A Strenuous Day
This unexpected question pops out of Bea’s mouth in the middle of a coughing fit that hits with the force of yesterday’s gale winds. I hold a tissue below her mouth and wait. She is positioned as straight as possible, the way Nurse Jane once suggested.
“I want you to spit it out,” I order. Touchy-feely, I am not. “No more talk. You need to concentrate. Now spit!”
Bea coughs hard again and succeeds in releasing a thick glob of bubbly phlegm. I do my best to collect it in the tissue, a chore that makes me gag.
“How about Ruth?” Bea asks, much less concerned by her condition than me.
“How about inviting her over for a drink?” Before I can answer, she has moved on to another idea: “So many thin things.”
“What thin things?”
“I don’t know, dear.” She is peering up at the rafters but now turns her head to bestow a soft angelic smile that makes me feel all fuzzy inside. “So good to have you here.”
I give a quick kiss and rush off to the kitchen for warm beef broth.
“Can you do it with me?” she asks as soon as I return.
“Greet my husband.”
“He was here?”
Bea is coughing again. She nods, then leans forward slightly and spits into another tissue.
At times like these, I feel out of my depth. I think of all the caregivers who have such duties daily. How grateful I am that Bea has been healthy! It must be so much harder to care for an elderly bedridden person who is not.