In Sickness and in Health

I’m not myself today.  I’m not sure who I am, but it’s definitely not me.  It started when I woke up around 1:00 a.m. with an urge to purge.  I felt cold and thought it was because we just had a light blanket.  Then I felt a soreness in my left shoulder and my neck.  I thought that might have developed during our earlier wrestling match.  As I rolled uphill on our two-and-a-half year old mattress to find my Birkenstocks, I began to shake violently.  Like in a New Jersey winter. 

When I’m groggy, I tend to mumble in English.  I know Margarita sleeps so soundly she wouldn’t hear me, but I’m sure my semi-conscious wanted to be heard.  Nothing.

My legs were rubbery.  Not just my bad ankle.  All my joints were aching.  I made my way through the living room and kitchen to the back door to the patio.  I always try to open it quietly so as not to awaken Duke.  But the all-Salvadoran vigilante came running from his new bigger cardboard box house and began to lick my toes.  Not what I needed.

I took care of business and Duke went back to his house.  He’s learning that my nocturnal sojourns to the loo are not part of play time.  When I got to the bedroom, I grabbed the heavy blanket and tossed it on the bed.  I began to speak in Spanish and Margarita responded.  She touched me and told me I was burning up with fever.  I was now aware that my head ached as well.

I felt like a model T Ford on 1939 School Street as I tried to lie quietly under the covers.  Margarita had opened the blanket and was sitting beside me wrapped in a towel.  She asked what she could do.

I thought of driving to Kaiser Permanente in the morning and hoping I’d find a place to park without having to pay their parking lot fee.  “Wait a minute.  I’m in El Salvador a couple of thousand miles from Los Angeles and ArnoldCare cancelled my health insurance because I don’t live in the U.S.”

She mixed me a drink of Equate’s version of Alka-Seltzer Plus and kept me warm until I fell asleep.  Sometime around 6:00 I woke up again.  I realized I had to feed Duke and use the john once more.  I made it back to bed still shivering.  My beautiful bride was zonked out.

She awoke at 8:30.  I didn’t know what day it was and told her she needed to get the garbage bag to the curb.  She tried her best to tell me it was Monday, not Tuesday, until it registered that it wasn’t our day.  I was also scheduled to meet Hno. Francisco on some church business.  I asked her to call in sick for me.  She did that.  Then she brought me orange juice so I could eat my vitamin, my blood pressure pill (I don’t know why Dr. Arias keeps feeding me those 137/71.), and my 81 mg. aspirin.  I then decided that two Ibuprofen might help my headache.  Why didn’t I take them at 1:00 a.m.?  I went back to sleep.

I awoke once more at 12:30.  I was now hot under all the covers.  I was sweating up a storm and lying in a pool of liquid.  But I felt somewhat better.  I got up and walked into the kitchen.  My family was eating lunch.  Margarita felt me and looked at me as if I’d just come home from Lourdes exclaiming that my fever had broken.  I was still dizzy and have been all day.  (Some might say I’ve always been dizzy.  I might agree.)  She asked if I wanted to eat and I told her I wanted a shower first.  She scrambled me a couple of eggs and served it with two slices of buttered toast.  She took good care of me all afternoon until I was ready for a nap.  She kept the kids quiet so I could rest.  The only annoyance was Duke’s nipping my hand while I was in dreamland.  I forgave him.

Among my weary thoughts was the knowledge that Margarita will go to the hospital tomorrow morning to have the cyst(s) removed from her ovaries.  She won’t be here to take care of me as she so lovingly does day in and day out.  Because she’ll be a patient in the national hospital accepting services that began when she was still single, I won’t have whatever spousal benefits they offer.  I want to be able to take care of her while she’s there.  But privileges aside, there’s nothing “normal” about this arrangement.  First, there’s transportation.  It takes two buses to get to the hospital and they don’t run at night.  Second, there are the visiting hours which are available once a day for 1 1/2 hours and it’s a pain to get a visitors’ pass.  Then you have to take it home with you.  I think her mother might go with her in the morning and she’ll have the pass in Casa Blanca.  Patients stay in the hospital longer than in the U.S. for any given surgery.  It’s like the 1930s here.

When you go home, they tell you to lay in for a couple of months.  Then, I’ll get the chance to reciprocate the loving care she’s given me in our seven months of marriage.  It’s different here…and yet not so different after all.

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