Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Illness, and Adopted Families

Wednesday, October 30, 2019.
3 a.m.
Sitting on the washing machine, writing. Even the laundry room is an uncertain place of refuge, now. My Ecuadoran guests can't seem to grasp that I actually WANT TO BE ALONE sometimes, and if they notice I am holed up here, writing, happily come it and plop themselves down to talk, knit, mend or read me the newspaper. Evidently they feel that for people, solitude is an profoundly unnatural state.

But I need time to just breath, think and figure things out. My world is so fragile--the whole network of support, supply, relationships that binds together my life, family and friends seems strong until one thread snaps, and the whole superstructure begins to sway. How can I mend the pieces?

Cliff is ill...not ReDS, thank heavens, but that nasty virus Gilles came down with in Tuscany. Night sweats, fever, coughing, vomiting, aching all over. Oh for the days when we could simply trot off to the doctor and be sent to the hospital if needed! Now the calculus is much more complicated--will going to the hospital expose him to something even worse? Will waiting until it gets even worse mean a visit to the emergency room, which, from what I hear, is in the running for one of Dante's circles of hell? And how can I stay healthy to help? I was already getting by on five hours sleep, spread over the course of the day between supervising the bakery, managing the fencing club and trying to get some of my consulting work done. Any less and my body will just rebel.

Today I put in a request for a visiting nurse-practitioner. (Who ever thought there would be a resurgence of house calls!?) The nice scheduling volunteer explained that this could take anywere from a day to a week, and in any case, if it is Gilles' virus, what can they do? Give him something to keep the fever down, make him more comfortable, until it works its way through his system. And hope, in the meanwhile, it doesn't leave him vulnerable to something worse. He looks awful--has lost at least fifteen pounds from his already lean frame. His breath is labored, and I am afraid if he has an asthma attack it will mean a emergency room run despite the dangers and frustrations.

Thank heavens for Zuza and Dolores--I don't know what I would have done without them. I have to finish a grant proposal to continue funding skill-mentors and training for my Badger Bakery crew. Iphan, Tenciero, and Pruittiporn are doing pretty well despite their disabilities, but only because of the support I have managed to patch together providing medication, counselling and training. Another fragile network. Without my Ecuadoran guests I would have faced a terrible choice--my husband or "my kids?" But Zuza and Dolores are treating Cliff like their own brother. Heck, they are pampering him more than I would! Coaxing him with fresh, hot soup. Rigging a steam tent to help with his breathing, massaging his feet with some special herbal oil. (I did draw a line at going farther than the feet...)

I feel ashamed, now, that I was trying to nudge Zuza and Cintio out the door. Even though the house now is bursting at the seams, with six adults and three children, this "family" is pulling together to take care of its own. Little Evita has taken on taking care of the rabbits and the basement fish tanks entirely, and has begun taking the extra eggs to market. (I thought eight is a little young, but Dolores seems to think it entirely appropriate.) Even Flaco and Cintio are being helpful, popping over to the bakery to check on the boys early in the morning. They are still total slobs, leaving clothes all over the place and expecting that "the women" will pick up after them, but I find it hard to stay mad at them. I think I will simply make sure that little Evita's reading includes Simone du Beauvoir. Well, maybe I should start her on old Wonder Woman comics, first.

My thoughts just keep running in circles. What is the use of all my Zen practice if I can't quiet my mind, and accept that I can't control what will happen? It is so hard, faced with real adversity, to believe Joko Beck's teaching that whatever happens is "o.k." I will take a firm seat, recite the sutra on "full awareness of breathing" and then curl up down here to get some sleep. Tomorrow will bring what it brings...but I know it will include a house full of people who care for each other very much.

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