What is it with doctors’ surgeries? They’re full of people with infectious illnesses.
Not ideal for hypochondriacs, I bet. They probably leave the doctors convinced they’ve contracted everything under the sun. Conjuctivitis. Shingles. Bed bugs.
Not great for people going through chemotherapy either.
Anyone who’s had chemo – or knows someone how has – will know what an ironically compromising effect the treatment has on the immune system.
It’s one of the most important things patients are told. Where possible, avoid contact with people who have colds. Viruses. Even sore throats. The slightest, most innocent of bugs can quickly escalate into full blown infections. Infections that can often require hospitalisation.
For Mum. Her focus was on feeling well. And keeping active. Exercising every day made her feel good. It was her routine. It was normal. And at a time when her calendar was being invaded by an ever-increasing number of medical appointments, ‘normal’ was like the holy grail. For her to catch something. Get an infection. It would have halted normality. A massive blow. Physically and psychologically.
So we were all on high alert. Mum was extra cautious. My uncle even brought over some comedy surgical masks from the hospital he worked at. We all tried them on in the kitchen. Pretended to be bandits.
And I became like a growling guard dog at her master’s feet. Permanently on watch. Careful not to expose her to anything compromising.
Anyone that came into contact with Mum I’d be carefully analysing. Looking for the for the slightest suggestion of snottiness. Or a bit too much throat-clearing. Or just plain scabies. If I could have pulled out a stethoscope and asked for a cough and drop I would have. Ok. Maybe the latter’s a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the picture.
The tiniest sign of any sort of illness. And my alarm was flashing. It gave my latent paranoia a chance to really come out and shine.
In short. I was all over it. That is, I was. Until about a month after I’d moved back home. To the rented house 3 doors down from her.
Because. I got ill. And not just ill. I got norovirus ill.
For anyone who’s had an upset tummy once and thought maybe it might have been norovirus. Let me tell you. It wasn’t! Fuck. You know when you’ve been Norovirus-ed.
This was unlike anything I have ever known. It felt like an alien inside me. A large, angry alien. With no manners. Desperate to get out. From the pit of my gut. Through the thorax. And out of my mouth. And then. When he was bored of going that way. He thought he’d try a different route!
It was hideous. I could’ve set my watch by its frequency. Every ten minutes I’d urgently stagger out of bed. Collapse on my knees and worship the toilet. This went on for hours.
I’m sorry. Bit too graphic? It’s just it was truly horrific. I felt worse than I’ve ever felt. And I’ve had open heart surgery!
But. I’m not looking for sympathy. It was bad. But that wasn’t the issue. I did not want Mum to get it. It would have finished her off.
In between rounds of fisticuffs with the alien ‘indoors’, I called Mum. Weakly let her know she was banned from my house. ‘Til further notice. This thing was highly contagious. I didn’t want her even looking in the direction of my house. Let alone coming within 20 paces of it. I even got stroppy with her. I was that serious.
But the trouble with my mum was. She never bloody listened to me.
She just could not be kept away from a sick daughter. Even when said daughter was in her mid-30s and getting grey hairs.
I remember. Back in the 90s. I was at college. 2 hours’ drive away from home. Got the flu. You know. Proper flu. Not just one of those bad colds that people like to call the flu these days. Anyway. That was it. 2 hours after she found out. Knock knock knock. She was there. Armed with home-made soup. A pharmacy’s supply of tablets. And her thermometer. What is it about mums and thermometers?!
She even brought rubber gloves. Cleaning equipment. And clean sheets. So whilst I was out for the count she could clean my grotty student digs to her heart’s content. All she needed was a cape and a telephone box.
She couldn’t stay away when I was a 2 hour drive on the M25. For me to be ill only 3 doors down. And not to look after me. To her it was like some sort of sick torture.
So. There I was. Back in 2011. In bed. I had a fever. Everything felt swirly. Hazy. Like a bad trip. Then all of a sudden I heard a noise. The creak of the stairs. My bedroom door opened. She’d let herself in with the spare key. Like a cat burglar. Crept up to my room. And there she was. Standing in the doorway. Surreptitious. With one of the comedy surgical masks tied around her face. Like a guilty grey-haired ninja dressed in lilac. In her hands she was clutching a big jug of water and a bumper pack of rehydration sachets.
It was so funny I almost had an accident in the bed.
Sorry. That was coarse. But it was bloody funny. In fact it was so funny that even as I’m writing this now. I’m laughing out loud. Over 3 years on.
Although. To tell you the truth. I’m also crying. Her appearing in my doorway – the chemo bandit – highlighted just how important being a mum was to her. How she couldn’t stop looking after me. Even then. How she always put her kids first.
She was relentless. In her fussing. In her mum-ness. In her love.
We’ve never gone in for ‘I love you’s in our family. Never felt we needed to.
We didn’t need emotional outpourings. It was all there in our actions. Our physical closeness. How we spoke to one another. And the things we did for each other.
And I don’t have any regrets either.
I know she knew how much I loved her. Everything I did in those 18 months was my opportunity for my actions to be the perfect reflection of my feelings.
I know I took that opportunity and – as the esteemed X-Factor judges would say – I totally nailed it.
Oh. And I should have said. She didn’t catch norovirus in the end. Thank God.
Sorry. Have I left this on a downer? Oh. Don’t be like that. Surely this was a positive ending to the post. What’s more positive than true love?
Ok. How about this? Think of the people you love. Right now. Are you thinking of them? Good. Now. Close this page. And go make sure your actions reflect how you feel. Regardless of how often you might say ‘I love you’.
Remember. It’s all about those actions.
Maybe even try it with a comedy surgical mask on… Well. It made me laugh
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