Today is the first day in twenty-three days that no one in my family has run a fever or exhibited some new symptom of illness.
We are not normally a sick group, but February has been hard on us. Lingering colds, influenza, stomach yuck. It’s been a long month. Due to influenza, my son ran a 102-103 degree fever for seven days. As soon as the fevers went away, his viral-related asthma kicked in. For days, he was not able to talk without an ensuing coughing fit. This morning, for the first time in over a week, I heard him laugh his true, unfaltering laugh. The cough eventually followed, but there was enough of a delay that he was able to finish his laugh. I am so thankful.
Over the past few weeks, those of us who are feeling okay have divided up the chores of those who are not. This has been a fluid thing–one in which we all rotate doing what must be done and try to overlook what can be ignored. Every day, after the animals have been fed and the breakfast things have been put away, we disinfect the house. We wash blankets and hand towels and sheets that have lined the couches. We sanitize light switches and doorknobs and handles and faucets. I don’t know that it has helped, but I need to do something.
We have canceled plans, mandated rest, drank water, popped pills, choked down apple cider vinegar, smeared vapor rub, mandated more rest, administered essential oils, guzzled vats of bone broth, taken mega-milligrams of Vitamin C and mandated more rest.
We have watched documentaries on a variety of animals, Nellie Bly and The Dust Bowl. We have listened to most of the Chronicles of Narnia on CD. We have watched musicals, westerns, fairy tales, action films and episodes of Little House on the Prairie. We have watched more television in these four weeks than we have in the past six months.
Oh, wait. One of my children just came and showed me a developing rash.
So much for no new symptoms.
As much of a hassle as this month has been for me, and as disappointing at it has been for us to miss out on so many highly-anticipated engagements, I am thankful. I am thankful that this has been one cruddy, inconvenient month and not a series of life-threatening crises. I’m thankful that these illnesses are light and momentary–that we have the modern conveniences to make them bearable–even moderately pleasant. I am thankful for hot running water and fresh citrus fruits and indoor laundry facilities and television and easy, inexpensive access to fever-reducing medications.
One time, just before my son turned four, we noticed a squishy spot on his skull. It was a delayed result from a fall he’d had a couple of days earlier. After a long day of tests, scans and waiting at a local hospital, we were told to take him to a well-known children’s hospital about an hour away. We were able to drive him ourselves, and we arrived at about 11:30 that night. The staff was ready for us, so we followed the nurse through the darkened waiting room to get to the exam room. As worried as I was about my now-sleeping son, I was overcome with gratitude that night. As we quietly walked past child after chronically ill child, a lump formed in my throat. These little ones with their bald heads, wheelchairs, IVs and oxygen tanks were regulars. I could see it in the lines on their parents’ faces and in the resignation in the children’s eyes. My son, with his one-time head injury was the doctor’s priority when these little ones were fighting for their lives on a day-by-day basis. For some strange reason, I felt guilty about that. To be honest, I sometimes still do.
Life is truly a matter of perspective. Sometimes, I let the fatigue and frustration creep in and steal my optimism and start to eat away at my joy. Sometimes, I feel like giving up and just giving in to whatever mood is on the horizon. Then I remember to give thanks. Oftentimes, gratitude makes the difference between joy and despair in our lives.
Our feelings will almost always follow our focus.