It’s day nine of an unpleasant and unwelcome virus. My body aches from the coughing, from the fever, from lying down for so long. I can’t think clearly. My moods swing from bored to irritable to restless to comatose. In an energetic and lucid moment I stand for three minutes in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil and I break out in a cold sweat. I’m tired of being sick.
In the last nine days I’ve come to realize there are few creatures less sympathetic to the needs of a sick woman than her own teenage children.
My fifteen year old son, Tom, came home from school, saw me sprawled on the sofa under a blanket with a pile of wadded up tissues beside me, my unwashed hair sticking out in all directions from lying on a pillow all day, and he said “Mom, you’re a mess.”
Ok, there was perhaps more than a shred of truth in that statement, but still…not very kind.
Later, when I asked him to take the dog for a walk he said “How do you get your voice to sound like that? You sound like Marge Simpson, no, you sound like one of her chain smoking sisters. It’s kinda cool. Say something else.”
When I moaned something like “I feel awful”, my daughter Ali, the fitness fiend, suggested that perhaps a brisk walk around the block would clear my head. I gave her an evil look. I don’t think she took it too seriously, what with my red nose, bloodshot eyes, and hair sticking up in weird cowlicks.
In a fever induced nap I concoct a fantasy about my perfect man and all the delicious and delightful things he’d do for me. No, unfortunately, not that kind of fantasy. Here’s what unfolds:
“Darling,” he says in his deep bass Barry White voice, kneeling beside the sofa where I’ve taken up residence this week. “I know you don’t feel well, but you look absolutely amazing. The fever brings such a lovely flush to your cheeks.”
He leans in and gives me a sweet kiss on the forehead. “Look what I’ve brought home for you” he says, holding up several bags from CVS. “Here’s the latest issue of People magazine. You’re such a brilliant woman…I know you don’t usually read stuff like this, but when you’re sick it’s ok to give your brain a rest. And I bought the extra soft tissues with lotion in them, so your nose doesn’t get all red and chafed. I stopped at the video store and rented all the old Tracy and Hepburn movies I could find. I’m going to fix you a nice bowl of orange sherbet and a tall glass of diet coke with lots of ice. Won’t that make your throat feel better?"
God, how I love this man.
While I watch my favorite videos he massages my aching muscles. He brushes my hair. He changes the pillowcase so it feels fresh and cool against my skin. He says the most amazing things, like “The dog’s been walked, the kids are fed, the kitchen is clean – what else can I do for you my dear?”
He is incredible.
Later that night, when I’ve moved from the sofa to our bed, he says “I have a surprise for you, something that I know you really like.” And, with a flourish he produces a bottle of Cherry Flavored Nyquil.
“You’re too good to be real,” I say, smiling gratefully before I swallow the magic elixir that will guarantee a good night’s sleep.
At least I still have my imagination.