When I was growing up there were only a handful of ways to incorporate a sick day into your life and none of them involved coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose. If you were really sick you had better be barfing, running a high grade fever, or bleeding profusely out of more than one orifice. Otherwise you were going to school. As a kid, I contracted strep throat two or three times a year. It was the kind of strep throat that rendered me unable to eat, sleep, or do much more than bawl my eyes out, but that wasn’t always enough to keep me from getting dressed and having my sick ass pushed out of the car while my mom sped away yelling “Call me if you are sick enough to come home.” One morning as I struggled to get myself dressed in the midst of one of my many strep attacks, I stood over my dresser drawer looking for socks and ended up vomiting all over myself and my Cabbage Patch Kids underwear. That was finally enough to convince my mom that I may not be in the best condition to be around other children.
I’ve adapted my mother’s sickness scale with my own children and my husband. When anyone in my house complains of not feeling well, I have two quick fixes before I send them on their merry way; take a poop and drink some water. You may be surprised that a good shit and some tap water heals most ailments.
The other problem with illness around our house is the fact that I score pretty low on the compassion scale. My husband has told me numerous times how “heartless” and “uncaring” I am when faced with people who are sick. And he’s right. My parents were the same way. While my mom was always caring when we were near death, her compassion wore thin after about 48 hours and now I understand why. There are only so many times that I can take a temperature, bring someone tea, and have people yell for another box of tissues before I’m ready to grab someone by their fevered head and throw them out the front door. Reason #235 why I never pursued a career in the medical field. Our family motto growing up was “Suck it up and walk it off”, which seems like the opposite of what you would want any nurse to say to a patient under her care.
Last weekend we took a jaunt to the big city to have dinner with my grandma and look at Christmas lights. Earlier in the day, Mr. 8 was acting pretty lethargic which is completely out of character for that kid. He’s usually the one sprinting around the house, bouncing on the couch, and piling pillows up in the living room in order to win a gold medal in the Olympic high jump. But that day he sat on the couch staring at a wall and eventually took a three hour nap. As we were driving around that evening looking for light shows, he sat red faced in the back seat making no sound whatsoever. Halfway through the evening, I turned around and touched his forehead and nearly burnt the skin on my fingertips. The poor kid was really sick. Then my husband was sick. Then my daughter was sick. Then I was sick.
Day 1 found me racing around with gusto feeding people medication and chicken noodle soup while constantly disinfecting every remote control and door handle I could get my hands on. People were barfing and yelling for me and I did my best not to scream at the top of my lungs “Take a poop and go to back to work or school or to the hospital.”
Day 2 was more of the same except there were piles of dishes everywhere and crusty tissues from one end of the house to the other. Every television in our house was running nonstop and the minute I sat down to breath someone else needed a drink or some soup or help washing their hair. Yes, I washed hair, too.
Day 3 was when I lost my shit. I began having the itchy throat and coughing attacks that were becoming common place around our house so I sat my ass on the couch and apologized to everyone who was still not feeling well. My husband offered to go grab food, kissed the crusted hair on my head and said “See…we take care of you, too. You can have a sick day.” My blood was boiling “I did three loads of laundry, fed the dog, and did all the dishes today, so how about…no.” He calmly patted my head and said “You always complain about taking care of us when we are sick, but now we are taking care of you.” Then I lost it. “I haven’t said one goddamn thing about taking care of everyone, so back off.” I had officially lost my mind.
Thankfully everyone is on the mend and back to their regularly scheduled programming and not a moment too soon. After I ripped my husband’s head off, he picked up dinner and a movie and didn’t say one word about me coming unglued. He’s right though, I really do have a hell of a time dealing with illness and my heart shrinks a little every time I hear “Can you bring me some more medicine/soup/blankets/tissues?” I’m the Grinch of sickness. If it can’t be healed with a poop or some water, I eventually become so heartless that I turn on the very people who put up with my craziness all year long. Too bad heartlessness can’t be fixed with a good bowel movement.
My latest post over at The Good Men Project covers the struggles we are facing with our son and the public school system.