I suppose I am a lesser woman than most. When I’m sick, I do sick.
There is an extreme reluctance in this country to actually do what you are supposed to do to get rid of the various viruses and bacterium that have a better social lives than their hosts. And since this week the party was at my house, I was required to . . .um . . . entertain.
I can usually handle a cold pretty well, though you won’t see me hacking up a lung at the check out or sneezing all over the library books. But I don’t handle fevers very well and once it tops 100 degrees, I take to my bed.
That’s right. I’m a mother and I normally run the whole opera around here; but when I get sick, I go to bed. No shrinking martyrdom. I get in my flannels, grab a roll of toilet paper (much more efficient than a box of tissues) and go to bed.
And there is none of this, “just leave me alone to get well…” uttered weakly from a darkened room. Uh-uh. I expect regular offers of tea and sympathy. I expect a steaming bowl of chicken soup (which usually manifests itself as a bowl of canned chicken and noodle soup, lukewarm – but that’s okay.). I expect someone to every now and then stick their head in and say, “Are you okay? Can I get you anything?”
I expect all this, because this is what I have taught them – all of them.
In the winter of my first year of marriage I came down with a doozy of a flu. For days I stayed in a fever-induced haze, never traveling out of the bedroom except to go to the bathroom right next door. I lived off a bottle of ginger ale and a box of crackers I’d dragged in with me the night I felt myself “coming down with something.”
Finally, my fever broke and I ventured into the other part of the house to see if I’d entered some Twilight Zone dimension where everything was exactly the same except all the people had disappeared. As I stumbled into the living room, there was Dirtman on his green (aptly-named) Lazy Boy throne, sitting atop a pile of trash and debris, remote in hand, happily snacking on Pop Tarts.
Since this was our first year of marriage – before I’d had a chance to
train explain my expectations – I’m surprised he didn’t ask me what was for dinner.
Clearly the boy needed. . . uh . . . guidance.
Now, I don’t expect the level of care everyone else around here gets when they’re sick. I know not to expect the special egg lunch with the toast cut just so and the homemade chicken soup with oyster crackers and the tea with exactly two teaspoons of sugar and evaporated milk with the shortbread cookies on the Cookie Monster plate, please, served on the special bed tray. The bedroom doesn’t get a daily airing out and the linens changed. No one comes in and strokes my forehead looking all concerned and sympathetic.
For the most part they look hungry and annoyed – until they catch themselves and remember that when I’m sick they get to order take-out Chinese food.
But I’ve trained them to at least not step on me should I faint in the hallway and that, if you don’t see me for 24 hours, it might be wise to check and see if my tongue is hanging out of my mouth. Every now and then someone will peek in and say, “better yet?” though I suspect there are mercenary motives behind this concern. The dishes will get washed and the Pop Tart wrappers make it into the trash. Oh – and some one please let the dogs out.
Granted, my bouts with the flu are short-lived and rare. I’ve only required this level of care four times in my 20-year marriage, so I haven’t abused the privilege. Still, Dirtman has attempted to circumvent my training: whenever anyone gets sick around here, he decides he’s come down with the exact same thing, which resulted in the following conversation:
Me: My stomach hurts.
Dirtman: Ya know . . . mine does too.
Me: I’ve got menstrual cramps.
Dirtman: Hmm . . . must be something I ate. Let’s go take a nap.
He came through, though, during this last bout with the flu, cooking, cleaning and laundering. He even signed a school form for Heir 2 and – now this is big – wiped the counters.
I’m on my feet now and the household has resumed its usual rhythm, though Heir 2 came home from school looking a little peaked and immediately retired to his room. Guess I’ll go dig out the Cookie Monster plate. Dirtman is already walking around with a thermometer in his mouth.
Paybacks are hell.