Germs are the whole problem. Germs threaten Mommy’s life
My hands smell of bleach.
It’s because of the Rummikub game. I wiped down each tile with a Clorox wipe, only it wasn’t the lemon-scented wipes I keep in my bathroom vanity, it was pure bleach, hospital fare, and I forgot to wear gloves, I don’t know why, and even now, after I’ve scrubbed my hands with soap a hundred times, the smell clings.
I had to wipe down those tiles because the game comes from my house, and if it was in my house, it was in one, or all, of my kids’ mouths, and mouths have germs, and germs—
Germs are the whole problem.
Germs threaten Mommy’s life.
The ironic thing is, I muse, as I enter the little foyer that leads to Mommy’s room and scrub my hands in the sink, (which I push with my thigh so as not to touch the sink handle with my hands — my germy, germy hands) and don a disposable mask: Mommy is not sick.
She definitely doesn’t look sick.
She’s wearing a sheitel and makeup, looks as pert and beautiful as always. Test results and numbers can say what they want; Mommy is the picture of health. She’s hosting me, for goodness’ sake, in the hospital room that she transformed into her space, territory she inhabits with the air of a landowner.
I’ve brought over a large insulated food pack, filled with rolls and salads and spreads and goodies, and she makes me wash, because “You’ve had a stressful morning, leaving the kids and rushing over here.”
Keeping a distance, I slip my mask down a centimeter and eat. Before I’m half done, Mommy’s cleaning up, clearing the tiny bedside table, bustling around, moving like the wind, making the place immaculate again.
And of course, she scrubs the table down with an antiseptic wipe.
The rest of the day is a time warp. Mommy’s room overlooks the Hudson, and we’ve been told that the stream changes late afternoon. I don’t know when late afternoon is, or if there’s truth to this claim, but I keep an eye out, I don’t want to miss the sight.
Also, there’s nothing else to do.
We schmooze. We play two rounds of Rummikub. We stroll the two short corridors, the only space in the entire complex of hospital buildings that’s not off-limits to Mommy. Mommy gets phone calls, tens of them, just like any other day. She shows me a picture of the chassan-kallah, the Fox News reporting about the romaine lettuce recall, my aunt’s grandkids. She takes complete interest in all these mundane things, as if we’re strolling through the park, as if I’m not making sure to stand four feet away from her at any given moment.
Because I am Germs.
My fingers have germs.
My sweater has germs.
My breath has germs.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 676)