Disclaimer: If you are looking for the cute and happy, leave now.
* * *
It is the baseball bat slamming into your stomach, blasting the air from your lungs. The bat might be hidden in the dark, swinging into you with no warning. Or it could approach you in slow motion, inching closer with each day.
You might think you are prepared for it, tensing your body and waiting for the blow.
But when that bat makes contact, knocking you off your feet as you scream in anguish, you learn the harsh truth.
Your heart breaks either way.
And then, you are angry.
Today is all about anger.
You’ve been warned.
* * *
Dear “The Cough”:
I hate you. HATE YOU.
It is true, I never liked you. As a child, you plagued me each year, often so bad I was sent out of class for disrupting it.
As a parent, you attack my children, torturing their throats, stealing their sleep and everyone’s sleep around them. You leave me powerless to help them, laughing as medications are deemed useless against your mighty bark.
But this time you’ve gone too far.
This time you have ripped from me the one thing I wanted most.
You chose to invade me, tearing up my throat for the last week. Muting my voice to a mere whisper.
Because of you I was a frog, a croak, unable to bridge the 900 miles and cell reception to communicate with family.
Because of you I am exhausted, beaten by interrupted sleep.
I fought you. I ignored you. I flipped my middle finger in your face and told you shove it.
I tried to drown you with hot showers.
But you persisted, clinging to me through two days in the car, hitching a ride for Thanksgiving.
Hotel air invigorated you, giving you new life.
I fought you with a workout and the steam room.
Until I arrived at my destination.
Then you went blitzkrieg on me, throwing everything you had. Convincing those around I carried the foulest and most contagious of germs.
I listened as those I loved talked me out of going to the hospital to visit my G-pa, certain you would fly with glee at such an easy target.
My heart screamed to visit. Nine hundred miles behind me, only fifteen to go. So very, very close.
But a tiny piece understood their reasoning and fears. It, along with your body wracking coughs, taunted me with, “What if you do make him sicker. Then it will be your fault.”
So I smothered the pull. I listened to fear.
I listened to you.
You distracted me as my family talked on the phone, then leapt through the phone and attacked my grandfather, forcing him to pass the phone to my grandmother.
I passed on my chance to talk then, knowing my low throaty voice would be impossible for her to hear.
I vowed first thing the next morning, I would go anyway. I’d wear a mask and wave from the hallway if I had to, but there was no way you would keep me from seeing my G-pa.
And three hours later, it didn’t matter. You didn’t matter.
The call came.
And fifteen miles might as well have been a million.
I arrived, fluorescent lights bathing the sea of people in the room in sickly glow. You quieted long enough for me to register my wish to sit next to my G-pa, hear his stories, see him smile at my daughter, or play the silly hand game with my son would never happen again.
My G-pa was gone. Only the shell was left, so empty without his mischievous glint.
You stole from me our last good-bye.
I WAS HERE. I wasn’t nine hundred miles away.
I COULD HAVE SEEN HIM.
You wouldn’t let me.
I made the choice I thought right at the time.
I didn’t know the hourglass was empty.
I knew it was close.
The bat had been creeping in for the last year.
It was why we planned a Thanksgiving trip. For him. To see him. At least one last time.
And you denied me that.
I hate you.
I have to.
Otherwise, I might hate myself for denying my instinct in the face of fear and concern. Fear and concern instigated by YOU.
I hate you.
And I will find a way to destroy you. Someday.
Payback is a bitch.
* * *
Thank you for listening.