There’s something very soothing about being in an Agatha Christie play.
I admit that sounds a bit odd. After all, Dame Agatha delighted in mayhem. Over dozens of books, she never found a cause of death she didn’t like, from the prosaic knife or pistol to the ever-threatening digitalis in the teacup. And the danger could come from anywhere, including a previous victim, the detective, or even the narrator.
But at its heart, Agatha Christie’s world is a sensible place. Order is disturbed and then put right. No problem is impossible to solve. Consider the information at hand, discard preconceptions and the answer – never an answer, always the answer – can always be reached.
It’s a nice place to visit. And starting May 1 with the Longmont Theatre Company’s “Murder on the Nile,” I get to do just that.
I just wish I could live there.
Oh, we’ve got our own set of mysteries at Chez Rochat. Most of them, at any given time, tend to revolve around the health of my wife Heather. Heather is to chronic illness what Mozart was to composition: a natural talent, with new and surprising directions emerging at every turn.
She’s dealt with Crohn’s disease. With multiple rounds of endometriosis. With a condition I’ve mentioned here before called ankylosing spondylitis, a disorder as painful as its name is musical.
And now … now we’ve got a newcomer in the deck.
We’ve been trying to track the source of what Heather calls her “mystery pain” for a while. The clues haven’t been as prosaic as a pistol, a scarf and a three-day-old bottle of nail polish. Instead it’s keeping track of pain here, numbness there, fatigue lasting this long, and so on. What’s happening in the limbs? The face? The spine? What’s new and what’s overlapping with the old conditions?
It’s enough to make you wish that Hercule Poirot had a grandson in the medical field.
With patience, time and a recent ER visit, we’ve teased out one piece of the jigsaw: trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve pain that can be unexpectedly triggered by a simple touch to the face. Or not. Like every other villain in this detective series, it’s come-and-go, though over time, “come” can be more frequent.
Even if we have that to stand on, though, there’s still so much more puzzle to solve. The initial clue gives us some possibilities for the bigger picture – some of them quite disturbing – but until a doctor locks down an answer, we can’t be sure.
An answer. Not necessarily the answer.
And no guarantee that order can be restored.
I won’t lie. It’s hard. Sometimes we get long windows where things go well. Sometimes she can barely move from the bed without help. It’s a guessing game, one that even Miss Marple’s shrewd sense of the human condition couldn’t outfox.
It’s tiring. Painful. Frightening, even. And yet … and yet, that’s not the most important story.
Because through it all, and sometimes to her own disbelief, Heather has still held on to what’s important.
She still cares.
Sometimes that’s frustrating for her, especially when there are things she wants to do and can’t at the moment. But so many times, Heather’s found a way. She’s been a guardian and “mom” to her disabled aunt Missy, a comfort to the world’s craziest dogs, a tease to her sisters, a “weird aunty” to the family infants and toddlers. She’s been a loving – and loved – partner to me.
And in the midst of so much pain and uncertainty, that’s pretty near miraculous.
We don’t have all the information, or a flawless set of gray cells to solve it with. Some days, we barely seem to have sanity or patience or sleep. But we’ve got each other. And through the stress, that’s enough.
Some mysteries defy detectives. And the biggest ones are never quite finished.
But so long as the clues can carry us to tomorrow, that will do for now.