We are just emerging out of the witching hour for parents of toddlers as five PM approaches. It is Friday, the day on which we parents take the final agonizing steps to the finish line of the week, only to discover that the weekend days are a repeat of the weekdays. No one sleeps in. Everyone is actually even more cranky than they were during the week, if that is even possible.
The family has passed around an anachronistic virus in the middle of summer, starting with the three-year-old last week. The one-year-old caught it a few days later, and now the husband, the worst patient of all, has contracted the contagion. My other half is pathetic, and his fever is no higher than mine is on my best days. One would think that chronic illness would give you more compassion on those who are sick. Instead, it makes me want to scream at my husband, “Suck it up!! I have to suck it up everyday of my life!! Take tylenol, and get your rear-end off that couch, soldier! These kids can’t fend for themselves!” I remind myself that this is not how Jesus would act, and this is irrational rage that I should contain and not communicate. In no way could that spoken diatribe enhance my marriage. So I bring him medicine and a cup of water and ask how his head is feeling. I pray for more compassion and repent for my critical and unloving spirit. (Other days, I may scream his head off. I’m not perfect, jeeze!!)
I think that I feel particularly awful today. The pain is just a little bit more acute. I’ve hit the floor a few extra times. Walking across the living room feels a bit like running a marathon, and my heart may pound out of my chest with this tachycardia. I may feel worse than usual, but I’m never sure anymore. I may feel this bad every day, but the brain fog of POTS blessedly helps me forget my agony. I try not to think about how bad I am feeling. It is pointless. I try not to think about the possible reasons. Over the past two years, that has proved futile. I employ my militant strategies with myself rather than spewing them at my poor sick husband. “You’re not as sick as you think you are. It’s all in your head. Suck it up. Get off the couch and do something productive. This is your life. What are you going to do? Cry a river of tears every day that you think you are dying? You’ll never get anything done, and you will be super pathetic.”
The late afternoon, the close of the witching hour, carries with it a torrential downpour. It is majestic. I call the unruly, wild, maniac children over to the window. They are both in t-shirts, diapers, and no pants. Who needs pants when you are under four and running circles in your living room? They stand on the sofa, feet firmly planted in daddy’s calves watching, captivated by the river of tears pouring from the darkened heavens. It really is amazing. Later, we find out that we got almost eight inches that night. The short time frame in which it accumulates is the kicker, though. It is like God is dumping olympic-size swimming pools down onto our house! Relieved that the kids are occupied for a few seconds, I sit, trying to lower my heart rate below 100 bmp for a few minutes. A friend texts, offering to pick up some chicken noodle soup for our patient and dinosaur nuggets for the kids. They are at Walmart, and when your pastor husband gets sick on a Sunday, the whole church obviously knows. I am learning to accept help, and I tell her that we would love for them to bring some soul food by the house. They even are braving this torrential emptying of the heavens for the feeding of my family. I am humbled, and fight off the shame of the needing help.
I look out the window at the rain still pouring, and I see a golden glow lighting the lines of water driving from the sky. The sun has broken through, not weakly, but with such fervor that it is as light as a cloudless day outside. For a few seconds, I ponder how odd this phenomenon seems, and then I remember the whole science of prisms and rainbows. My children have never seen a real rainbow, so I squeal with childish delight and drag them, neither one wearing pants, out through the garage, into the pouring rain. This is a bad idea, my rational side is warning me. This will trigger a major POTS flare-up. Don’t get too excited. Don’t walk that fast. Don’t you dare go all the way down the driveway to the road. You shouldn’t walk that far. That’s why they got you a scooter. I disregard the rules. Majestic acts of God trump the rules of chronic illness, and in a split second decision, I decide that this one is worth paying for physically for the rest of the night if I have to.
My son runs down the driveway to the side of the road to wade in the river of rainwater washing down the gully. My daughter tentatively tiptoes down the driveway with my prompting with the promise of a view of the most beautiful rainbow she’s ever seen. I reach the end of the driveway with my little girl’s hand clutching mine as she prepares to glance at her first real rainbow. My not-yet-two-year-old son is yards away splashing with the abandon that only a one-year-old can muster, and I suck in the fresh air sharply (maybe with a bit of a gasp-wheeze, but still with awe). My babies and I look to our left to see the thickest, most brilliant rainbow that I have ever had the privilege to witness. My sweet girl grasps tighter onto my fingers and says, “AHHHH!! Mommy, it is just beautiful! It’s gorgeous!” In instant, she lets go and races after her brother, splashing gleefully away. We watch the rainbow through to the end of its life and beg for it to stay as it disappears from one end of the sky to the other as the sky grows dark again and the rain starts to sting our skin with its increased power. My children run back to the refuge of my arms as we hurry inside, and our friends pull into our driveway with their generous food offerings for the sick and the hungry. I apologize for my pantless children and happily accept dinner.
As they hurry back to their car and drive away, my babies and I watch them and the rain from the refuge of the garage. The rainbow is seared in my vision for a bit longer before it fades in my mind as it did from the sky. We climb the steps and return inside to daddy with his chicken noodle soup.
And God whispers to my soul, “My child, even in the trenches, life is beautiful.”