It was moons ago now. I had fallen ill at my uncle’s cottage and took a turn. One week of vacation spent on the water prior to my final year of high school. It should have been the beginning of one of the most memorable years in my life. It was, but for all the wrong reasons.
The phone rang in mid-August and it was my uncle on the other end asking me if I wanted to stay at his cottage for a week or so. A long overdue visit. The call took me by surprise because my father disowned his family many years before and I had all but lost contact with his brothers and sisters. After a moment or so of silence I said yes.
He picked me up a few days later and we made the drive north of the city to the most beautiful and tranquil lake I’ve ever seen. The last paved roads leading to his cottage were bare and empty of any sign of people or cars. We turned right into the gravel road that led to his property and a few neighbouring ones. The sign at the beginning of the road was littered with the last names of cottage owners, including his.
As soon as we pulled beyond the last of the shrubs and trees I could see his cottage directly to the left, half on land and the other half on the edge of the water. I saw the smooth flat lake as it ran off into the distance and, for a moment, I felt like this was home. We unloaded the car and made our way up to the cottage on the top of the hill. My other uncle lived there and another one lived mere steps down the path from there.
This was the family I never really knew growing up. I blame my father for that. I saw them a few times here and there as a kid and then, like magic, they seemed to vanish. Gone. This week would change all that. It would give me the chance to get reacquainted with people that were taken from me by a man who walked away and took me with him. No forwarding address, no numbers.
Those first few days were some of the best of my young life. We spent time on the water in the boat and time fishing off the dock. There were nights with bonfires and songs, and kids running around lost in a moment life had afforded them. I secretly wished I had been able to spend summers of my youth up here. With them.
When the sun woke up on day four, things were different. I felt different. I felt weak and flu-like. My uncle and aunt asked me what I wanted to feel better and I said rest and a popsicle. I don’t know why but ever since I was a kid only popsicles and gingerale could make me feel better. That day I laid spread out across the couch enjoying my popsicle as everyone else enjoyed the bright sun outside.
For the first time ever though the popsicle didn’t help. At all. I spent the next few days holed up on that couch unable to breathe the way I had previously taken for granted. Sick and unwell. Those last days were lonely, but only because I had to watch all the other kids enjoying life on the lake and family members alongside them nodding in approval.
When I arrived back home I was thankful for time with my family. Everything old was new again. I was thankful for the memories and the chance to spend time with my cousins and friends. Long lost. I was also thankful that I was feeling better. It must have been a flu, I thought. I thought wrong.
The first couple of weeks of my final year of high school were underway. Thing were back on track. And then one night the symptoms I thought I lost for good came rushing back to me. I spent the night in my room as if the flu had backed over me. There was one added symptom though, I had a really hard time breathing. Catching my breath. It was next to impossible.
This time the symptoms didn’t fade away after a few days. Instead it went on for a few weeks and worsened by the day. I spent the first few days unable to eat or get out of bed. After that I lived off of gingerale and popsicles with just enough energy to walk down the stairs for refills. When I did walk downstairs I would collapse in exhaustion.
My mom took me to the doctor’s after a few days, when she stopped worrying about the flu and started worrying about what was happening. One trip after another with no answer. One trip after another spent in the waiting room with my head between my knees so I could catch my breath. Then one night, when my breathing was particularly bad, my parents took me to the hospital. And yet nothing again.
The night I returned from the hospital I couldn’t sleep while the world all around me did. I started to worry about what was happening. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t look right. I spent a few hours gathering up enough strength to write my feelings out. I was scared.
After another trip to my doctor and a repeat trip to the hospital, things started to become a bit clearer. An intern noticed that my skin was dark for October. That combined with some blood work and a few xrays led him to diagnosis. A diagnosis doctor’s his senior were not able to figure out.
My mom sat at the end of my bed as the young doctor told us what I was suffering from. Addison’s Disease. The moment he said that, relief crept across my mom’s face. Now that we had a name, we could figure out how to manage it. And I could finally get some much needed sleep.
I spent a week or so in the hospital while they tried to figure out the dosage I needed. I spent each night alone in my room with a television and an endless supply of popsicles from the nurse’s fridge down the hall. They kept the freezer stocked just for me. And with each passing day I felt better than the one before.
Probably because I was still young and naive, I never allowed my unknown illness to truly scare me. Being young I just figured it would all blow over. Of course it didn’t. And although the disease has to be monitored, I still lead an active life like nothing ever happened. Even though it did.
Now that I’m older, I still reach for the same things when I’m sick that made me feel better as a kid. Sometimes a man needs the comforts of his childhood and the foods that played a role even decades before.
I’ve always turned to ice cream and popsicles every summer and that still holds true today. Even my wife has a soft spot for them. But now in the summer I make my own pops with all the flavours I love the most. And flavours she loves the most. Like these here.
From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!
Raspberry & White Cherry Yogurt Pops
- 2 cup raspberries
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup white cherries, pit removed, chopped
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar
- 1 1/4 cups full-fat yogurt
- Place the popsicles moulds in the freezer.
- Add the raspberries and sugar to a blender and pulse into pureed. Strain through a fine sieve and pour into the bottom of the popsicle moulds.
- In a clean blender, add in the white cherries, lemon juice, superfine sugar and yogurt and puree.
- Once the raspberries have been in the mould for about an hour, add in the white cherry yogurt mix on top and freeze until cold.
- Run warm water over the sides of the moulds to release the popsicles. Serves 6.