Being sick is a paradox for me.
When I was little, I would tell my mother I was sick, every day, before school. I wanted so desperately not to go. And, of course, my mother never believed me because I’d abused the privilege.
One morning, it was in February, 1964, I told my mom I was sick, as per usual. And, as per usual, she said something like, “No, you’re not,” and she sent me to school.
At school, we were lined up outside of my 3rd grade classroom, and Mrs. O’Donnell, the meanest woman in the entire world, said to me, with, I’m sure, as much care as she could muster, “Your eyes look glassy.” She sent me to the nurse’s office. I had 105 fever. 105.
My mom had to come to pick me up, and I stayed home, sick, for three weeks. Three weeks.
During that time, my pediatrician, Dr. Geller, came to our house at least twice. He looked like Raymond Burr, and he carried that frightening black doctor’s bag. He terrified me. I was so afraid of shots, and I’m sure he gave me at least a couple of penicillin shots in my butt during that time.
And during that time, I missed going to see “Oliver!” on Broadway with my family. I was too sick. I remember hearing the garage door open under my bedroom as they left to drive into Manhattan. I was so sad.
Also, this was when The Beatles were going to be on Ed Sullivan. We had a small, portable TV, about 12”, I think, which was always in my parents’ bedroom. Except when I was sick. My father would then pick up the TV by it’s handle on the top, which went from front to back of the set, and would bring it into my room and put it on my desk chair.
That Sunday evening, everyone in my family - my parents, my two sisters, and I - gathered in my room, sat on my bed, and watched The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I remember the cutaway shots of the screaming girls in the audience, and, at one point, my oldest sister, JoAnn, shouted, “There’s Hillary!” And there was her friend, Hillary, her face filling up the 12” screen, screaming like crazy.
That was what I loved about being sick. I had complete permission to do whatever felt good. I watched my favorite shows - “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Love That Bob” - I piled my Viewmasters on my bed and watched one after the other. I played with Colorforms. And I didn’t have to go to school. It was heavenly.
As an adult, I find being sick to be so much worse. I can’t work, I can’t exercise, I can’t take care of my daughter and my dogs in the way in which I want to.
But there is that one aspect, the complete and total dispensation to fuck off. I never take a day and just watch TV. I am too driven by things I need to do. I’m an over planner, and it sucks.
However, when I am sick, it is the one time when I can partake in these guilty pleasures.
So this week, I’ve been laid up in bed for five days, so far. Really damn sick. And I’ve been watching “The Good Wife,” a show that I’d not had time to watch before and that I am now thoroughly enjoying. I am watching it on Amazon Prime, one episode after the other. I am into Season 2 already.
So, yes, being this sick really sucks. It really does. But, when I am able give myself that break to watch TV, like I am today, I am reminded of that time, in 1964, when being sick was everything I ever wanted.
Now, the trick is to learn to give myself a break when I’m not sick.