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  • Betsy Singleton Snyder


“Momma’s drinking Gatorade!” they murmured amongst themselves. As if the waters of the nearby Arkansas River would sooner part than the purple pass my lips. As if I had broken a weirdo adult taboo of my own creation, which I did. As if I had uttered a serious curse word, which, if I’d had the strength, um, maybe. As if I had lost my ever loving mind. As if I’d sworn off cheese dip for life.

My youngest boys were in shock. What had made momma slug grape Gatorade? Had some altered reality, like those in their strange and weird science encyclopedias, taken place?

I awoke early that Monday morning at 3:30 a.m. with some decent chills. My husband was in the our oldest’s room. The big boy had a bad dream. When I didn’t hear Victor’s footsteps coming back, I picked up the phone and called him. Indeed. I could hear his surprise at the other end. “I’m sick,” I moaned.

He got back around to me, finally. He felt my forehead and said I didn’t feel very hot while my teeth were chattering. The nerve. Never marry a doctor with the idea a doctor will have a delicate bedside manner, unless, maybe, his undergrad was in social work. The thermometer registered 99 point something or other. I think I was hallucinating. I asked for more cover.

When I awoke, my head felt as if the scalp near my eyes had been slightly peeled back and something was tapping on it. I could not open my eyes because the sun was shining in a way meant for happy and healthy people. I mean, Who has the indecency for such shenanigans? Why did I have loud and happy children leaving the house for school? Who needs that kind of joy?

I vaguely remember calling my doctor, and was invited to come in by 11 a.m. I told my husband I couldn’t drive. I didn’t even think I would survive removing my pajamas. They are elastic. Was it possible to go to the doctor in my pajamas? Was that way too E.R.?

I grabbed jeans and a shirt from the dirty clothes. For the next couple of hours, I endured sitting, blood drawn, and waiting for a chest x-ray. At one point, I asked my husband if there was a place to lay down in the lobby. The floor was looking really nice and soft. They sped things up.

The head cold from the week before, I mean just a plain, old, head cold, had gone south. I had pneumonia, again. I should probably say that I had never had pneumonia until about three years ago. Now, it is a thing. My thing. I have several complicating factors: allergies and reflux. I’m on a regimen of maintenance shots, a daily allergy tablet, and inhaler. We’re still figuring out the reflux thing because I seem to aspirate more than I should, and that begins the fluid in the lungs thingy as well. Since I have had heart failure, I find myself thinking about the lungs because my heart really needs them. And it's very hard to preach and yell at kids in the other room if you are short of breath.

I’m the worst sick person in the world. I don’t like the way it forces me into isolation. It is lonely, though perhaps necessary, to sit upon one’s rear when you have been knocked off your feet. Being sick makes me sad and irritable. Do you hear me?!!!

Sickness can lead to hopelessness and desperation.

I have this idea that the reason that Jesus was so committed to healing sick people is because they were outside of the community. They could not carry on a “normal” life. They were unable to do their jobs, care for their families, and devastated by cure-alls that never seemed to work. Creams, salves, and calamine lotion, which my mother used for everything and might have made us drink it if she’d thought that such slugging was a possible health benefit.

Not only did Jesus care about helping sick and suffering people, he cared about giving them back to the community. I don't have proof, but I think he knew they would be happier once their health had been restored because they would return to serving one another. Once again, they would love to sit around and drink wine and break bread together, rather than sit cut off from the people and the lives that made them human. Sick people want what we all want: the energy to walk the dog on a mild, clear evening, prepare supper for those we love, run the errands with zest and purpose, and sit with our coffee when the house is quiet, right before it buzzes with life. At least my dog held vigil by my sick couch.

Honestly, I posted my illness on Facebook because I felt sorry for myself, and I began to get bored. Shortly, friends began messaging me: I will bring you soup. I will bring your children brownies without nuts. I have soup in the freezer and will drop it off; don’t get up.

And they did, and I let them. I sipped purple gatorade, and I began to move toward the land of the living because communion happened in a roundabout, beautiful way.

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