Sunday, March 29, 2015

Out of Time

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.
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  1. I've had these fears too. Considering everything we went through just to bring the Beats home, those moments where we even get close to them being in harms way (sickness, surgery, close calls in traffic, etc), it's all enough to leave me shaking and playing the worst case scenario in my head.

    I'm so sorry your daughter is ill. A fever of 106 is super scary. May it break very soon and she be back to playing and exploring her world very soon.

  2. I hope she's better by now. 106 is a scary fever.

    I have those thoughts all the time. Not just when I'm shaken from my routine. It's almost as if those thoughts ARE my routine.

  3. Wow. That is a scary high fever.

    Glad to hear she's back in school (and you too)

  4. Yes. I feel that out-of-time way on occasion. And yes, I feel that fear, more often. Sometimes on ordinary days, doing ordinary things, and it just hits me---all the what ifs out there. I'm glad your N is better.
    My older son tends to run scary high fevers, its like if he bothers to run a fever, it will be 105, no messing around with anything less.

  5. Oh, the poor girl, I hope she is better. I have those thoughts all the time: what if this gift was temporary, as you put it. Feels better not to be alone with those thoughts, not that I really thought I was, but I hate even to put those thoughts into words, as if that would make them more real.

  6. 106F is a scary temp. I hope she is feeling better now.

  7. Oh, I know this feeling for sure. I felt it keenly for the first 3 months after each of my 2 were born (post-partum?) and then it ebbed to a mostly-manageable level. There is a section from Cunningham's "The Hours" that stuck with me on this topic:

    "What she wants to say has to do with all the people who’ve died; it has to do with her own feelings of enormous good fortune and imminent, devastating loss. If anything happens to Clarissa she, Sally, will go on living but she will not, exactly, survive. She will not be alright. What she wants to say has to do not only with joy but with the penetrating, constant fear that is joy’s other half. She can bear the thought of her own death but cannot bear the thought of Clarissa’s. This love of theirs, with its reassuring domesticity and its easy silences, its permanence, has yolked Sally directly to the machinery of mortality itself. Now there is a loss beyond imagining. Now there is a cord she can follow from this moment, walking toward the subway on the Upper East Side, through tomorrow and the next day and the next, all the way to the end of her life and the end of Clarissa’s.”

    Of course, the good news is that the vast majority of my experiences as a parent (and indeed the part I try to focus on when worry threatens to consume me) has to do with fear's bright other half: joy. When I start to imagine the car crash, or the famine, or the plane descending, then I take a deep breath and try to remember instead how my 6 year old's laugh sounds, the lovely freckles on my 9 year old's nose, the way they feel snuggled up against me....things that bring me great joy.

    I cannot know what the future holds. I cannot fully control what will come (and in fact I could do a disservice to my kids if I tried too hard to control the future). Thus, for me at least, it seems the most productive way to use that energy is in being deeply appreciative that they are here with me now.

  8. I love the way you see the world the way you often reconcile your inner and outer worlds.

    She's better, no?

  9. Maybe her own 106° will keep her from panicking over someone else's one day. I had no idea idea the threshold of worry was so high!

    And yes, I have those moments.


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