How Are You?
“How are you?” For the past several weeks I have heard this question more than bird song. Occasionally it’s been accompanied by a worried tilt of the questioner’s head, sometimes by an encouraging squeeze of my shoulder. There is often a faintly detectable frisson of fear behind the eyes that reveals, despite the honest concern for my welfare, the questioner is sincerely in hopes that I won’t fall apart in their presence. I am grateful for the wonderful people that populate my life and grateful for their kind attention to me as, each time, I have reassured them that I’m fine. Really. I’m fine.
The rituals of a Southern funeral are forged in iron and not to be escaped. It doesn’t matter that one is exhausted. Nor that one is an only child with more on one’s plate than is fathomable. The duties for those left behind when a parent passes away in the South are strangely akin to those necessary in planning a party. Flowers? Check. Music? Check. Food? Check. One hopes one remembers all the names that go with all the faces so that all the introductions go smoothly. One hopes to put everyone at ease in what is almost always a bit of an uncomfortable situation. And one does it all in high heels, which is nearly always stressful in and of itself. And one is fine. Really.
Then suddenly, everyone is gone. The habits of everyday life begin to slowly draw their patterns around the hours once more. Dinners are prepared. Dogs are walked. Laundry is done. And one is fine. Really. Fine.
Or so one thinks.
Then comes the night when I’m knitting by the fire. As Time Goes By is on the television - a big white dog is asleep at my feet. My ball of yarn decides to fall from my lap and as I’m reeling it in I pause to give Edward a tummy rub and feel a bird’s egg-sized lump just behind his left leg and suddenly, incredibly, my “fine” self crumbles like a dry sycamore leaf. (Before I worry anyone, let me hasten to say that this little malady of Edward’s was seen to promptly and found to be very common, utterly benign, and easily dealt with. But do keep in mind that I wasn’t aware of this at the time, rendering the shock of its discovery as, The Final Straw.) First, all the sound in the room changed to a loud roar as my vision went dark. I made it to the bathroom where I lost... well, let’s just say I now have infinitely more sympathy for poor Kate Middleton and her “extreme” bout of morning sickness. Then... my temperature started to climb. It reached 101 degrees by the time I fell into bed, feeling for all the world that I’d been run over by a coach and six. Next morning came a migraine. Yes dear reader, I fell apart.
When the migraine left and Edward had been to his vet, The Songwriter, sounding eerily like Vernon Dursley from Book One of Harry Potter, declared in his most exasperated voice... “We’re going away! Far away!”
And so we did. All four of us piled into a large rental car and headed for the coast. Pale and silent, I sat in the passenger seat like a placid little mental patient on a supervised outing and upon arriving at our destination, promptly fell asleep for the better part of two days. We took long walks on the beach. We ate oranges. We laughed a lot. I realized how much calmer and relaxed I was starting to feel when I began to observe Edward and Apple having such a good time. They couldn’t pass each other without stopping to play. Edward had a grin on his face the entire time we were away. No doubt both dogs had been absorbing all the stress I thought I had so cleverly concealed when I was “fine”. They are never fooled.
It’s admittedly strange when your body stages its own revolt, finally demanding to be heard when its been ignored for too long. One little scare, one thin, tiny straw, and all hell can break loose. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, and I hope you never do, I can empirically attest to the restorative powers of sun and sand, oranges, and the love of a big white dog.
We really are fine now, and trust me, I know the difference.