The Loneliness Disease


From the March/April 2014 issue of Discern – No photo credit provided

Charles felt his forehead calescent and damp. Struggling to free himself from the comfort of his bed sheets, he staggered to the window. Pulling open the blinds, he unlatched and then lifted the frame, letting the cool morning breeze into his bedroom.

A violent paroxysm of tremors accompanied by dizziness seized him, forcing the older man to kneel on the carpet, resting his head on the window sill.

After a few minutes, he felt his temperature go down a bit, and he risked trying to stand. Hesitantly, he made his way into the kitchen and put the tea kettle on. As the water heated, he opened his back door and several more windows attempting to cool his stiflingly warm house.

The whistling kettle startled him, but he had a teabag of chamomile ready. After pouring hot water into the cup, he set it down to steep while he looked out the window, admiring the overgrowth of plant life. It looked almost like a jungle, which he appreciated, isolating him from his bland suburbanite neighbors.

Deciding his tea was ready, Charles put on a robe and stepped onto the back patio. Seating himself on a chair at the glass-topped table, he took a deep breath and then coughed. The unseasonably cool morning made him forget about the smoke. Most of the western U.S. was on fire, one of the worst fire seasons in the last twenty some years.

“That’s what’s making me sick. All this damned smoke. What the hell am I doing outside anyway?”

He knew the answer to that question. At least there was life here, green and growing things. He looked at the bush his three-year-old granddaughter had “hidden” behind yesterday morning. She crouched in the same place each time and said over and over, “You have to find me again, Grandpa.”

He walked halfway toward the house, turned, and then pretended to find her, as if he had no idea where she could be. Charles had felt fine yesterday. Where had this horrible fever come from?

The sun was thirty minutes above the eastern horizon when he realized his cup was empty but his bladder was full. Feeling marginally better, he went back inside. After finishing in the bathroom, he picked up his phone and opened the photo app. The pictures he’d taken of his grandchildren at the water park last Saturday made him smile.

That was life, a life worth living. He only got to see them every other week. Come to think of it, that’s when he felt completely well, not the weeks he spent alone. Was it possible for isolation and loneliness to really make you sick?

I wrote this for Bonus Wordle “Sick Day” hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to use at least ten of the twelve words listed below in a poem, short story, or other creative work. I used all twelve and bolded them in the body of my tale to make it easier for the reader to pick them out. They are:

Calescent ((adj.) growing warm; increasing in heat)
Paroxysm ((n.) any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion: a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of a disease)
Tea Kettle

I feel fine, but my grandchildren did go back to their Mom yesterday afternoon, my wife and I did take them to a water park on Saturday, and I did play “find me” with my granddaughter yesterday morning. Interestingly enough, according to this article, for some people, loneliness can make them sick.

And really, I don’t see how people my age survive without grandchildren.

20 thoughts on “The Loneliness Disease

  1. We are lucky here, our granddaughter lives with us. Still, the loneliness of having to bury your own daughter (in this case she sits on the shelf) can and is a hard sickness to overcome.


  2. I have no children, and thus no possibility of grandchildren. However, I am ‘grandma’ by default as all of my foster girls are now parents. Not that they have actually kept in touch, but I expected that when they left to make their own way in life.
    For me, I guess I’d do something with dogs, though when we lose Maggie we won’t be in a great hurry to get another and hope to have the opportunity to visit Bro in NZ together.


  3. Oops! Redundancy alert! A word like “calescent” already includes the notion of “becoming”. Just as “obsolescent” means moving in the direction of becoming “obsolete”, so “calescent” means becoming “caloric” or warm. Thus the forehead in question was calescent and dampening (rather than “becoming calescent and damp”) — though the likelihood of using such a phrase in readable prose seems to me scant, apart from meeting the artificial challenge that impelled writing this piece.

    Further, while violent tremors are not impossible, the “violent” dizziness you’ve incorporated into your paroxysm seems somehow unlikely. A slightly different phrasing could separate one from the other.

    Moreover, while I would never gainsay your hypothesis about the debilitating effects of loneliness and isolation, because I believe I’ve observed firsthand how they can exacerbate the effects of other assaults on health, I would suspect from the circumstances of your story that the smoke may be more truly causative of the virus-like symptoms, possibly having carried pathogens in the warm air rising from the nearby fires, as well as carcinogens, throughout the area affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your story especially your grand-daughter hiding behind the bushes. This reminds me of wonderful times with my grandson who is too old now to play with Nana at 14, it really is not so cool.


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