Being sick. I'm not good at it. My wife is much tougher. I actually say, "I'm so cold" like those scenes in movies right before the shooting victim dies. That is my flu forte: cold. Any kind of sick; common cold, flu, strep, I get really cold. And then I sweat all over the bed. I'm the worst. I've often thought of renting a hotel for the family while I alternately sleep and burn mattresses.
Here's what happened to me (and another note: Sarah wouldn't waste her day at home by writing a blog entry about being sick.) But here's what happened to me. I was at work some time in late January. I felt weak. I'd just put myself on the Tom Brady diet (a promotional stunt) and was about 3000 almonds short of a full meal. I was chugging bone broth at near beer bong speed and trying to make something edible out of dandelion greens. Add to that a new workout with this martial arts guy who wants to end me. I'm but a stain on his gii (karate clothes) and I'm OK with that. I mean I can't but be OK with it because he's been trained to kill me. So I'm losing at exercise on Tuesday and Thursday, coaching basketball Monday and Wednesday and any free time I have is burned off with extra work projects and comedy shows. I have this fear that if I stop I'll never start again. That fear manifests itself on this Friday in late January when I'm trying to get out of my office chair but can't. I do my best to ascend quietly enough to not alert the pod of healthy Millennials that surrounds me (a group of Millenials is actually called a "brunch"). They know I'm older but can't know that I'm acting it.
As I ascend I can't help but eek a little pain squeal. I manage to segue my elder wheeze into a rough version of When Doves Cry by Prince. I know nothing by Kendrick Lamar or Drake, but thank goodness Prince still sells. Always will. A couple of glances quickly go back to their computers and I'm on my own to get out of the building. Everything is in slow motion. My sadistic instructor had made me do this deep walking exercise; low to the ground and holding it before rising and repeat. The karate hi-ya! is really just a pain exclamation. And it hurts really bad. And I'm getting cold. And it's the longest walk to the train. And from the train to our house is a 1/4 mile. I was sweaty chilled and getting worse. My hoodie doing nothing against the cold. If it were 1840 I'd be left for dead.
I go to bed that Friday night and wake up on Sunday. I lost an entire day, sans the twenty minutes I was up in a NyQuil dream calling parents to see if they could substitute coach my rec team. They didn't know what I was talking about but apparently my incoherence was enough to assume I wouldn't be able to guide children. With that taken care of, I drifted away on a heating pad. I'm pretty sure I asked for my mom a couple of times.
Sarah wouldn't have written any of this. She'd have taken the twenty minutes I've spent so far and made dinner while scheduling thirteen things for her work. All while being sick. She has her battery of vitamins and meds--there's a little baggie ready to go--that she consumes in one elegant gulp. And then she trusts her concoction to get her through the day. I've witnessed her sick for weeks and during that time I've never seen her take a sick day. She just gulps and goes. A warm, soft cyborg of getting things done. Often I wonder if her vision is like that of the Terminator, but instead of armor and ordinance, her digital readout lists necessary school paperwork and all the things that need to be done before her parents show up for the holidays.
So I'm at home on a sick day. Not today, this current sick day, but a sick day two weeks ago, and I try to get an appointment at the doctor. They don't have one because apparently all of Denver is dying. That's when I give up. I'm done. That one doctor said no so I'm just going to sit here and rot on the inside. I get a text from Sarah. She's found a clinic that has an availability. (I'm not sure how she did that without robot vision.) Anyway, I'm on the fence about going because, you know, co-pays and swabs. And then I get a call from Eliot's school. She's fallen and cut her chin. She may need a doctor. I'm chilled and ill and should not be near a school, but figure it's a good opportunity to get a two for one. I pick up Eliot, who's worked herself into a four-year-old frenzy about blood and bones. I think she has too much older brother exposure as she's screaming at me about whether or not you can see her brains. I whisk her out of the school so I don't get tackled for being a suspicious dude stealing an upset child.
I comfort Eliot that I cannot see her bones, and we go to the Sarah-endorsed clinic. The doc takes a look at Eliot and breaks out the equivalent of a magic wand: A Frozen band-aid. You know, the movie (I clarify here because Eliot had requested a Frozen cake for her birthday and we almost got a lower-case frozen cake. I can't fathom the disappointment in her legal guardians if she ended up with frosted block of icy bread instead of a plastic princess figurine on a swath of room temperature pastels.) For me, he unleashes something like a tragic wand, this huge Q-Tip he stabs into my tonsil.
His diagnosis: You are knee-deep in flu and strep throat. Stay away from people for two days.
This is actually kind of nice. Some sicknesses are hard to externalize how badly it's going on the inside. I feel like a fraud if I can't at least conjure a loud vomit. A doctor’s diagnosis sets me free to sleep and sweat and watch what I want to on Netflix, a veritable fantasy for a dude whose kids have turned his recommended viewing into My Little Pony and Pokemon. I often worry if some sneaky algorithm will churn me out as a potential offender.
This morning, two weeks after the strep and now mired in some new strain, I'm emerging from a drug-induced sleep tsunami. I'm crawling out from under this heavy darkness when I hear Sarah telling the kids to get dressed and be ready because dad isn't feeling well. She has to get to work and is preparing the children for what's in her room: a creature emerging from the ooze, blinking doubt into a morning haze and smacking its lips from a night of mouth breathing. Oh, kids, you have no idea how much you should hug your mother.
It wasn't bad, but it was a late start. That meant we had an extra hour before school started. This is good when you need time to get ready. This is bad when you're not as tough as your wife and want to drop the kids off at a Taco Bell and get back to your heating pad. I mean it was an eternity. The kids, I should stress, were fine, but the moving from house to car to car to store and back. Can we just invent an alarm that goes off if you've left your kids in the car for more than five minutes? It's gotta be just as dangerous parading them through a parking lot when they could be in the safety of a station wagon.
This, however, wasn't just any stop. This is Kid Coffee Wednesday. The 7-year-old tradition of getting hot chocolate with the kids. It's a thing I started that may never stop. Eliot has become the #1 ambassador for Kid Coffee Wednesday (#KCW on Twitter.) I could tell her that lava was going to consume our house on Thursday and she'd calmly remind me that on Wednesday there will be kid coffee. That's good. But Sarah was right. When I heard her tell the kids to be good for their sick father, I honestly didn't believe I was that weak. But she's good. She figures out Common Core all while booking executive travel and figuring out which shoes to wear...a week from now.
I end up in public with a four year old who spills cocoa and I'm on the verge of tears. I'm counting down the chores in my head: Get to Eliot's school, drop off her stuff, take her to the potty, brush her hair and sign her in. Then, get to the boys school and drop them off. Go home. HOME. It's all I can think about. My pillow and Walgreens XpressHeat heating pad have wound themselves into a sultry body waiting for me on the couch. The dogs will be there, too. Paco routinely snuggles me into a better place.
The kids' immediate needs (transportation, loving father) are pushed aside by this fantasy with a dog and butt warmer. Otto is going on about some new trend on YouTube or video games and and it's just not clicking. My Millennial coworkers would be disgusted. Eliot has merged with a myriad of same-sized people and I'm pursuing her with a hairbrush and some detangler. I'm admonishing Quin to catch up but he's already ahead and putting away Eliot's nap time blanky and lovie. Jesus, he is like his mom. I apologize while batting at crazy tangles, the single biggest rift between my daughter and me. So far.
The whole time I'm addled with pillow porn yet there's this one tiny thought screaming at me from beyond the mucous. It's this reminder of how things could be worse. There are many levels of worse, of course. But my worse is this thought of being a single parent. It's Valentine's Day and each kid has a box of litter and sugar to disperse to the classroom. What if Sarah hadn't helped put those together last night while I rode the Xpress Heat? What if she hadn't washed all the little Tupperwares for their school lunches, or gotten them dressed before rushing out of the house to a job that keeps us in comfortable middle class math? I really have no idea how I'd do it. And what...what did Sarah go through when I traveled nonstop for two years? You know that one time she had to have emergency oral surgery while caring for one kid and pregnant with another? I was super hungover in Virginia.
The examples are endless but at the same time lazy and fruitless. Because samples are simply swatches and not the entire fabric of the beast. This cover I've enjoyed for so many years is someone who's far smarter and much more prepared than me. I should get tips for the enjoyment I provide my wife. She gets to watch how long it will take me to realize something that she's steadied herself for weeks. There may be a betting pool at her work. "How long before he realizes that Eliot is going to kindergarten?" If I were gambling man, I'd say deep into second grade.
Is it a feminine thing? This strength and foresight? That's how I've known it. If ever a woman throws up her hands and tells everyone to fuck off, there's a good chance it's because she already knows how it's going to turn out. My advice: run with her. She's in tune with natural disasters. She remembers what everyone else has forgotten and can feel the futility far sooner than anyone. I guess that doesn't explain their poor choice in men. The projects. Like the neighborhoods with which they share a name, women somehow survive their precarious living situations. I would criticize the habit if I hadn't just realized that was me. A gummed-up Sasquatch on his second sick day this week. I'm leaning back into the couch and wrestling for leg space with a farting dog. This is your husband, Sarah. There are a dozen things to do in just this room alone and I'm working through the fiftieth paragraph of something like a magnum opus to male deficits.
Well, I'm going to eat and edit this later. Or maybe I'll just post it whole. You can expect nothing less.