For Christmas I got a chilblain and a dying lady. Well, dead, actually. More about that shortly as it is the more complicated story.

Chilblains seem like such a quaint, Dickensian affliction that it is slightly mortifying to have one. My readers from Canada and the upper tier of the US may not see it this way of course, but please remember that I live in Virginia, which is technically the South.

On the other hand I frostnipped a couple of toes on my left foot thirty years ago, shoveling the street in snowmelt while wearing leaky boots, and they have never exactly been the same. I have learned to stick my sockfeet in plastic bags before attacking a snowdrift, thereby mostly avoiding a reprise of the lopsided, purplish toe-tip that marked that past occasion, but lately, I have been working barefoot because I can feel my weight shift at the side of the massage table more precisely, neglecting to note that as the winter advanced, I was planting said bare feet on an increasingly frigid hardwood floor for a lot of the session.

The day before Christmas Eve was cold and grey and my feet would not get warm, but preferring cold to heat on any day of the year and impatient with anything like suffocating my feet in socks or shoes inside my own house, I just put up with it, until the following morning I felt the characteristic  “I have been in the cold and now I am warming up ouch” sense on the tip of one toe, and discovered a circumscribed, indurated, reddish purple bit underlapping the end of the toenail. It took a little Net searching to convince me of what I was seeing. Who the fuck am I, Bob Cratchit?

So now I am ignominiously having to stuff my feet into little socksies and shoozies (L. L. Bean’s Wicked Good fleece clogs, if you must know) and keep them dry because chilblains don’t heal if you keep, well, chilling them.

So in the middle of that I texted Clarissa, who has come to me for fifteen years: tall, majestic, always mercilessly well dressed, in peacock-patterned tunics and looping great necklaces of chunky glass beads, too conscientious for her own good, scattered, dutiful, full of narrative of her life and work like a fire hose under maximum pressure.

Only this was the year Clarissa hit the wall. Um, they said, we’ve found a recurrence of the precancer you were treated for several years back, they said. Well, no, this is cancer. Come on down to the medical torture chamber and we’ll zap you coming and going.

Strangely, when ominous signs began to manifest distant from the cancer site, no one bothered to check if it was in fact more cancer. Don’t ask me. We have the Best Healthcare System In The World ™, right?

Well, whatever, it didn’t stop things from getting to the point where she wanted work, because in bed all day long stiff sore ouch, but couldn’t get to me because oncologist says don’t put weight on your leg bone it is full of cancer and will break, so I loaded up that fucking folding table and went to her, on the only day of the week I could find the time. You just do this. One December Sunday. Then another. Then “no, family are all coming this weekend.” Then Christmas. I don’t give a rat’s ass for Christmas, and sent her a text on Christmas Eve, complete with emojis (I just figured those out), asking if she’d like me to come down her chimney on Christmas Day.

Her husband texted back just as I was about to set out the gifts that we do exchange because it is the time after all. She died late Friday evening. About the time I was cultivating chilblains. I had to read that text but motherfucking God, he had to send it. I have no words.

2016, have you no goddam mercy?

I am still wearing my fuzzy socks.



9 thoughts on “Chilblains

    • Thsnk you. I knew she didn’t have long but that somehow doesn’t abate the jolt. A friend brought me a flower remedy for grief and shock, made rather seasonally from the Star of Bethlehem plant. If I knew her family better I’d offer them some but they’d probably just think I was an intrusive weirdo.

      At least the toe is happier today. It’s just still 2016 (makes apotropaic gesture).

  1. Alpaca socks are the warmest. And I prefer mine inside of Stegmann wool felt clogs with cork soles. Perfect support and warmth. That sounds like what you need right now, in many ways.

  2. Poor you, I fully empathise. Some yaers ago,70 to be precise, on a Rover Scout outing, for several hours, in deep zero weather, we walked facing a strong wind in open country side. When we stopped for the night, in a comunity hall, I and several others had our family jewels partly frozen. Painful and most annoying, to say the least.

  3. Oh, dammit. I’m sorry, my friend. You did help, and wanted to help, right to the end.
    Some eejit woman at work told me running my frozen hands under warm water to wake them up would give me chilblains. I did retort something about Dickens, but I’m sure the daft brush doesn’t even know who he is.

    • I know I did help some. I hope everything I did was helping. It can be so hard to tell when you’re doing a person good versus trying not to feel powerless. I was ninety per cent sure she was probably gone when I sent my chirpy offer to come again, but I didn’t want her to NOT hear from me and I didn’t want to suddenly change my game by calling her husband which is like a neon sign saying “you dead yet?” if she wasn’t.

      I think warm water (not hot) is exactly how you want to avoid a cold injury.

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