I’m doing better. I’m closer to feeling well at this point than I am to feeling sick, but I’m still not well. Lots of stuff still needs to clear its way out of my system but there is a light at the end of the phlegmy tunnel even though coughing seems like part of my identity now. When I got home from work on Saturday I collapsed onto the couch in a prolonged coughing fit and I heard Mona upstairs say, “Mom’s home!”
It’s been strange to have no sense of smell. I’ve steered toward foods with simple tastes such as salty or sweet just so there is some flavor. So much of taste is really smell, and there is no difference in my world right now between chocolate and vanilla, or even tea and hot water. Watching what you eat is easier when none of it’s appealing, so if I have to find a silver lining I suppose that’s it (even though that silver is arguably tarnished).
I hadn’t given my lack of being able to smell much thought until I took Quinn to his follow up appointment at the hospital. His mouth and throat are completely healed from the tonsillectomy, but he’s been all stuffed up and continuing to snore. Turns out a sizable colony of bacteria took up residence where his adenoids used to be, and the nurse practitioner said, “Can’t you smell that?” Nope. So Quinn now has some nasty tasting antibiotics that he’s being good about not spitting out and he should be all well soon.
When I haven’t been at work or in rehearsals I’ve been in bed. I’m extremely conscious of how much harder this would be if Ian were deployed. Single parenting while sick is such a nightmare. I’ve done it and it’s awful and it makes the illness drag on for months when you can’t get any rest. Two weeks is a long time to be coughing your lungs inside out, but I would be surprised if I’m not myself again soon. If I had to be completely responsible for the kids and the dog and all the cooking and chores I wouldn’t be able to say that.
The one unexpected gift during these past couple of weeks was getting to leave early from orchestra rehearsals. I would sleep all day, then take whatever drugs were necessary to help me survive playing viola for a few hours, and brace myself to last to the end of the 9:30 rehearsal. But after working hard on An American In Paris for an hour and a half the conductor told us anyone who wasn’t playing some particular piece could leave at the break. It took my stand partner and myself a moment of disbelievingly rummaging through our music to realize it was a piece we didn’t have. That never happens. String players are the workhorse of the orchestra. We always have to play, and we’re used to seeing the harp player or the percussion or brass people leave at the break, but never us. It was like a miracle!
I’m used to driving home after a rehearsal through a darkened city. If Milwaukee has a thriving nightlife it’s not one readily visible on my commute through downtown back to the south side. But getting out of orchestra an hour earlier meant some things were still open that I never get to explore, and one of them was the new location of a used bookstore I used to frequent years ago. I decided to take a minute and check it out.
I love bookstores. I browse for classics I should have read by now and novels unknown to me by authors I enjoy. I look for things to buy for other people who love to read. I marvel at the greatness on the shelves and am flummoxed by truly terrible things that made it to print while I still can’t find an agent. I look with admiration for books by people I know personally and dream of a day where maybe one of my novels could be on those shelves as well.
This particular bookstore buys books, and around the time Ian and I moved into our first house (before kids) we sold them several boxes of things we had that we decided we just didn’t need anymore. Most of the books were easy to part with, such as textbooks we knew we’d never reference again, and atlases that were out of date, and fiction that didn’t warrant another read.
But the one book I hesitated over was an anthology called My Friend The Dog. I’d really enjoyed it as a kid, my worn, red copy with no dust jacket. I didn’t know if it was worth hanging onto for my future, as of then still imaginary, children. I put it in the box. I took it out. I just wasn’t sure. I have so many books from my childhood that I planned to pass on to my kids and this particular one seemed borderline. It would be so long before any kids we would have would be old enough for it that it seemed crazy to save, but I have a deep sentimental streak. Eventually my desire to purge overcame my attachment to the book. And it went in the box.
Standing a dozen years later in the same bookstore in it’s bright, new location I was curious. I’ve been thinking about that book because Aden is now the perfect age for it, and she loves dogs. I regretted letting it go. I went to the desk and asked if they happened to have a copy of My Friend The Dog. They looked it up, and said they had a single copy in their warehouse with the ebay books. But it was worn, red, and had no dust jacket. I told them that sounded fine to me. I think I paid for it what they originally gave me for all the boxes of books.
It would make a great story to tell you my childhood copy of that anthology were back in my hands again, but when I went to pick it up I realized this copy was older, smaller, and contained different illustrations. But that’s okay. I’d feel bad for a bookstore that hadn’t been able to move a book in over a decade. And this copy is fine. With luck, it will be one that Aden grows attached to.
Recovery isn’t always what you expect. It’s how you view moving forward that makes all the difference.