Until this morning, I’ve selected a mug from dozens, filled it with water, taken five steps to the microwave, pushed open the latch, stuck it in and tapped “one minute” and “30 seconds.” I could scan the cupboard with its dozens of teas and decide on the red envelope of Constant Commet or the little green leafy balls in the yellow carton, the balls that unfurl in hot water waving like strands of seaweed. I could do all this while I waited for the whirring to stop and water to heat. Or, I could walk to the refrigerator and pluck whatever suited me--perhaps yogurt and jam and muesli. All these little things I could do and I took them as things to be done to comfort and strengthen my body. Necessities, not pleasures. Work, not amenities.
But this morning, I must sit at the table with my bandaged foot up on a neighboring chair and wait. I explain to my husband where to find each item for my morning repast, fumbling for words, sounds on the fringes of my mind. (“Muesli is in the square, plastic thing [the word “Tupperware” has escaped me] in the cupboard; honey in the bear on the counter; you’ll find prunes in a sack near the muesli, crabapples in the fruit drawer in the frig). “One thing at a time,” he says. “A lemon too please” I ask. He replies, “Which lemon—on the counter or in the refrigerator?” I don’t like how complicated I've made it. Maybe because it’s the first morning I cannot serve myself.
I wait. The grater I’ve asked for comes, plus a bowl and spoon, and the pint-size carton of yogurt. They fill up the space in front of me, but there’s more I want and lost my chance to say. My servant-husband is making his own breakfast now: putting oatmeal in the microwave and emptying a white freezer bag of tiny organic blueberries—all gone now. I would pencil “blueberries” on our grocery list—a very little task to do, yet an important step to feeling useful and coming home with berries in hand. But I can’t. Few steps allowed.
I cannot even write the word on a grocery list. I have no pen or paper. I covet them now, not only for the making of a shopping list but to accumulate requests for the here and now. I’ve pushed down several other needs that have come to mind: my Miralax and juice, my tea. I don’t want to risk annoying my husband. His oatmeal is ready and his stomach is growling. If I could write down the items, then I could ask him when he’s already on his feet and it’s not a big deal, but to ask him for the pen or paper would distract him from his present preoccupation. When can I interrupt again? I decide to wait.
All that I’ve asked for comes and as he sets them down, I ask for the pen and paper. Remembering flushes me with pleasure. He’s unsure where to find the notepaper. (How is that so?) I slide the small red and green apple he’s brought (a gift from our garden tree) over the sharp edges of the grater and flecks of its Christmas skin accumulate on top and its pale soft-sour flesh goes under, down to the plain yogurt on its way to richness. I cut prunes into small pieces that will add pungent sweetness to the mix. I push the honey bear’s belly and a thread of honey stretches from his head to my bowl of yogurt. This I can do.
To do for myself is a gift. Not a chore as I’ve seen it I when I longed for a restaurant’s table. So much to learn as I quiet myself to sit still, to ask and wait.