A few weeks ago, no sooner did I drop my husband off at the airport, than I felt the tickle at the back of my throat.
He was off on a Navy trip to Bahrain, leaving me in charge of the house, the bills, the kids, the dog, the trash, the leaves, our son’s college applications, our daughter’s inevitable fashion crises, and my own mental and physical well-being. So, this was the last thing I needed.
By the time I got home from the airport, the tickle had upgraded to a full-blown head cold. One of those throat-itching, eye-watering, lung-wheezing afflictions; that compels you to guzzle cold medicine and bury yourself under the covers, because you’re going to be totally useless.
But being useless was not an option. Before the three-o-clock middle school pick up, I had to walk the dog, have a mammogram, shop for groceries, iron my son’s dress shirts, start my column, return a few emails, walk the dog again, get something out for dinner, and try to take a shower and look human.
Head cold or no head cold, I had to be firing on all pistons.
I decided to make one minor adjustment to my jam-packed schedule that might ease the pain of functioning while sick — I’d take five minutes and throw some chicken soup on the stove before heading out to my 9:30 a.m. mammogram appointment.
In a flash, I had onions and carrots chopped and sautéing in a pan, alongside my old Revereware soup pot which was simmering with chicken and spices. Next, I plopped four ribs of celery on the cutting board and began slicing.
I was coming to the end of the bunch when, shshshwing. There it was - the very tip of my thumb laying neatly on the edge of the cutting board.
The next few seconds were a slow-motion controlled panic. I watched my uncut hand reach for the severed cap of flesh and place it back on the tip of my thumb, albeit crooked, and unravel multiple sheets of paper towels to wrap my bleeding appendage. I flicked the stove off, grabbed my purse, and jumped into my minivan, mumbling to myself, “it’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna be fine.”
“Hi, I’m here for a mammogram (nervous laughter) ... you’re never going to believe this (nervous laughter) ... I just cut the tip of my thumb clean off,” I jabbered to the lady behind the base clinic check in desk. Despite a convincing look of utter apathy, the woman directed me to a nurse who preliminarily wrapped my thumb and told me the doctor would take a look right after my mammogram.
As the adage goes, you learn something new every day, and on this particular day, I learned that it’s nearly impossible to unhook your own bra strap with one hand. Somehow, I was able to get the task done, just before the technician came in for the mammogram. After several painfully humiliating images were procured, I was free to dress and head back across the clinic to see about my bleeding thumb.
With only one of the three hooks of my bra strap precariously fastened, I waited for the nurse, then the doctor, then the nurse again, then the doctor again, before my thumb was finally treated, and I was released to go wait all over again for a tetanus shot at immunizations and for medication in the pharmacy.
Four hours after entering the clinic doors, I left with a bandaid on my arm, wilted mammories, a thumb that looked more like a chicken drumstick, and a completely neglected to-do list.
Despite the chaos, I felt compelled to finish my chicken soup, needing it now more than ever. At dinnertime, I ladled the hot soothing elixir into bowls, careful not to slosh any broth onto my bandages, and placed them on the table with a box of oyster crackers. The kids and I sat in silence, inhaling the salty steam, blowing gently on spoonfuls.
“I can’t believe you made this soup with all that craziness going on today, mom,” my middle schooler said with a compassionate slurp. “Mmmm,” she mumbled with her mouth full, “it’s still really good, Mom.”
Yes, it certainly is.
(Editor’s note: Lisa Smith-Molinari is a 20-year Navy spouse. She can be contacted at www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)