The Sick Bed

I am cold to the bone, wrapped in layers of fleece and down, steaming cup of coffee filling my belly, space heater at my feet, yet I cannot warm.  My metabolism has ceased, retreated.  If my grandmother was here today, she would announce, “It is colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra in January!”  At the time, this made perfect sense and we would all agree.  I sit here, today, cold to the bone, dearly missing my grandmother.

My grandmother’s house was always warm.  It was our place of refuge and the sick house.  Home from school with fever meant a glorious day of grandmother’s pampering.  A bed made on the couch, heavy with blankets, propped up with pillows, a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows or a tiny pimento cheese glass bubbling with Sprite, everything carefully arranged on a TV tray, I was a princess on retreat.

To this day, when I am sick or exhausted, I want chicken noodle soup, gone thick with saltine oyster crackers or cream of chicken soup in a bowl lined with buttered white bread.  I want mini cups of ice cream, half vanilla, half orange sherbet, or rich, thick chocolate pudding, still warm from the pan, eaten with the same skill as in the sick bed, skin by skin, slowly and patiently waiting for the next to form.   I want to smell bread baking, anticipating a hot slice slathered with butter that runs down my fingers, licking every drop gone.

All day long, between naps, I was plied with comfort food.  My grandmother would sit near, rocking in her upholstered chair, updating me on the General Hospital dramas since my last sick day.  Luke and Laura ignorant of the influence on my future career choice as a nurse. In the evening, Marcus Welby, MD and Emergency Room would fertilize my fascination with medicine.  Sick days were always the exception to the 30 minutes of TV a day rule and medical dramas were my grandmother’s favorites, mine too.

Between her favorite shows, while I napped, she indulged in her enormous stack of Harlequin romances.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized her disappointments and loveless marriage could be forgotten for a few precious moments in between the pages.  I, too, learned to forget my disappointments and sorrows between the covers, and often in books as well.

When I started feeling better, I would cast about, looking for a way to ease my boredom, digging through the button tin, smelling my grandfather’s vast collection of Avon colognes, each in a glass vessel reflecting manly pursuits, transportation, sailing, cow wrangling, militia, the usual culprits.  Restlessness signaled my time to return to school.

My grandmother’s house was always my sanctuary, but when I am tired or cold, I miss her to the bone.

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