It’s a fact of life – if you can call how I feel living. Moms aren’t allowed to get sick. We get 10 minutes to recover from a 48-hour virus. Then, dead or alive, we have to get up and walk the dog at dawn, plunge the overflowing toilet and drive the kids to saxophone lessons.
It’s enough to make a woman take refuge at work, where at least people will tell you that you look terrible and you ought to go home.
This winter has been tough at my house. All three kids have been sick with strep throat, flu and colds. I have been a veritable Florence Nightingale, fetching popsicles, letting them watch TV in my bedroom and giving them a little bell so they can summon me if they want toast or need to throw up. I figure maybe they’ll remember these small kindnesses when it’s time to pick out my nursing home.
When my kids are sick, they let me know; when my husband is sick, everybody knows. He lies on the couch in the middle of the living room and bellows like a beached sea lion. He gargles loudly and often, and threatens to move into a hotel with a health spa. The last time he had the sniffles, he put 911 on speed dial, treated himself to a bottle of 30-year-old port (for strictly medicinal purposes) and e-mailed the producers of Nova with ideas for a documentary series on his cold.
When I get sick, no one is interested. At least no one at my house.
"I don’t feel so good," I said to my husband a few days ago. "My throat is really sore and it feels like there’s a bowling alley in my brain. I think I have a fever and I feel nauseated. It must be the flu."
"Nah," he said, without the slightest hint of compassion. "It’s probably just that chicken thing you made for dinner last night."
"It could be the plague," I croaked.
"Does that mean you’re not getting up to make coffee?" asked my loving spouse, as he looked at his watch.
"Honey," I whispered, "I just need to lie here for a few minutes – until I reach the end of the tunnel and touch the benevolent light."
"OK, but don’t take too long," he said. "It’s already 6:30 and I’ve got an early meeting. By the way, can you pick up my dry cleaning today?"
"You don’t understand," I said in a voice that sounded just like Brando in The Godfather. "I am sick. In fact, I might be dying. It may be just a matter of minutes before it’s my turn to drive that great car pool in the sky."
I leaned back on the pillow and closed my eyes. Downstairs I could hear silverware clinking and chairs scraping. I could smell toast burning. I plumped up my pillows, smoothed my hair and waited. Surely, someone would come up with a cup of tea and some sympathy.
In seconds, there was a tentative knock at the door.
"Come in," I croaked expectantly.
It was my 17-year-old son: "Mom, we’re out of computer paper and I have to print out overdue homework."
"Use the back of last month’s lunch menu, it’s hanging on the fridge," I rasped in the Brando voice.
I settled back on the pillow until my teenage daughter burst into the room. "Momsinceyouaresickandyouprobablywon’tbegoingoutatalltodaysoisitokayifIborrowyourblackboots?thanks," she said, as she rummaged under the bed for my only decent footwear.
I was too weak to put up a fight.
She clomped down the hall in my boots and pushed past the 10-year-old who was still in his pajamas as he approached the side of my bed. He looked concerned.
"Mom," he said. "Dad says you’re sick and I’m really worried."
"Sweet boy," I thought. "This is the one who will care for me in my golden years."
He leaned in close and spoke. "Can I still have a sleepover on Friday?"
I shooed the kid away from my bed and I eyed the clock. Five more minutes until I had to pull myself together and deal with the day. I shut my eyes. Five more minutes. There was another knock on the door. My husband poked his head in.
"I was going to make you a cup of tea," he said. "But I couldn’t find the tea bags, and I would have brought you toast but I made the kids sandwiches for lunch and used the last of the bread. Lewis can’t find his sneakers, the dog won’t go out and Marge called and said it’s your turn to drive to saxophone lessons." He looked at me with genuine concern. "Are you OK?"
My 10 minutes were up. As I dragged myself out of bed, I didn’t feel much better, but who knows? Maybe the folks at Nova will have some sympathy.
Carol Band now enjoys robust good health and an occasional glass of 30-year-old port. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.