If you have been following Simon Says for a while, then you know I contracted Dengue Fever while in Puerto Rico. At the time, it seemed a terribly cruel twist of irony…I finally had an opportunity to travel beyond the continental US, and I came home with an illness that landed me in the hospital.
Dengue Fever isn’t something we see much here; I believe I was one of five reported cases among Georgia residents (since the 90’S?). My blood work was sent to the CDC for an official diagnosis, and it was the CDC who “followed up” with me after my release. So, when my physician admitted me to the hospital, he sent me with the knowledge that there are four strains (one of which can be fatal) and the hope that mine would be one of the other three. I was classified neutropenic and denied visitors, flowers, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. I was hooked up to IV fluids and told to wait. Wait and see what happens. Wait on the CDC. Wait.
Idly waiting is not something I do well. My patience is only as good as my ability to stay busy. There, in that hospital bed, with no energy and no one to keep me company, all I could do was lie there and think. I thought about my life and of all the things for which I still hoped. I thought about the thin line I walked between nobly accepting circumstances and my own cowardice. I am not unlike Thornton Wilder’s Marquesa in The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I too realized the reality of my life. Thank goodness God has afford me a different fate than Wilder afforded The Marquesa. (She fell with the bridge two days later.) I recovered from Dengue and continually strive to live differently.
When my time comes, no one will care how smart I am or how many degrees I hold or how many scholarly texts I write. What will matter is how I loved. So I have given up my pursuit of a PhD, not because I no longer wish to teach literature at the college level, but because of the sacrifices the coursework demands. I have given up my position as the English Department Chair where I teach. I have given up my Advanced Placement classes. I have given up these things because of their demands on my time, time I want to spend being a fully-present mother while I still have a child young enough to need me. And...I now have time to write for pleasure and garden and cook and run and take pictures and play the piano. I now have time to spend a leisurely, Sunday afternoon cuddling on the couch with a lazy, lovable weim. I now have time to go to museums and to the symphony, time to study a little Italian, time to drop everything and go to Rome.
With all this time on my hands, I am a much happier person than I was before Dengue. I smile more. I laugh more. I love more openly and more fully. I see moments now, moments I might otherwise have missed.