I haven’t cooked for four days. On Friday morning I woke up with an awful cough and a very sore body. The niggling morning cough which I’d had for about a week before, finally turned into full-throated flu, and I had to reschedule my appointments. I stayed in bed all day, dragged myself to my Saturday sessions which I could not cancel or reschedule(I work every second Saturday and my patients would have had to wait a whole month) and I sat in the sessions half feverish and definitely more quiet than usual, and when I spoke my voice croaked and squealed. I came back home and got straight back into bed, took some flu medicine, and that’s where I have spent the last three days, cancelling two working days, wincing: my medical insurance covers longer term, more dire medical conditions, not the common flu. I don’t know what flu I have: uncommon for me: I am not often sick, but looking back in journals, this time of the year I am more vulnerable to contract flu: maybe the change of season transition has some role to play.
I did not get ill last year this time. Last year this time I was winging my way to Paris, with my lover, from Toronto where we had been visiting his family and me having been introduced as the new wife-to-be. I was happy and relaxed and loving every minute of discovering the Paris of all my fantasies, cobbled together by reading and watching movies and documentaries. I gained at least three kilograms on that holiday, eating and drinking, not a care in the world, happier than I had been in a very long time.
Until I got news that my father was seriously ill in hospital, two days before we were due back. Photographs of me on that last day in Paris show me hardly smiling, and I remember walking around feeling hollow and numb: knowing that my father was dying. All the meals before that sms from my brother, even the most pedestrian french onion soup in a cheap bistro, seemed to have had something wonderful about it: imbued by my romantic willingness to love everything Parisian: to do as lovers do in Paris. We discovered little restaurants with fantastic foie gras: I was on a mission to try duck in all it’s forms. We stared into one another’s eyes across little tables, drinking surprisingly good rosé by the glass. We had coffee and cake at Le Deux Magots, and I wondered where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to sit. We drank a good bordeaux on the banks of the Seine from carefully packed wine glasses, breaking a baguette and ripping a ripe camembert by hand(I remembered the corkscrew but not a knife), with some french saucisson bought at a morning market.
But on the last day there I was barely hungry: a feeling of dread filling me up, leaving no space for life affirming pleasure in a last french meal. My father died the day after we got back. He was unconscious when I saw him in that hospital bed, very deeply sedated as is the medical practice when someone is in terminal organ failure. I almost cannot bear to look at our photographs, or thinking about our trip without feeling deeply sad. And being sick in bed, this time of the year, not really having much of an appetite, somehow has triggered for me this very painful memory.
Maybe it’s really about a reminder of my mortality: this body which is usually robust and full of life energy, is quietly in pain, and my usual enthusiasm to cook and eat is largely diminished.
Lying in bed the last couple of days, feeling weak and drained, also triggered for me memories about my mother’s death 11 years ago. She died in my house, 6 short weeks after being diagnosed with metastasized liver cancer. I remember the day when she first refused food. The hospice sister had prepared me: that such a day would come, but it still was deeply distressing to see. Somehow I believed that she would still be alright, despite the diagnosis, because she still ate the food I prepared for her. When she stopped eating, I knew, I really knew that she was dying.
I only have a bad flu. Not that people have not died from bad flu. But I think I’m probably not dying, even though I have lost my appetite. Starving a fever and feeding a cold hardly signifies at the moment. It is an old wives’ tale by the way: one should apparently eat very nutritious food when having flu. Well, in a couple of days I hope to be better, and hungry again and ready to cook and eat.
Suddenly, I feel like having some dark chocolate, orange flavoured. I think I’ll live!