Growing up, being sick was seen as a sort of moral failing—something you probably brought on yourself through poor hygiene, eating junk food, associating with lepers or some other stupidity. I remember at least one birthday desperately trying to conceal an oncoming cold because that meant I’d be confined to my room with my designated “sick” bowl and utensils, partaking only of water, vitamin C and papaya smoothies that parents swore cured about everything.
What these things did cure was any desire to ever be sick, and much ability to deal with being around people who are. Those of you who read my romantical previous blog (“The ring doesn’t come off,” he said) can see that I rise to a crisis, have epiphanies and revelations, and even do the right sorts of very difficult things like driving someone writhing in pain to the emergency room without getting in an accident.
What I’m not so good at is the aftermath: changing bedsheets, fixing dressings, heating chicken soup, and dealing patiently with a person in pain who’s feeling sick and grumpy. I tend to get resentful when my tender ministrations aren’t received with slavering gratitude, and I “flutter”—a mixture of indecision and ineffectiveness that annoys even me. “Do you want your pillow fluffed? Did you drink your water? How about another pill?” while buzzing around the room straightening things.
In some of these episodes I’ve even been known to flap my hands like a late-blooming autistic. Apparently this is not relaxing to sick people. You see, I like to be able to DO SOMETHING. And a lot of the time, there’s nothing to be done but just tolerate with your loved one the horror which must be tolerated by them.
Frankly, I’d rather have the enema myself.
Perhaps I will just give my unfortunate spouse a Vitamin C and papaya smoothie and designated utensils, and close the door on him until he’s better. He’d probably thank me for it, because as we all know I’m no Florence Nightingale.
All that aside, the dust is settling (literally) around our house as the Hubby slowly recovers from his surgery, and our fun-hogging kids and their friends expend one last burst of energy tomorrow on the Commando Trail before leaving for their assorted cold/snowy/rainy/dark Mainland colleges.
The Commando Trail is legendary, and probably has a wonderful Hawaiian name I’m not privy to. So legendary, in fact, I ruled out ever trying it and instead enjoy the stories of epic adventure it generates. It starts somewhere (shrouded in mystery) off the Road to Hana and is about 8 miles of bamboo forest, rock hopping, creek swimming, waterfall scaling, and lava tube crawling that ends in a 40-80 foot cliff jump into a pool that MUST be jumped, or miles added. Man-and womanhood is at stake on those cliffs!
I remember being that young and fit. I remember taking chances like that. Now the very idea sends me into ‘flutter’ mode:
“Did you pack enough water? First aid kit? Asthma inhalers? Energy bars? Satellite phone? Splints and proper footwear?”
Eye rolls are all I get in reply. The Hubby and I will be staying behind, sipping Emergen-C fizzy drinks, the closest I’ll come to those papaya smoothies of yore, and hoping all return safe and sound.
What kinds of things have shaped your attitudes about being sick? What “cures” do you swear by?
When I was 43 I had just finally done the deed and left the unlamented other half. One of the first things I did was throw myself out of a perfectly functional aeroplane at 10k feet. On my own (with a parachute). The only sickness I had was getting older. But that’s a sickness on its own.
Yeah. So true Greta. And congrats on reclaiming adventure (skydiving! Yikes!) ‘The sickness of getting older’…we can slow it down, or imagine we can, but as I’ve commented in earlier blogs, Death is becoming more than an aquaintance.
I grew up also with the *attitude* that illness was you looking for attention. Scorned, frowned upon, I avoided it as much as possible.
I’m the idiot who goes to work whether I can speak or not. That’s probably the reason why I shot myself in both feet by putting off going to the doctor when I was becoming paralyzed. I kept thinking it was nothing more than sugar low and I’d get over it. My first inkling was driving home and I couldn’t feel the steering wheel.
I’m great at taking care of others, I just really suck at taking care of me.
I still have no tolerance for illness in myself. *We get it from our mothers*. My mom had terminal cancer and refused to talk about it. She only told me the day she had to go to hospital. When she came home, more *I don’t want to talk about it*. She pretty much said “fuck off and leave me alone” without actually saying fuck off.
Because of this *learned behaviour*, no one realises how deathly sick I am when I finally succumb to an illness. It has to be severe for me not to work, clean, cook etc etc.
Good luck angel, I hope hubby gets better soon. Just be there, supply entertainment (movies, magazines etc), just being there loving him is enough.
Let’s try to be less like our mothers, eh? 😉 *grins*
Thanks so much for the personal response Poppet, I know you’ve been through a lot– is that why you have so many good health ideas on your blog?
Are you better from this paralysis thing?
My mom’s ideas turned out to have some good basis in holistic medicine…I think it’s how I internalized them that turned into something I struggle with. Getting older and dealing with health stuff is just no fun.
I had no idea that my early-gained attitudes about sickness were actually common. I thought I was the only one. My mother would say, “Stop that coughing. You can if you want to.” I hope I didn’t do that to my son (your bro-in-law). Don’t ask him. I don’t want to know!!!!!
Glad hubby is on the mend.
Thank you for your support Julie, and I had the pleasure of seeing your son twice during the crisis! He’s a good man.
Not to worry Julie, you did not raise a stoic. Perhaps erring on the other side of what we grew up with is also a bad idea. My friends husband was given a bell to ring when he was sick as a child and coddled. He is quite the hypochondriac.
A bell? YIKES. Bad conditioning!
“…I’d be confined to my room with my designated “sick” bowl and utensils, partaking only of water, vitamin C and papaya smoothies that parents swore cured about everything.”
Were your parents hippies or something?
Early on I was raised considerably by grandparents who felt most illness could be cured—or at least treated—with aspirin. In case of a toothache the aspirin would be retained in the mouth. Since I was young, I only got half an aspirin.
Oddly enuf, before antibiotics it seems they were right.
I remember those tiny salmon-colored aspirin…
We had little pills called “77s”. I think they were homeopathic sugar pills.