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Favorite Comforts in Sickness and Health

By Teresa Bruce

The usual conversation when I’m asked begins with this reply: “My favorite food is anything someone else shops for, prepares, and cleans up after.”

After nearly three decades of anniversaries and Mother’s Days and (ahem) a few more years of birthdays, my family and closest friends know to stop there.

Others think they need to clarify the question. “No, what’s the one favorite thing you really like to eat?”

“Chocolate, the darker the better.”

“Chocolate’s not a foo—”

“It’s a food group.”

“That’s not what I—”

“Sure it is.” One by one, my fingers tick off the components. “There’s dark and milk and white (but that doesn’t really count). And I’m okay with adding almonds, marshmallows, caramel, mint, fruit …”

“Like coconut?”

I shake my head. “That’s going too far.”

If it were socially acceptable (and not completely unhealthy), I’d sip, nibble, or chew chocolate during every waking hour from after morning prayer (before breakfast) right up until climbing into bed (before brushing teeth, of course).

It’s my favorite beverage, candy, snack, seasoning, and dessert.

It’s also my go-to physical comfort in times of emotional stress. (I dare not estimate—or admit—the quantities I consumed in my first year of widowhood. See “If it were socially acceptable …” above.) Chocolate is my fully legal, endorphin-inducing, morally acceptable—if Fair Trade–sourced—coping crutch.

Except when I’m sick.

Then, when my body temperature’s only a few degrees higher than the afternoon forecast, my appetite for chocolate melts faster than chocolate ice cream in the Florida sunshine. With nose streaming and lungs spasming, even a cacao-laced breeze wouldn’t invite inhalation.

When I’m sick, I want soup. Clear broth, canned chicken noodle, pureed vegetable, leftovers-frozen-together-into-one-of-a-kind-soup … I don’t care what kind. Just give me a cupful to sip, heated warm enough to steam sore sinuses but not enough to scald the hands cradling it. It’s my favorite need-to-feel-better food, every swallow reminding me of Mom serving it up, making everything better when I was too little to do it for myself.

Soda crackers, too. With salted tops. The fresher and crispier the better … even though I’m likely to crumble them and their crunchiness into the soup. All but one, which I eat the “trick” way Granddaddy taught me, not letting even the tiniest crumb fall.

When my body feels well but a sneeze threatens, I reach for a napkin or paper towel—even a piece of scrap paper if that’s all that’s handy. But when I’m sick, I want name brand, extra soft facial tissue with lotion (the expensive kind I buy only when my nose drips approximately twenty times per minute—or for giving to someone newly bereaved).

When I crawl into my sickbed, I want my highest thread-count pillowcase under my face. One arm wraps itself around one of my daughters’ old teddy bears, and the other props a favorite book beside me.

(Of course, if you know me at all, you can rightly guess that sick or well, immersing myself in a good book will always be one of my go-to comforts.)


What are your favorite comforts when you feel ill?

About Teresa Bruce

Teresa TL Bruce burrows into stories for work and fun. She’s published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids, Florida Writers Association Collections, Florida State Poets Association anthologies, Segullah's Seasons of Change, and Orlando's The Community Paper, and she was a finalist in NYC Midnight’s 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge. Teresa advises “What to Say When Someone Dies” on TealAshes.com. She’s proudest of her three dynamic daughters, super sons-in-law, adorable grandchildren, and spoiled rescue dog.

4 thoughts on “Favorite Comforts in Sickness and Health”

  1. When I was younger and stayed with my parents, my favourite things were:
    A hot water bottle,
    My little radio and my dad.
    He knew just when to come in with the medicines.
    Just when to bring me toast and scrambled egg or a bowl of tomato soup.
    And just when to ask if I wanted to get up for a wee while.
    He would have made a good nurse.
    I loved my dad.

  2. Joan, it sounds as if your dad gave as much comfort through his knowing "just when" as through what he did (and what he brought) in each of those moments. Thanks for sharing the warmth of his nurture.

  3. I've been sick twice in the past month, and actually spent some time appreciating my comforts while miserable! First, orange juice with heaps of pulp, icy cold. Then (fevers!) hot Milo from a huge mug with beautiful heft. My falling-to-whispers personal favourite blanket. And crawling into books – I have a stack of "to-be-read" but ended up curling around my favourite novel. Cures so many ills, physical and mental!

    And I'm usually with you with the coconut in chocolate argument, except for a particular beauty called a Coconut Rough….

  4. I hope you'll be free of needing those comforts now — but also free to enjoy those comforts while well enough to fully appreciate them. (I've also pulled out favorite books while my to-read stack towers.)


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