Winter 1993

I have pneumonia, again. I am starting to recognize the signs- the pain in my side. It feels like someone is stabbing me with a knife. This is the fourth year in a row. By now, Mom and Dad know what to do: take me to the doctor before it gets too bad, force that terrible medicine down my throat, and pray it doesn’t get worse. Last year, the doctor was talking about putting me in the hospital. I know that scared Mom. The year before that, I had hallucinations from having a high fever. The year before that, I just remember laying in bed a lot and watching movies around the clock. I hate the way the pneumonia makes me feel: light-headed and sore all over. Mom has to turn me upside down and pound on my sides to keep the stuff in my lungs loose. The medicine is awful. Smells like cat pee and tastes slightly like lemons. But I know if I put up a fuss then Dad will yell at me. Mom used to sneak the medicine into my food, but I always spit it out. It also usually means I need to miss school. This usually makes me sad. This year, I want a break from the bullying.

I didn’t get to stay home from school this time. I got to ride to and from school because someone had to drive the W kids to school, and that was Mom. Once at the school, I got to lay down. I thought once I laid down, far away from everyone, I could just rest. The principal and pastor came and talked to me. I was incoherent from being sick, but I remember they were saying something about my illness. How my pneumonia was a sign that I was “stuffing my feelings”. I wasn’t being honest with them. I needed to tell them everything that was inside, before it killed me. I had no idea what they were talking about at the time. What am I hiding? I am ten years old. But now I realize it was a way for them to prey on my weakness, my sickness. It was another step in getting me away from trusting myself, my parents, my doctor, and trusting them. Excuse me, trusting “God”. Perhaps the feelings that I was stuffing inside was bitterness. The bitter seed was growing. I was sick with pneumonia and I couldn’t stay home and have my Mom take care of me. Because she had to drive nine other children to school.

Halfway through the sickness, I can make it. I feel strong enough to go to the bathroom. Mom is at the store getting more soup, Dad is home with me. It is Saturday. I go to the bathroom, and there is blood in my underwear. Oh my God, I am dying. The pneumonia is killing me this time. However, this is too embarrassing to tell Dad. He’s going to want to look “there” to see what happened. I don’t want that. Mom will be home in a few minutes. As soon as Mom got home, I told her. She exclaimed “Oh my God!” I said “I knew it, I knew I was dying” and start crying uncontrollably. Mom says, “You aren’t dying, this is normal.” I must be hallucinating again. How is this normal? Then she starts drawing me pictures that I don’t understand and talking about eggs and sperm. I have no clue what is going on. I just do what she tells me to do and go back to bed. Grateful that I am still alive.

*the doctor concluded that I am allergic to Christmas trees. We have used fake trees and no more pneumonia for me.


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