I spent the better part of the day in bed feeling nauseated. This had nothing to do with nail-biting football or new concoctions from A-Ma. For whatever reason I could not titrate a nice balance between pain free and queasy and so took to my bed like that bitchy boy in A Secret Garden. And then felt guilty about it. All day.
This is not a feeling I normally indulge. I have an enviable life. Even with cancer, deforming surgery, poisons, and whatnot, life with Bernie and these boys is good. I have a life without homework, lots of snow days, extra recess, and the fun substitute teacher. My payback for all these blessings is the really enjoyable work of being part of this family. And right now I can’t do it. Of course no one expects me to make beds and pick up nerf darts right now, but this cancer battle stuff is going to last much longer than most people like to visit. I’m already worried that Mommy Has Taken to Her Chamber is growing tiresome. And feel like a big faker with all of this hair (for now) and quick healing wounds and lack of consumption (which Bernie is approximating quite well).
Also, I’m usually really really good at my job. I take pride in my folded fitted sheets, spotless car, gift wrapping skills, Teddy’s spelling, Brodie’s math, and successful overwintering of my tuberous begonias. I traded the challenging, busy life of a surgeon for that of Mom and applied the same fervor and a considerable more amount of enthusiasm for the job. I can recommend the best roofer, make royal icing, refinance the house, and drill math, while I do laundry and drink wine and enjoy the savory smells from the slow cooker meal, ready at 6 (depending on how early the wine was opened). I’m Tiger Mom, but with fun, and champagne, and social skills, and a husband I actually like.
Bernie’s parents (well, their “friends”) call me “most expensive wife.” I bought eight years of post-graduate education and fail to bring a single dime into our pretty, stucco life. A-Ma used to joke that I should hang my diplomas in the kitchen. But at least I had the smug satisfaction of running this joint well. Now I can’t stomach the smell of cereal, lift the teakettle, or even hug the boys properly. I don’t know how long I’m going to be unemployed, and what’s worse, will need to let go of that smug satisfaction that no one can do this better than I can.
Perched here on my pillows, I am especially grateful to you who are doing the job for me: the grandmas who are making sure the boys are brushed and fed and clean, the Church ladies who brought delicious, warm Chinese-medicine-free food, my husband who is picking up the slack in spite of a lingering pneumonia, and the grandpas who are entertaining small boys with unending questions, requests to reach this or find that, and reasons not to go to bed. But the guilt is making me sick.