Do you remember what it was like being sick when you were little? I do.
I remember being forced to Stay In Bed. All day. My mom would set a small silver bell on my bedside table and tell me to ring it if I needed anything. I recall testing the bell, just to be sure my mom could actually hear me and to understand just how quickly she would come. She always heard. And she always came. I remember the small black and white TV that my mom would take from the guest room and put on a small table with wheels so she could wheel it down the hall and leave it at the foot of my bed. It had rabbit ear antennas and I was lucky to get one or two channels in clearly. What a treat it was to have TV in my room though. I’d watch Bewitched, I Love Lucy, The Cosby Show, Card Sharks and The Price is Right to name a few of the dozens I’d tune into daily. I also remember the days where I was too sick to lean forward to manually change the channel so I’d have to suffer through Star Trek and My Three Sons (unless I found it worth my while to ring the bell of course).
Meals were brought to me on a tray and my mom would prop the pillows up high behind me so I could comfortably eat in bed. She often would sit with her own bowl of cereal or cup of soup at the end of my bed to keep me company as I sipped my chicken noodle soup with ketchup (yes ketchup) or jelly omelette (yes, Jelly omelette). She’d also bring Checkers, Sorry and Yahtzee and a deck of cards up to my room and we’d play game after game until my eyes felt heavy and in need of a nap.
I can clearly remember the mercury thermometer that she’d place under my tongue for minutes on end with hopes that she’d remove it and say I was better. For high fevers she’d cool me off with a cloth on my forehead, for coughs and sore throats she’d rub my chest with Vicks Vapo rub and leave a bag of Cherry throat lozenges by my side. She’d come clear away used tissues, empty glasses of flat soda and clean away cracker crumbs from my sheets. And at night, she’d come give me a cool kiss goodnight and we’d hope together that the next day I’d be on my feet.
Boy Have Things Changed.
I’ve been sick. Sick for a week. Coughing, sore throat, ear infection, fever. Things are a leeetle bit different in the life I lead now when I’m sick.
First of all, there’s no bell. No bell anywhere to be found. I can’t even shout for someone to get something for me. Nope. These days I have to shuffle myself downstairs to get whatever it is that I need on my own. Even lying down for a few minutes alone is hard to come by in these days of sickness. I had to negotiate with Hannah today how long I could nap for. I told her I was heading up for a nap and she looked at me sadly and whined, “But HOW LOOONG are you going to nap for mommy?”
“I don’t know Hannah, maybe an hour?”
“I don’t know how long that means mommy. You have to explain what an hour is.”
“An hour is 2 Wow Wow Wubbzy shows Hannah.”
“Well each Wow Wow Wubbzy show has two shows in it so do you mean ONE WHOLE show with the two shows or do you mean two shows with the two shows which would be (counting on fingers…) four shows?” she pressed.
“I mean four Wow Wow Wubbzy shows total.”
“With or without the Moose and Zee part?” Sorry for all of you who don’t watch Nick Jr… as I’m sure this isn’t making any sense – bare with me.
“With Moose and Zee, Hannah” I tiredly told her.
“Oooohhh… that’s way too long. Just sleep for the four Wubbzy’s and no Moose and Zee, ok?”
But the nap wasn’t really able to happen you see, because Luke was crying for mommy from the bottom of the stairs and Hannah was shouting at him that I was trying to nap and daddy was trying to drag them both from within ear shot. Without luck. No nap.
So I carried my pillow downstairs thinking I could rest comfortably on the couch with the family. But it seems, if mommy is around, sick or not sick, then mommy is on duty. And I don’t know how to NOT be on duty so making lunches, getting milk, wiping noses, putting on socks and shoes, coloring pictures, icing boo boos… all continues.
I do miss the cool hand on my head, the hot tea brought in an instant, the aid to take my temperature. I wish I could fall comfortably into my bed when I’m sick and shut off “life” downstairs. At the same time though, that life downstairs is what nurses me back to health. Knowing that’s what I’m getting well for compels my body to heal.
Oh, who the fuck am I kidding??? I could use a sick day dammit! Really! I could! I’d love to go back in time 30 or so years and have someone waiting on me hand and foot. But then, I wouldn’t have found these drawings on the floor by my bed after my short rest:
Clockwise from top left (as described by Hannah):
“Apple trees with roots and apples because an apple a day keeps the doctor away”
“A picture of you and Grampy (spelled Gaggy) when you were little to remind you of when you were little and sick.”
“A teeny tiny doorway where you look outside to see sun and flowers since you can’t go outside you can at least LOOK outside.”
“A pair of sunglasses so when you’re well the sun won’t be too bright.”
And THAT is what makes being sick in this ERA of my life… all worth it. Meanwhile, I might buy myself a bell just to SEE what happens when I ring it.