Sometimes I am really jealous of Ellen and Portia. They have love. They have laughs. They probably hang their towels up or at least have someone that hangs them up. And probably, when either of them gets the sniffles, the world as they know it doesn’t end. Maybe Ellen will stop at the CVS and pick up some Sudafed for Portia, but if she doesn’t I’m sure Portia still acts normal and sweet when Ellen gets back from the studio or wherever.
Honest to God, what is it about men and illness? And I know this is so trite and so cliché, but again—only because it’s soooo true! (That’s how cliché’s become cliché’s—the first guy that compared someone’s eyes to limpid pools or sapphires was a genius, but any guy who tries that line now? Forget about it.) Anyway, I’m sure there are exceptions to this phenomenon, but it seems to me that men are not as tough as women. There I said it. Case in point: my husband is a bad-ass. Honestly, he was a marine; he’s big and strong; he has big guns; he hunts; he carries heavy stuff around; he has a great big temper—sometimes—he is for sure the guy you want in your corner when you are gearing up for the fight of your life. BUT, if he has a little tickle in his throat? Stop the presses; hold the phone and gird your loins! Because, I’ll tell you what…he has suddenly became incapable of even the most fundamental tasks of living day to day. And as far as being capable of talking about ANYTHING else or even being remotely civil when asked a question that is something besides, “can I get you anything,” just forget about it—your only plan of action is shut up and wait it out. Swallow your pride, make some soup and just gag and tie up the kids (for their own good.)
Do I get sick ever? Yes, of course. Would you ever know I was sick? Other than looking like hell and doing the normal stuff sick people do like cough and sniff and stuff, no, you would never know. And you know why? BECAUSE NOTHING ABOUT MY LIFE CHANGES WHEN I AM SICK. I DO NOT TAKE TO MY BED WHEN MY THROAT HURTS OR WHEN I HAVE A HEADACHE! There are still people around me who need care and feeding—errands that need to be run—carpools driven—volunteer hours logged, etc. etc. etc. Would talking about being sick make me miraculously better? No! Would going to the doctor help? Unlikely at best. Do people get sick all the time? Yes! Super sick!
I will admit to having a bit of a “laissez-faire” attitude toward my own health—kind of a“holistic”—“this too shall pass” type approach. It’s worked okay thus far. Plus, I figure, if you start, it could just overtake your life, you know? Mammograms and pap smears and colonoscopies and swine flu vaccines…oh my. I don’t smoke. I try to hold the drinking down to a dull roar. I exercise and eat relatively healthy and in the words of Ferris, unless I cough up a lung, I try to avoid doctors and hospitals. I have to keep pretty mum when I do have issues because people get concerned and tell you “you should really have that looked at.” And then you don’t, and people think you’re lame. Like I had this heart thing and I probably should have gone to the cardiologist, but it kinda went away—mostly. Now when I have the weird racy heart episodes I figured out that if I press down really hard on one of those big veins in my neck I can get it to slow down! Cool, eh? I’ll probably die of a brain tumor if not something heart-related or something and everyone will be so shocked—including me. They’ll say, “Wow, I just thought she was always drunk or hungover! Poor thing has been self-medicating for years! “ Maybe too little too late, but it would be groovy to have at least a little sympathy for the devil after I’m gone. On the other hand, a little warning time would be good, too. It would be perfect to know maybe just a week before I pass on, then I could get my ducks in a row and maybe call those “Make a Wish” people and see if they could get me a make-out session with Robert Pattinson before I check out for good.
Now for my kids, I’m pretty much the opposite and tend to be kind-of a worry wart. I will trek to a specialist and get second opinions and all that for my kids. For instance, my daughter failed the hearing exam at school and within a week she had seen the pediatrician, the ENT, had 2 more hearing tests and now has a surgery scheduled for January 18th. Done and done. And, really I think for most of us moms; our kids health comes way before our own. I told the gal at the orthodontist that as soon as I get my kids’ teeth fixed, I might think about doing my own. She says she hears that every day.
(In case my husband ever reads this column, yes, there was one time I took to my bed—but only after I had gotten up and tried to feed my toddler and COLLAPSED on the kitchen floor. I then proceeded to play exorcist for the next 10 hours. That’s a snappy way of saying: riotous vomit and explosive diarrhea. I couldn’t move, speak, anything. And…yes, wait for it…I was 8 MONTHS PREGNANT!!! So, when I began to massively dehydrate, I had to go to the ER so I wouldn’t go into premature labor AND I got a PELVIC EXAM in the ER from a random ER doctor! Are you kidding me right now??? So yes, that time, he took care of me. That baby that I almost gave birth to prematurely along with bile and crap and various upchucked aliens, is now 8 years old. I can’t remember having been sick enough to even mention it since.)
Oh, and by the way, the husbands/fathers do not have quite the same sense of urgency when it comes to our childrens’s health either. I’ll never forget the first time our oldest daughter was sick. She had a pretty bad ear infection, but we didn’t know that yet. All I knew was that I had a baby with a fever who wouldn’t nurse and couldn’t sleep and was kinda barfing a lot. So I frantically arrange for a sick visit, grab the diaper bag and make my husband drive me through a rainstorm to the doctor. It wasn’t until we were in the waiting room that I realized I still had on what I slept in: a t-shirt and sweats. I had somehow managed to slip on clogs that were by the door. I had no bra, leaking boobs and spit-up in my hair. My husband, on the other hand, looked like a catalog page from L.L.Bean. Somehow in the mad dash to save our ailing daughter, he had found the time to put on all the appropriate rain gear: boots, layers, waterproof windbreaker, hat etc. Different priorities that’s all.
My kids fall somewhere in between the two of us regarding self-health awareness. Neither of them likes missing school (which is good I guess), so they definitely wait to tell me about any suspicious symptoms. My younger daughter is understandably wary and leery of doctors as she has already had her share of issues. The older one has had terrible luck in terms of timing. She rarely gets sick, but when she does it’s on her birthday or on Christmas and then it’s pretty radical. One year, she drew this heartbreaking picture of a sad little girl on Christmas Day surrounded by her presents and I asked her why the girl was so sad and she answered by hurling all over the floor.
I was beyond paranoid when my first was an infant. I had this giant Mayo Clinic book that I would pore over with post-it notes and a highlighter, convinced she had every syndrome and malady in the book. For some reason, one of my more powerful obsessions was dwarfism. I was sure she wouldn’t grow at an acceptable rate for some reason, and so I regularly traced her body on a piece of poster board that I had hidden under her crib. If you could see this kid now…there is only one child in the entire 4th grade that is taller than she is—David C. — plus, her feet are as big as mine already. She’s like a big pawed puppy with orthodontic issues.
“If Your Kid Eats this Book, Everything will Still be Okay” was written for people like me and also any basic worried first time mom. The good Dr. Zibners covers virtually everything that could conceivably happen to your baby and answers the age old questions : do you call the doctor; do you go to the ER? Plus, and we all know how important this is: Dr. Zibners is funny and the book is an easy, quick and pleasurable read. It would make a great gift for any first time mom or grandparent or even babysitters.
The other two books are to read to your kid when they are actually sick in bed! “When Vera Was Sick” and “The Sick Bug” by Susie Bazil and Shawn McCann. Some kids are fine with missing school and settling in with Playhouse Disney or Nick for the duration—other kids, like mine, totally freak out and unless they are truly down for the count, they are kind of a pain in the ass to have at home. If you follow the school’s rules—no fever within the last 24 hours, etc. you could conceivably wind up with the “sick” kid who feels pretty good and that is just brutal. Forcing a kid to “rest” when they don’t feel that bad can be a monumental task, so at least if you have something cute to read, you could buy yourself a little lie down time.
I NEVER stayed home sick when I was little. My mom made it so awful to be home sick that she virtually guaranteed there would never be any “malingering” around our house. First off, no TV—that could pretty much end any charade right there—secondly, the food choices were severely limited—sort-of a “blancmange” of the modern era. Basically, we were offered consumme and dry toast. Not many people know what consumme is—it’s kinda broth—it’s BARELY broth. The only time it was fun to be sick was when it was an epidemic type thing. My mom also operated under the old school thinking of “you might as well get it over with.” So if one of us got chicken pox, then the rest of us had to bed down with that kid, share spoons, basically everything short of making out until we all had the virus and then it was just a free for all. I think my mom left at that point, and the poor nanny had to deal with a bunch of itchy, contagious banshees with nothing better to do, but terrorize eachother and her.
For the record, I picked the Vera books because I named one of my daughters, Vera. I know, random, but she has this fabulous great aunt in Sweden who deserves a namesake. We call her Mandy because her middle name is Amanda—all very confusing especially with doctors/insurance, etc. I just thought it would be neat to make life a little harder. She hates it of course. She didn’t even know Vera was her name until maybe 2 years ago. She’s 8. She wishes her name was Hannah or Miley or Selena or Taylor or iCarly.
So, there you go…it’s January, the holiday season is over, but now…’tis the season to get sick and take care of sick kids (and husbands.) Remember, this too shall pass.