When I came home last Friday I was a bit piqued but a trooper to the end – dinner with friends and of course the drive home otherwise know as Act II. The restaurant choice represented a general caving to my friends intensity to go spend one Friday night each October celebrating Oktoberfest – I suspect it is hormonal and so deeply felt that the sight of a group of Jews in a restaurant / catering hall reminiscent of late 1930’s Germany does not enter his equation. Actually, the dynamic is not the problem – it is the sheer density of the food.
By Saturday afternoon, there is little denying it any more – I have a fever, I am tired. I am ill. I am also the “butler” for a birthday party – a dozen ten year-olds, a mystery dinner theme. A little rest and on with the Tux, usher in the monsters. Halfway through as my fever is spiking I take to my bed.
There is a story in all of this – not the story that I have broken down on day six and sought medical assistance, not the story that I probably have pneumonia yet again which the miracle drugs should cure (God, I’ve been dying to use that word in a good context). It is of course the story of Carrie and me. Carrie points out, not incorrectly, that only a man would take to his bed with 100.5. A woman, a mother, would just keep on going. It is a cute enough joke, but she is clearly not supportive – the looks, the little comments. I understand day one; by day four or five, any humor is lost on me.
Then last night we had one of our talks – the wheels coming off the wagon, everything goes type of talks, a middle of the night cloak of darkness talk. We do not know I have pneumonia but even she realizes that six days into this I am not a malingerer. And she tells me a story, a throwaway compared with her “good” ones.
When Carrie was five (having lived in a different city every year, she is good getting the ages right) she got the flu and was the first to recover. Then her three younger siblings and parents got the bug. Her mother, her alcoholic mother, did what any Mom would do – put a five year old in charge. So Carrie changed diapers, heated soup (microwaves were not even in the imagination back then) and of course brought her Mother tea when requested. Five years old.
Carrie is one of the kindest, gentlest souls one could hope to meet. She is not angry that I am sick. But she is real pissed off at her mom for the flu incident. Problem is that her Mom went on to become a classic dry drunk and has now passed on. Not much left to do. This is the story of much of our lives now. All that has been buried is uncovered, a scab ripped asunder. I had nothing to do with the scab and less to do with what was buried underneath. But I receive – and deserve – full credit for exposing everything.
I understand that her sidelong glances at my illness is really scolding her mother and that her not wanting to be touched by a man…lets just say I am not the issue there either. I do understand and do want to be there for her, but there is nothing easy about any of this. Fifty years, fifty not so good years, unleashed.
So context has become an issue and I will not pretend that being the recipient of someone else’s bad karma is a picnic. And when Carrie tells me she cannot even start to imagine a timetable for repairing our marital bed, it is frustrating. One thing is clear. I can continue to visit Sam or zip it. There is neither an answer with a reward nor one with a punishment. It is a matter for my moral compass.
It is time to put these bones to bed, but strangely I feel in a better place now than a week ago. Those late night talks always seem to do that no matter how difficult the topics, and difficult many of them are indeed.