colas, our favorite jellos with fruit, applesauce, homemade soups, crackers, Luden's wild cherry cough drops, boxes of kleenex, and a personal trash can. There were plenty of books to read, lots of crayons and coloring books, paperdolls and an etch-a-sketch to keep ourselves entertained. Mom made sure we understood the reason for the isolation was for the well being of the many,
" Fishy I know you don't want the baby to get sick".
She was also smart about changing our sheets daily and making us get up and take a hot shower to help drain the gunk out of our sinuses. There was a vaporizor and smelly rubs and while it was not pleasant, it was not punitive.
Blowfish has a cold.
He has one this time every year.
I know he will have a cold this week so I prepare.
I get books for him to read, make soups, stock up on juices and kleenex.
Friday night I kept to my plans of attending a gallery opening. The subject of the show is "Images of France" which showcased the works of a group of folks who went on a tour of France with a Photography Instructor from a nearby university. The tour had permission for the participants to take pictures inside museums and galleries which normally strictly forbid photography with any kind of flash. There were two great things about going to the opening. I bought a framed photograph and I missed the onset of the oh-woe-is-me-stage of the man with a cold.
When I returned home Friday night one look told me Blowfish would not be spending Saturday with his son as planned. His son has MS. Which means he has a compromised immune system and therefore not a good idea for his virus stricken Dad to go breathe on him.
Blowfish slept hours later than usual on Saturday morning. He came into the Kitchen to start a pot of coffee. I was already making soup and had started taking down and packing up the Christmas decorations. He looked miserable. Droopy posture, gray color, shuffling foot work, shaky hands.
" Good morning. Would you like some breakfast?"
" I think I will just have a bowl of cereal"
" Are you sure? Milk tends to increase mucus production which is why it is not recommended when you have a cold".
" I'll take two eggs over easy, toast, a side of bacon and orange juice."
( I may have mentioned this before...
I do not love it when Blowfish speaks to me like I am a short order cook positioned in his Kitchen to
service his culinary needs. )
I took a deep breath, tried to hold onto my compassion and not give way to irritation and with reasonable cheer said ,
" I can do that."
So Blowfish went to sit in his favorite fireside chair in the Keep to read the paper.
He was sniffling.
He was coughing.
He was sneezing.
(He was touching the furniture and the paper and blowing his virus across the room.)
" Blowfish, did you take your medicine this morning?"
" Well you have time to take it before your breakfast is ready"
" It's on my bedside table. Where you put it for me. So I would not forget to take it.
You want to go get it for me?"
(There's an invitation a girl just cannot resist)
I fetched the meds and some orange juice and chatted a bit about the morning editorials before resuming my duties at the stove.
Blowfish continued to sneeze, sniffle, cough.
" Do you have some Kleenex?"
"No, I don't need any".
" I sure don't want to get your cold so how about you do a few things to moderate my risks?'
"You believe in that malarky, I don't"
(I did try to keep my tongue in my head but .... really?)
" What ?"
" If you get a cold, you get a cold. It has nothing to do with me."
" Do you want me to pull up the website from the CDC on how colds are spread?"
" Why? So you can tell me you are right and I am not?"
I pulled a placemat, some silverware, and a napkin from various drawers.
I marched into his Study, moved things aside on his desk to accommodate a place setting.
I opened the window a crack, fetched a box of kleenex, sprayed the trash can with lysol and located his book before returning to the Kitchen to finish making his breakfast. When it was ready I proceeded right past him and into his Study.
" Fishy, what are you doing?"
" Serving your breakfast".
"Well I am not eating in my office"
"So you think you should camp out in the main rooms spewing your cold on everything and everyone? I think not."
"I have told you I do not agree with you or your damn CDC on how colds are spread!
Bring my breakfast in here."
"Right! I will not be adhering to the wisdom of a man who still thinks you catch a cold if you don't wear socks to bed!"
And so the day went. Blowfish hung out in his office, reading a little, watching a little tv, doing a little surfing, and later, taking a nap. We had arrived at a truce. Sort of. He will never do all the recommended things science directs one with a cold to do. Never. I could provide him with every medical directive, every internet video, every scientific graph on this issue and he would still cling to the same beliefs he held at 5. He believes he should be in the center of the sofa, in the center of the house, being the doted on center of attention of all because he has a cold. He will miss his mother. A lot.
So the compromise is he will do what he pleases.
In his suite of rooms.
He will not do as he pleases all over me.
I will accept he is doing all he can.
I will do his laundry and make his food and fetch his medicines and bite my tongue to shreds.
I do this every year.
I always feel sad and guilty.
Because Blowfish is an only child.
Because January 7th is his mother's birthday.
She has been gone now for 19 years.
The year we lost her we celebrated her birthday on the 7th.
On the 8th she went into the hospital, succumbed to coma on the 9th,
went to Heaven just after midnight on the 11th.
For every one of these 19 years, in this same week, Blowfish gets sick.
Not "sick with grief" but sick with an actual cold, or flu, in addition to his grief.
There is a medical explanation for this phenomenon.
Blowfish rejects this too.
He prefers to believe it is just the reality of colds happening in January.
I loathe we cannot do a better job of handling this annual event.
I loved my mother in law dearly. I still miss her.
I try hard to comfort Blowfish.
I cooked potroast for him yesterday.
I cooked it the way his mother cooked pot roast.
For her son, on her birthday.
I cried for them both.
I cannot fathom how hard it is to be Blowfish this same week every year.
I cannot fathom how hard it must be to manage life in general without the ability to
communicate how you feel. Whatever Blowfish experiences about the loss of his mother,
he has never been able to express. All of his suffering stays within.
This makes him sad.
And it makes him ill.
On the 12th, he will be better.