This week, as I was starting to feel myself again after an intense bout of the flu, Ben came down with it. I had a comparatively light work week, so even when he wasn't that sick I was able to spend time with him, watching TV, talking when he felt up to it, and making tea, the closest thing to food he could tolerate for a few days.
Fortunately, he is young and healthy and bounced back quickly. But I was glad for the chance to care for him, and not just as turnabout for the excellent care he gave me when I was ill. It was a surprisingly moving nostalgia experience for me.
When Ben was small, he was prone to ear infections. He would periodically wake in the middle of the night crying, sometimes even screaming from pain, and while we came to understand that it was probably "just" his ear again, these were scary and exhausting times. When we couldn't ease his pain, I would often end up in tears, too; on top of that, I worried that the days I had to take off for doctor visits and childcare were endangering my job. If you had told me then that I would miss these episodes, I would have assumed you were crazy.
I certainly don't wish that kind of pain on him (or anyone!) ever again. And I'm not glad he got sick. But the slow, quiet days of recovery, just the two of us and the cat, had a sweetness to them that I do miss, a lot.
It's not the same now, of course. For one thing, as recorded here, we have a different cat now. And instead of cuddling on the bed and reading Winnie the Pooh, we sat in the living room and watched archived Daily Show segments. Whereas back then he would struggle to grasp the rudiments of word recognition, now he attempted to explain arcane soccer rules and the principles of sound transmission to me.
It will never be the same. But stepping back into the river can be gratifying, even when we know it isn't ever the same river.