Driving over the hill, I had to shade my eyes from the sun; the light was all wrong.
It was mid-day, and I'd taken the morning off to stay with my daughter, who had been running a fever of 106 (no, that is not a typo) during the previous two days. I hadn't known that it was possible to run a fever that high and still be alive, but apparently my daughter, death-defier that she has been since her conception, thought nothing of the challenge.
My husband had come home to swap sick nurse duties with me so I could go in for a while.
Halfway to work, I ran into a detour that hadn't been advertised the day before. It looked like it had just been imagined that day, signs posted on cones placed haphazardly in the street.
Heads, I thought. Heads. Heads.
Have you ever found yourself somewhere, in what you know, instinctively, is the wrong time? Not the wrong place, but the wrong hour of the day? And not because anything terrible will happen, but just because you've created some unexpected wrinkle in the space-time continuum, and now feel a bit like you're looking at a 2-D world with 3-D glasses on?
I went the long way to work, thinking that this was the way I used to go, before I realized that there was a shorter, less-trafficked way. Thinking about all of the ways I could turn, but didn't.
I'd been worried. Do other parents worry that their children might die when they run a fever of 106? I do. Is that morbid? A little, maybe.
Sometimes she questions me, testing, "what if I died?"
I swallow the scream that I'd prefer to make, and tell her calmly, "oh, no. Let's not talk about that. That would make me so very, very sad. I don't even want to imagine it."
But I do imagine it. More often than I care to admit, when she is sick, when I don't see her for a long time, when I've let her ride in someone else's car for a school field trip: what if I never see her again? What if this gift was--is--temporary? What if her life is a tease?
We'd been to the doctor, who told us that everything else looked fine, that it was probably a virus, that I should take her home and try to keep her comfortable. That we should call right away if she started vomiting or coughing excessively or if her fever went up to 107 (which is apparently the threshold for worry). So I took her home, let her lie on the couch with her Elsa blanket, tried to coax her to drink juice and water and eat ice cubes, dumped her into lukewarm bathwater despite her protests and screams and tears.
Tomorrow I'd be on the way to work, and the light would be the way it's supposed to be, the sun not quite up yet, casting long shadows over the hills. The detour would have been removed, holes in the road now patched, stretches of it smoother than before, improved from assault of winter. N. would be on her way to school, too, having shaken the last of the fever, with no remaining symptoms after I left on that strange half-day.
Still, it would take me longer to shake that feeling of strangeness, that being out of time. Sometimes I wonder if we need those disorienting moments just to remind us that we're alive, after all.