since tuesday, i’ve had a fever. i’ve been achy all over, and moving slow as slow can be and still qualify as movement.
i’ve even taken to my mattress a couple afternoons, which — around here — is unheard of. but the most amazing thing unfolded one of those afternoons, the first one when i was stretched out and aching and hotter than hot. a young lad came to my bedside and insisted he was the fever fixer. he had a plan, he said, and he set out to execute.
from down the stairs and around the bend, i heard the klunk of ice cubes being procured. i heard the linen closet squeaking open. i heard the old metal tray being pulled from where we store those sorts of things. and then i heard the hobbling sound of my sweet boy — the one with one leg in a brace and one arm in a cast — i heard him climbing the stairs.
he appeared at my bedside on that hot july afternoon bearing a tray that held a dripping wet washcloth, a cup of ice chips and an apple tucked pertly in a white souffle cup. before i could say a word, he slipped his cast-less hand into the puppet of a washcloth, one of those terry-towel hand puppets meant to make bath time for little ones a theater of suds.
this particular washcloth, the one that was always his favorite, happens to be a hippo. so my bedside attendant stretched wide the hippo’s mouth, grabbed two cubes of ice, and proceeded to anoint my forehead in this icy, dripping bath. next, he reached for my wrists, and up and down my arms and legs. “you’ll be okay,” were the only words he whispered the whole long while. over and over, he repeated: “you’ll be okay,” as if the words alone were incantations, as if a prayer aloud.
a few minutes into this anointing of the sick, i finally mustered the breath to ask: “who taught you this?”
his answer: “you.”
i felt a tear roll down my cheek. it’s true, yes, that a wet washcloth applied to fevered brow has long been wielded here for curative effect. and ice chips in a cup, often dripped with honey, has long been an apothecary staple in this old house. but never in my life have i been as gentle, as determined, as tender as that boy was to me. the tenderness he learned from his papa. of that i’m certain. i, too, am learning tenderness — all these years later — from my sweet boy’s papa. it’s a lesson without end.
while the icy rinse didn’t make the fever go away, it decidedly worked wonders. for days now, my sweet boy has attended me with his hippo and his ice cubes. i asked him amid one of the icy rubdowns if he’d ever thought of being a doctor or a nurse, because he certainly had the healer’s touch. nope, said he, explaining, “i don’t like blood, and i’m not good at science.”
the marvel here is that we often think the long nights we’ve spent on bathroom floors with a retching or a fevered child, the midnight hours when we’re the ones knocking ice cubes from the freezer, we think of those, sometimes, as invisible hours, times that heed no notice. what we might not realize is that in that transactional moment, when ice practically sizzles on a fevered brow, when a kid who’s so sick he can barely open his droopy lids lets us slip an ice chip to his tongue, what we’re doing is so much more than knocking back a fever. we are quietly, and without folderol, teaching something sacred to the essence of being human. maybe fevers and flus were invented for the simple purpose of one someone being invited to try to heal another.
the marvel here — the reminder that came in dripping ice cubes this week — is that there is a life-and-death curriculum unfurling here in the quiet of our humdrum little lives. our whole life long we are teaching and learning that most magnificent of golden rules: love as you would be loved.
not a minute is wasted. not a lesson lost. little folk and big folk alike are paying attention, our hearts attuned to those gifts, those moments, that lift us, inch by inch, to a higher plane. we love, and so we are loved in kind.
i remembered this week that i am ever teaching, and lessons are ever being learned, even when i don’t think a single soul notices, nor pays attention. so i’d best try to live as tenderly, as full of heart, as my sweet child is teaching me to be.
that kid and his ice cubes, they more than did their job. in fact, they melted me. and my fever, too.
what lessons in kindness and tenderness have molded you, stretched you, carried you to a higher, sweeter plane?
Hope you are feeling better!
thanks, dear MDP!
Just lovely. And, Yes, the lessons learned at the receipt of kindness are the most powerful and long-lasting. More often than I would ever have guessed, my children exhibit remarkable kindness and sensitivity. When I remark on that kindness, they frequently answer with “I learned from the best”. Always touches me and never gets old. Lesson for me–the love and kindness you give ripples out into the universe and resonates through the generations. We are so very blessed to see it and experience it and provide it. I hope that you are feeling better–and thank you for this opportunity to remember…
so very blessed, indeed.
Holding you in healing thoughts and prayers!! A beautiful story of the tender love of your boy!
thank you dear dear loumath!
Children learn what they live, the saying goes, and so true.
what’s so breathtaking is when they are so much more — and naturally so — than you might ever hope to be….
The scene, that kid, this story … my heart has melted into a puddle. Blessings of healing and rest, beautiful bam, and big love to the sweetest boy in the history of, well, ever. xox
melted right with you, sweetheart. xoxox
Thinking of that blessed little guy climbing the stairs in his leg brace, with his arm in a cast, to bring you ice in his favorite hippo washcloth brings tears to my eyes. (That hippo washcloth, a sweet relic from childhood, pushes my emotions right over the top. Sploosh, here come the tears!)
This is the most beautiful tale of love made visible. What a precious offering from a devoted son, what a defining moment for him. And what a poignant moment you both. Unforgettable. This melts me, too…
Thank you for lifting your head from your pillow to tap out this message to share with us. May you be fever free and feeling fine again soon, my friend! xoxox
and you made me cry in kind…..
fever still fevers on, but my doctor just took me up a notch on the antibiotic ladder. here’s hoping it decides to work. and in the meantime, the words you put here at the table work magical powers….
May this more powerful antibiotic do the trick! Many prayers for your immediate relief and return to good health, my sweet friend. Sending all my love and sincerest get well wishes to you! xoxox
I am very sorry to hear the fever is persisting. Hope the change in meds kicks its butt, and soon. The sweetness of this story is melting, indeed, though not surprising. He is your mini-me in so many ways. Loved reading every word. May healing for both of you be rapid. xoxo
The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.
Hoping the antibiotics are working their healing magic.
[…] with me forever, it would be the prayer of remembering, the day my little one tried his hand at healing the sick, and, more than any other this year, the magic day at the magic hedge, where my most beloved […]