My young daughter’s flushed face warned me to check her temperature. The fever and red tonsils indicated the possibility of strep throat to which she was prone. Gently I cared for her, getting her comfortable in bed to await the time to call the doctor.
My younger brother, visiting at the time, quipped, “You aren’t yelling at her?”
As children, my siblings and I learned to hide signs of illness. I dreaded my mother’s scolding and ranting when I told her I was sick. June Cleaver sending Beaver to bed with slight sniffles, serving soup on a tray, was truly of a fictional world.
During my father’s last year, I was living overseas. Pre-cell phones and internet, long-distance calls were expensive. I received few updates about his health following a diagnosis of kidney disease. “He is doing fine,” my mother answered with a tenor denoting surprise that I would ask. Questions regarding medical status were countered with vague responses. His death was unexpected.
After my father died, my mother declined the autopsy, leaving us forever unsure what took his life.
The pain isn’t real
We learned to ignore pain and compensate as long as possible. Suffering a few serious health issues, I have learned to mind my body’s signals, warding off illness before it strikes me down.
I picture old aunts moaning about their rheumatism as I climb the stairs. Drawing from my childhood, I pretend I am not as stiff as my body acts. My knees don’t really hurt as I climb the stairs… But they do.
Stretching, yoga, avoiding stairs, staying warm, and occasional naproxen help. I can try to ignore it, but it won’t go away.
I Google: is arthritis aggravated by cold damp weather? I am disappointed and relieved to learn that it is.
Disappointed because my trips to Chicago may be physically uncomfortable. Relieved because I am not neurotic and my home in Arizona is warm and dry.
There are times to work through illness and pain. The line between rest for recovery and movement for health can be blurred. Time in the recliner can relax the muscles. Too long in the recliner stiffens them.
As my mother aged, her children prodded her to question doctors, understand medications, and note symptoms of impending ill health.
She endured agonizing back pain in her last years from compression fractures. The pain slowed her down but didn’t stop her. “I can be at home in pain, or I can be out and about. The pain remains.”
Although I am proactive about my health, I admire her drive. Ignoring it won’t make ill health go away and may increase the risk of complications. But Life is short. I choose to live, even if uncomfortable.