Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sick. Ew.

Yep, I'm sick. Which is bad for me, but good for you, as this means my body is forcing me to take a break from my typical run-from-one-end-of-the-day-to-the-other lifestyle and giving me more time to write. For example, yesterday instead of volunteering with the Junior League, spending the afternoon with a friend, going to a fundraiser dinner with another friend, and then going out for a going-away party, I did my volunteer thing with the Junior League, had lunch with two friends, stopped by to see a third, attempted to take a nap, ran errands, and stayed up past midnight writing this. See? Considerably less activity.

The getting sick was inevitable, as last week consisted of twelve hours on an airplane, twelve hours sleeping (total), and twelve hours drinking (nightly). You'd really think that a blood-alcohol content of 1.8 would kill any little germs floating in my bloodstream, but apparently not.

This illness is but a minor inconvenience. I routinely sound like a retired coal miner; the attempted nap was ruined by all the coughing; and the mucus is making a decided move northward from my lungs to my sinuses, about which I am not very excited; but, all in all, this is nothing. (See Meningitis.) Rather, you know it's bad when I'm curled up in the fetal position, on the verge of tears, and about ready to wail, "I want my mommy!"

The funny thing is, when I'm sick, I really don't want my mommy. In fact, the mere thought of it makes me even more likely to cry. I spent many, many days home from school as a child. None of them was particularly pleasant, and they certainly weren't bonding times, à la Cokie Roberts. Mom functioned quite well as a sicknurse, with much more focus on the symptoms and treatment than on the patient's well-being. She would drop off a cup of water, with instructions to finish it within the hour. I'd fall asleep. Ninety minutes later, and five minutes after I'd woken up, she'd bring me another drink and scold me for not having finished the last one. But I was asleep the whole time; when would I have drunk it?!?!? Didn't matter. So, I would chug the water, hand the cup over, and dread her return visit.

Also, I was not a good one for taking medicine. Children's Chewable Tylenol? I probably threw up more tablets than ever made it into my system. I have distinct memories of gagging up Tylenol into a kitchen towel. Repeatedly. And then being reprimanded for it. Right, of course, because I am choosing to puke up the only thing that could possibly make me feel better and yelling at me is going to somehow tame this damn gag reflex.

And of course I couldn't swallow the adult Tylenol whole. So we alternated between the crushed-adult-Tylenol-poorly-hidden-in-applesauce method and the let's-see-how-many-tries-it-takes-to-keep-the-Children's-Tylenol-down method. There were a couple of years there where I couldn't eat applesauce without it having a phantom bitter taste of ground up Tylenol.

As a seven-year old, I promised myself I would be nicer to my sick children. It's not Mom's fault, really. It's just that our family is not known for its nurturing. That gene doesn't exist in the Irish Catholic female. Or it's not expressed. (Perhaps if I marry a Jew, my kids will have a fighting chance.) Mom did far better than her mother, whose response to a request to stay home sick from school would have been something like "Are you dead? Fine, stay home, but you're taking care of the rest of the kids while you're here. And cook something for dinner, ok?"

By comparison, the one-cup-of-liquids-per-hour rule was compassionate. (Other Rules for Being Sick included Do Not Wake Me in the Middle of the Night unless You're Bleeding from a Severed Artery and If You're Going to Puke, Do Not Attempt to Make It to the Bathroom; Stay in Bed to Hurl. I promise you that last one is a good one, as it is far easier to throw sheets into the washing machine than it is to clean the carpet in the hallway at the entrance to the bathroom door.) Still, being sick did not involve homemade chicken noodle soup, or anyone sitting in bed reading to me, and certainly there were no backrubs/hair-stroking/other gestures of soothing. Which, after all, is what all the TV moms did, and it worked like a charm!

I'm sure my mother never knew I felt vaguely neglected. Asking for comfort (or help) is not something I did often. (Still don't.) But that doesn't mean it's unwelcome. And my experience has prompted me to dote on other people when they're sick, even if they would never ask for the help or comfort and are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. I don't know what's more surprising – that I appreciate the doting of others, or me doing the doting.

Example: a few weeks after we broke up, Nick mentioned that he'd been sick for a couple days, generally feeling crappy, and didn't know what he was doing for dinner. On my way out for the evening, I took him homemade chicken noodle soup (conveniently prepared earlier that day, not knowing how useful it was to become) and fresh bread from the bakery. And the fact that he was going to experience my doting loveliness and cleavage-showcasing shirt and rue the day he broke up with me? A distant second to my primary motivation of being nice to a sick person.

I'd taken Liz the same homemade chicken noodle soup under similar circumstances. (Only, you know, without the cleavage-showcasing shirt.) And when she had her wisdom teeth removed, I met her for lunch, escorted her to the dentist, filled her pain meds prescription while the doc yanked some teeth out, and then drove her home. Yes, of course she could have done this all by herself, but isn't it nicer when someone else does it for you? I would pay someone good money if I never had to set foot in a pharmacy again. And DC cabs are annoying enough when you're drunk and headed home late on Saturday night. I can't imagine I'd want to deal with one immediately after leaving the dentist. Ick.

But I digress; this is supposed to be about me being sick, isn't it? Right. So, who's going to watch Project Runway reruns with me and bring me juice and rub my back while I cough up gobs of phlegm? There could be chicken noodle soup in the offing...

2 Comments:

At Mon Mar 13, 10:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous steve is so spoiled. said...

must suck to be the oldest. the only person i had to worry about getting scolded by was mr. bob barker, and that was for not spinning the wheel a full revolution. i don't have any soup to offer, but click on my link for something you either totally already heard b/c you were home sick or totally didn't. our boy russ is shaking things up again.

 
At Tue Mar 14, 07:19:00 AM PST, Blogger Daily Tragedies said...

Wait, wait, you provide me with a link to a story on NPR and suggest that I may not have heard it???? Please. Have a little sense!

Ah, Russ. Still rockin' in the heartland. With support from...oh right, no one. Damn.

 

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