Sunday, May 02, 2004

The weight of the soul

Helena is sick.

I'm not confident in what the doctor at the clinic had to say, though it seemed to appease both J-F and his mother. Whenever someone gives them a prescription it seems to validate their concerns and works as a guarantee of fast improvement.

I know that my baby's sick. Had the two of us been home together, we would've curled up on the sofa, watched TV. There would've been a lot of hugging, and a lot of soup. Helena was obviously a little feverish and out of sorts, but I don't think I would've taken her to the clinic.

Thursday morning, J-F dropped Helena off at his mom's for the day so I could get some work done. For various reasons we decided to have her spend the night and pick her up the next afternoon. When we got there, Helena was waiting with her grandmother to see the doctor. Overdressed for the weather and no snacks on hand. Sigh.

We all stuck out the wait. Helena toddled all over and babbled up a storm. The doctor observed flecks in her throat, said it may or may not be strep, she may or may not have swollen tonsils, it may or may not be linked to J-F's mystery illness of a few weeks ago. He prescribed penicillin.

I'm having intense mommy angst. How could I let my baby out of my care when she was obviously coming down with something? How could I be so unconcerned when first I heard of her fever? Why am I continuing the course of penicillin when I don't trust the diagnosis? Why am I so freaked out about the overuse of antibiotics? Why haven't I called our pediatrician yet for advice? Why am I so mad at my mother-in-law?

This makes twice that Helena's been taken to the clinic on her watch. (Have I been neglectful that I don't see the signs that warrant investigation?) Obviously, I'd rather she err on the side of caution, but she does tend to make really big huge deals out of nothing, whether the issue is health, supper, or the purchase of a T-shirt. Then there's her recounting J-F's childhood, that he was always sick, that she was always taking him to doctors, that she was sure he had cancer. A little Munchausen by proxy?

Helena is home now, though still out of sorts. Sickness or not, the day after spending time with her grandmother is always a little rough on me, whether she stayed the night (this time it was two) or if we're simply visiting for the evening. These visits seem to register with Helena as out of the ordinary (if regular), and she needs time to readjust to her usual routine. Call me crazy — I think it has something to do with the energy my mother-in-law emits; her excitability infects my baby.

Meanwhile, J-F's grandfather (his father's side) had a stroke. He's well, all things considered, but he's being kept at the hospital for further tests. J-F's been a real peach driving around to do errands for him, picking up pyjamas for him, bringing him newspapers.

(Funny, old people are. He needed to cash a cheque that was to come in whatever day's mail. It couldn't wait three or four days.)

The most uncomfortable aspect of his condition is the matter of the will. I see no reason whatsoever for it to ever come up in conversation. But it does, and I'm bothered by the fact that some people are considering the financial implications of the situation. You try to be a good person cuz that's what it's all about, and it's family, and you try to do good cuz that's the right thing to do, not for the promise of financial reward.

Anyway, Pépé's assured us that Helena's education will be taken care of. I hope J-F told him she's going to MIT.

We watched 21 Grams last night. I was shocked to find out that's what J-F had picked out at the store. He's not one for "downer" movies; for some reason he thought this was a more conventional drugworld thriller. Anyway, he bowed out about halfway through and went to bed. (Pet peeve of mine. I hate when he does that.) I rarely have opportunity to see "downer" movies, and I sometimes miss that. Not because I enjoy being made to feel depressed, but many such films are well-crafted (as many as in any other genre, anyway), and some of them even have something interesting to say about the human condition that doesn't involve a cheap gag or special effects. So I watched the movie through to the end. It was difficult — I find myself in tears when I hear about the death of a child these days (I wonder if it'll get easier when Helena's older) (I never used to cry) — but I'm glad to have seen it. I'm not sure that mixing up the chronology was fair to the viewer (is that the distant past, or now?) or particularly clever or necessary for evoking emotional responses, but hey, I'm not a film director.

(I imagine a lot of terrible things happening to my baby. A lot of close-call what-ifs. I probably shouldn't talk about it here, cuz I fear it's not normal, and somebody may send men with straightjackets to collect me. For example, walking back to our place we have to circumvent the construction on the high-rise down the street and as we step off the curb I imagine the stroller tips and Helena is flung into traffic and run over­. It's not complicated with detail. It's not really imagined; it's just a flash. Anyway, this sort of thing flashes across my mind quite a lot, and I see it as an internal mechanism for reminding me, to warn me, to stay vigilant. Kind of like when we were in Spain a few years ago and after the purses were snatched from the backseat of the car we were in, I kept having "flashes" where I'd see myself in various circumstances being shot.)

I'm starting to look forward to the train trip Helena and I are embarking on next week to visit my mother. And I'm wondering what book to take with me on the journey. Good chance I won't actually find time to read on the train, but it wouldn't feel right if I wasn't carrying a book. I've started reading Libra, by Don DeLillo, and even though I suspect it may take me weeks to plod through, its dimensions are too big for me to consider it a companion.

Must. Find. Trashy. Lightweight. Paperback.

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