I knew it when I opened my bedroom door that morning.
The air was thick. Like inhaling anger.
I tied my robe a bit tighter at the waist, and went to the kitchen.
My brother cast me a look from the table. He’s still here, it said.
But my appointment’s today. Is it still on?
I heard the scratch of a lighter being flicked in the living room, hours after he should have left for work. I snuck into their bedroom.
My eyes adjusted to the dark, and I saw her in her Migraine Pose. Washcloth on forehead, meds on nightstand.
“Please.” I begged. I can’t lose this appointment.
“He’s taking you. You’re going.”
Nothing more to say, since she can’t see me. Can’t open her eyes to have one of our silent conversations about what she won’t admit and I can’t discuss aloud.
“Feel better”, I whisper.
I slip into my room next door and pull on clothes, brush my hair. Hoping for answers. Dreading what I have to deal with on the route to get them.
I hear my brother say goodbye, the rustle of his school bag, not letting the screen door slam, not when he’s home.
I let him know I’m ready when he is, and sit, eyeing the clock.
A few minutes later he wafts near to grab his keys. “Come on.”
We pile into the car, the peppiness of the 1950’s dancing with optimism out of the stereo speakers, filling the air between us.
I roll down my window, despite the season. He lights another, ignores my wheezing.
We get to the hospital, are directed to Pulmonology/Respiratory Services. Clean cool air washes into me, calms me. The secretary’s nose crinkles when he’s close to her, but she catches herself, breathes through her mouth, like me.
We sit in silence again, waiting for me to get called in. I feel his heat next to me. Know where he’s going once I’m with the Pediatric nurse. He taps his yellowed square fingertips on worn corduroys.
They call me in, a kind nurse placing a hand on my shoulder. My first touch of the day.
He disappears while I’m sent for chest x-rays, returning with a fog to watch me huff into a Spirometer. They measure, listen, prod, image and ask me questions. They throw a few his way, and act pleased with his frankness. At least it helps the diagnosis.
We are led to a small room for the results, the head Pulmonologist clutching a clipboard fat with results.
“Your daughter has asthma”, he says.
The clean white coat, softly graying hair and evenness of tone didn’t quite blind me to the doctor’s frustrations. As professionally as possible, this specialist pointed the finger. It was my father’s fault my lungs didn’t work right. Still just a kid, I already inhaled enough to be considered a heavy smoker in my own right.
Daily medications had to be taken so I could breathe. I had to carry a rescue inhaler with me always. If I got sick, I had to measure my breath on a Peak Flow Meter. If I fell below the marked line, I had to get to a hospital.
A red rage spun up from my feet screaming I knew it! as a blue calm swirled down from my ears and said I got my answer, I’ll be okay.
The doctor insisted on a home full of air purifiers. I almost laughed at the idea. Something being bought to help me? An expense for me? Yeah right.
I thanked the kind doctor and met his worried eyes. I tried to let him know without words that he did so much for me. That I’ll be ok.
The nurse came in to hand me my medications. “We put the paperwork through for you. Refills will be mailed to your home.”
We left, me gripping the white paper bag in little girl hands.
He lit up in the car on the way home, radio blasting.
I followed him into the house, sent a “thank you” his way before going into my room and closing the door. I changed out of my smoky sweater.
I sat on the bed, shaking out my inhalers, my Peak Flow Meter onto the old, faded bedspread with one thought in my head:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The prompt went like this:
I think we’ve been too nice to you.
It’s time for another image prompt.
Write about the first (or second) memory that comes to mind when you see this:
I always had trouble breathing. Always. I had even more trouble breathing when people would smoke near me. It was the early 1980’s and not everyone got the message yet, but I knew one had to do with the other. Just knew.
My father smoked generic Kool cigarettes with the filters broken off since he was about 12 years old. It took its toll on both of us.
That day I had an appointment I somehow talked my mom into making. I had to miss school for it, I don’t even think my father knew about it. When she got her migraine and got him to take me anyway (he normally was at work by 5am, she was a SAHM), I was floored.
But I got my diagnosis, my medications. I was right all along, and I got the medical help I needed. I was just a little kid trying to get the adults around me to help me breathe right. On that surreal day, despite the odds, it happened.
I even got that air purifier for my bedroom…eventually.