My parents have only seen me Crohn’s-sick once, and I’m in no hurry to put them in that position again.
I had gone home for a funeral, and started to feel ill at the wake. That night was not a good night for me.
I lay on the couch in my now-familiar pose of nauseated, exhausted pain, and opened my eyes to see my father standing at my feet, with his face transformed by worry.
“Do you want Tums or something?”
“No, thank you,” I replied, smiling at his desire to make me feel better, before grimacing again as pain ripped across my abdomen.
What is normal for me now – that sometimes my guts hurt and I have to lay down – is not normal for him. Later in the evening, when I was in the bathroom being sick, I heard my mother on the other side, clicking her tongue and sighing at the unfairness of my illness. My heart swelled a little at this reminder that there are people in this world who would do anything to keep me from hurting.
When I built my adulthood, I didn’t foresee the inconvenience of illness. I have adjusted reluctantly and resentfully, while those around me have been better about doing what it takes to keep the world turning.
My coworkers lend a hand when I feel weak. My friends don’t pressure me when I have to cancel plans or cut them short. My parents ask after my health and offer to do what they can.
And my dear love, who first charmed me on the train a year before I got sick, who shared with me one of each season without the worry of diet and stress and the random onset of symptoms, who couldn’t have predicted this any more than I could have, he is a hero. He is patient when I am moving slowly and understanding when I have inconvenient symptoms.
I am learning that I am not alone, that I am surrounded by an astonishing love. This is a love I could only truly see through the lens of weakness and vulnerability.
My mother tends to end our conversations with an exhortation: eat your vegetables, wear your hat, don’t forget to bring a pen or pencil. Concluding a phone call this week she told me “Digest all your food. Stay hydrated.” She’s learning what I need. We all are.