The Duvet Cover

I have been sick, sick enough to stay in my pajamas, sick enough to stumble as far as the couch and no farther, and far too sick to go anywhere near Lincoln or my grandchildren for almost a week. A night spent sleeping soundly and breathing more easily in my own bed instead of shifting position in the recliner, marked a corner turned yesterday, the virus (viri?) in slow retreat. 

I woke to an apartment really in need of a HAZMAT team and, with enough energy to pretend to be one…in fits and starts…between naps I stripped the bed, including the mattress and duvet covers. I don’t remove the duvet cover easily — not that removing it is hard. It is the putting it back on that daunts me but this one had been wet-sneezed on, coughed into, and been used to wipe sweat from breaking fevers. It had to come off. It had to be washed. And dried. And put back on.

And as I struggled to turn it inside out and find the bottom edge corners, blindly following the feel of the side seams while drowning in metres of patterned percale, I was hit with a memory. 

The same duvet cover but a different bed, a different home, a different life. 

The duvet cover and the duvet had been out on the clothesline during a spring cleaning blitz. I spent a few minutes blissfully inhaling that gorgeous, outdoor/clean linen smell before calling Lincoln to help me put it back on. In our house, it was always a two-person job and we had it down to a science, an easy step-by-step process that we had perfected over our years of changing bedding together. But this time was different; Lincoln was lost, anxious to help but unable to figure what to do or to follow my instructions. 

“It’s okay, honey,” I told him. “I think I got this.”

I managed to get the cover inside out and smoothed on the bed. I climbed on to the bed and, on my hands and knees, stuck my head into the open bottom edge, walked my hands down the side seams and found the corners. I hopped off the bed while clinging to the corners and picked the bottom edge of the duvet up off the floor by its corners. At this point I remembered I was unable to raise my arms above my head…one shoulder was in recovery from rotator cuff repair surgery and the other was waiting for the same surgery. There was no way I was going to be able to hold the duvet up while I tried to slip the inside-out cover over it, flipping it right-side out as part of the process. I am explaining this so badly. That seems appropriate to the circumstances, actually. 

Lincoln hovered, chuckled, lifted bits of fabric and gave gentle, not always helpful tugs. I finally hopped up on to the bed and from shoulder height let the whole mess fall from my fists to the floor as I tried to shake the cover over the duvet. At this point I should factor in Parkinson’s: balance challenges, and positional tremor (when I extend my left arm, the whole darn thing shakes). I hopped off the bed to finish the job on the floor and as I wiped sweat from my brow and buttoned the last button Lincoln said, “ Thank goodness. I’m glad that’s over!”

“What? YOU’RE glad?” I said and started to laugh. 

“I had to watch!” he said.

That completely cracked me up. And Lincoln, too. I howled. I am a raucous, snorty, unladylike howler. Lincoln’s biggest laughter is almost silent but his face crinkles into something magical and contagious and full of glee. It is beautiful, one of the great delights of my life.

But there is something in this that moves me to tears. It takes me a moment to realize it is more than just bittersweet memory of joy in the face of the hard-to-bear.

He was right. It’s hard to be the one who has to watch.

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