Through eyes so crusted over that they hardly open, I look at my clock: 12:00. There’s a gray light filtering through the closed shades. With a groan, I turn my face into the pillow pull the blanket over my head. It’s noon on a Tuesday and I’m in bed with the blanket over my head. There’s Pepto Bismal, a bottle of Tylenol, a thermometer, and a small green-glass bottle of Schweppes ginger ale on the nightstand. This can only mean one thing: sick.
Remember getting sick when you were a kid? It was something to celebrate, even something you would try to fake. You got to stay home from school. You got to wear your pajamas all day. You got to watch TV. You got to drink soda. You got new books. Mom and Dad would swoop in to take care of you, lavishing unto you all sorts of gifts designed to distract you from your symptoms. In the unlikely event that your ailment lasted more than a day or two, you would go to a doctor who would prescribe some yummy-tasting antibiotic, or some such thing, and you’d be on the mend in short order. What could be better?
But from my perspective here under the blanket—pain in every joint, grumbling in my tummy, eyes about to leap out of their sockets—it’s hard for me to believe that being sick could ever be a good thing.
But the funny thing is: as great as it was, I can hardly remember being sick since my youth. Through most of middle school, high school, and college, the worst symptom I ever experienced was a scratchy throat. Hardly enough to keep me out of school.
But now I’m an adult. Now I’ve outgrown my juvenile invincibility.
It started Monday night, shortly before bed. My bowls were in an uproar; I had an empty feeling in the back of my throat, which I could only remember feeling after a night of heavy drinking. I crawled into bed next to Celia with a moan. She was already asleep. I just assumed I’d feel better in the morning.
In the morning, I felt worse. Much worse. In addition to gastrointestinal distress, I was achy and cold. It was miserable. I was still nauseous, and I had an 11:30 a.m. meeting. With another groan, I rolled over, and told Celia I didn’t feel well. She immediately flew into loving/caring mode, of which I took full advantage. In short order, she brought me the Pepto, a glass of water, and my laptop’s power cord (sick or not, I still had to check my email!). After checking in on me every five minutes while getting ready for work, she eventually left, and I flopped around in bed until 11 a.m., when I decided that I was too sick for my meeting.
I called to cancel, consoling myself with the thought that I could probably pull myself together to get in to work by my two o’clock shift. In preparation I went back to sleep, waking up at noon with a sack of cement sitting on each eyelid. I wasn’t going to work. My boss said she hope I’d feel better, and not to worry about staying home.
They were very kind words, but how could I not worry about staying home? I’m an adult, I have adult responsibilities! This isn’t like skipping class in college, when a pleading trip to the professor’s office would surely get the day deemed as an “excused absence.” In my mind, I saw a towering pile of papers marked “Tuesday,” being picked up and dropped onto a similarly gigantic heap of work marked “Wednesday.” And Thursday wasn’t looking much better.
But staying home really was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to get any of my co-workers sick, and I certainly didn’t want to prolong my illness. So I did the only thing I could do: I went back to sleep. I awoke around three o’clock when my friend called. He asked if I needed anything. “Yeah, I need something. I need to feel better.”
Although I desperately craved a soothing Coca-Cola, I didn’t ask for it. He stopped by anyway, just to see how I was doing. Shortly thereafter another friend called to ask if he could do anything for me. “Anything you need; just let me know.”
Mom and Dad don’t live nearby anymore, but it was nice to have other loved ones stand in for them. Celia called from work to see if there was anything she could do for me, and then came home from work, and although I was feeling marginally better, still cooed over me, her only desire to make me feel better.
I went to sleep early, and woke up in the morning feeling much better. Not perfect, but much better. I went in to work and all my co-workers said they were glad to see me feeling better and back at work. I was glad to be back; I was glad to be feeling better. But it was also really nice to be reminded that my friends care so much about me. I guess we all need to get sick every once in a while, even if only for that reminder.
Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero