March 24, 2014

Fever Dreams

I'm almost halfway through my blogging project, and I refuse to let a stomach bug and a fever knock me out now. Perhaps if I power through this, it will be like cresting a hill on a challenging run, and then I will enjoy a quick descent the rest of the way.

When I was a kid, I remember being sick a lot. If somebody had a cold, I would catch it, along with bonus symptoms, like asthma and tonsillitis. I cuddled under my big fluffy Polish down comforter and watched game shows: The Price is Right, Hollywood Squares, Bumper Stumpers, Win Lose or Draw (Why were they in Burt Reynolds' living room?). My mom made me hot, sweet tea, and my friends stopped by with special folders containing the homework I had missed. My dad brought home paper pharmacy bags with cough syrup and Sucrets and the occasional round of antibiotics, giving me bedside lectures on the differences between viruses and bacteria.

From ages 16-28, I was invincible. I never got sick! This was the same phase in my life when I said things like, "I don't get hangovers!" or "I'll just have popcorn for dinner." Not only did I seldom get sick, but I could defer a cold through sheer will. If I was studying for finals or having a busy week at work, I'd use my amazing brain power to say "Not now!" and the germs would back off, sometimes catching up with me once the stress had died down. It irked my parents that every time I came home from college, I'd spend the first two days in bed.

The flaws in my approach became apparent. A valiant attempt at pushing back a cold with heroic doses of Tylenol and DayQuil so I could finish a work project landed me in the hospital with liver damage. I learned, after missing 2 weeks of work, that the office did not fall apart in my absence, and that sometimes it's smarter to just be sick.

Any doubts I had about my superhero status were eradicated when Sam and I became parents and started bringing home new crops of daycare germs. Without my doctor parents to care for me, I started becoming a regular at Urgent Care and rejoiced at the invention of e-visits.

It may have been child germs that knocked me out today; we saw a lot of kids at Evie's party, and it's possible one of them quietly harbored this stomach-punching fever thing. I felt fine when I went to the office this morning, and then all of a sudden I didn't. My stomach turned against me. My thoughts blurred. On the long bus ride home, I fell asleep and woke up thinking that I was on an airplane, landing in a foreign city and unsure of where to go next.

A few weeks ago, I had a similar illness with a higher fever. I found myself hallucinating that I was 8 years old again, home sick from school on my childhood sofa. My grown-up life was a dream I was waking from, and though I remembered and loved it, it wasn't real. I briefly grappled with the prospect of living the rest of my childhood and adolescence again, feeling this need to find Sam and Evie and Felix in my future, but not knowing whether it was possible or if they even existed.

When I finally shook off the dream and realized I was in my house, a grownup, and my family was on their way home, I felt like I was granted the gift of my life all over again. It was the best sick-day perk ever, right up there with drinking ginger ale and feeling no guilt over carbs.

I haven't lost track of any big chunks of my life today, but I have been reminded what it felt like to be a child and to be cared for on a sick day. I'm grateful for Sam's attentiveness and tea-making, the kids' sweet hugs, and my coworkers' quick responses of well wishes and offers to help with anything. I'm not invincible anymore, and I'm totally fine with that. 

No comments: