MamaBlogger365 – Affection for Sickness by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

I sit in the early morning quietude, not quite awake yet, drinking my cup of “high test” coffee while a pot of half-caff brews. This is my ritual on Thursday mornings as I write my post. As I type, I await the onset of my cold symptoms, lulled as they were through the night by meds and sleep; I anticipate their resurfacing — aches, sneezing, watery eyes that won’t quite open — you know the drill. I’ve cleverly attempted to preempt them with Alka Seltzer Plus cold medicine (the best ‘you have to go to work anyway’ medicine I’ve found). And not strangely, I’m thinking about illness and compromised bodies and how they mark moments in family life, connecting people at times and disconnecting them others.

Much like now, when my son was little he was always in motion. Though a very affectionate kid, he didn’t stick around for lasting embraces or linger for a prolonged kiss to the forehead. He’d move in for whatever display of affection he sought to acquire or deliver and then move back out, on to the next discovery. When he was sick, though, he slowed. I experienced his illnesses, few though they were, rather warmly and think back on them now rather fondly. During his fevers were the only times I could hold him for long periods, the only times he would just simply receive what I tenderness I would offer. It’s a gift you give a person, really, when you let them show love for you. One of the things I appreciate about my partner is the way that he just, as I say to him, “receives me,” allowing me to put my face to his head and linger there, smelling his hair, kissing his cheek. I can do this often with him but with my son it was rare.

I was flashed back to these moments with my little boy when my father was recently hospitalized with a heart attack. Between reports that ranged from a “mild attack” to one that caused “significant damage” and the family having to repeatedly tell him why he was there and that he was not having surgery, my dad was the gentlest I’ve seen him. He seemed older to me as he lay there, more like somebody’s granddad than my father, his eyes drooping and his mouth open though directed into a half-smile. More importantly, he was uncharacteristically lovable. The moments I could get to him were brief, squeezing in between caretakers and professionals. We didn’t really have much to say to each other, finally, but I was compelled to stroke his hair, thin as it is, and kiss his forehead. I found myself guiltily grateful for the confluence of this moment of illness where was still and willing to receive me at the same time that I was pulled to show him affection.

People aren’t always so receiving, of course, or so sure of whether to give care or affection, and it gets tricky in these times. I imagine that when I am older and my daughter or son insists on accompanying me to the doctor’s office I’ll find this as intrusive as my sister fears my parents find it now. I hope I won’t put up too much of a fight and that I’ll just let them show affection and care in this way, but I suspect it will all seem so unnecessary to me, displays that are better directed at the feeble, which, no matter what shape I’m in, I’ll perceive I’m not. I hope someone will have the wherewithal to accompany me anyway, despite my protests.

Times of family illness are trying ones, challenging boundaries and patience, bodily limits and identities. And they can also offer up moments of stillness and pure affection. May we have them, see them, receive them.

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.

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Photo credit: Hand Print In The Sand by Jiří Hodaň


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