I am a man. And despite my many masculine traits, this means I am not a good sick person. I have learned this about myself.
At the first sign of a sniffle, I become bedridden and my voice gets high-pitched.
Right now, for instance, I’m in bed. A vaporizer sits on my nightstand. I’m browsing the internet for a unique, but traditional headstone made of Peruvian granite.
“Here lies Sean,” it will read. “He told his wife he was sick, and she laughed.”
My wife, Jamie, is a card-carrying woman.
Right now, she has the same fatal illness I have. And even though she’s hacking up multi-colored phlegm, running a mild fever, she is unstoppable.
Today, for example, I barely scraped together enough stamina to take a shower. She mopped, dusted, and tarred the shed roof.
I also feel obliged to tell you that it’s not my fault that I’m a wimp. I am like most men. My intolerance for stuffy noses originates with my mother.
As a boy, my mother took illness seriously. She wouldn’t let her little “Poopie Bear” out of bed if his nose was even remotely red.
Thus, at the first sign of symptoms, I did what most boys in my position would do. I rolled onto my side and hollered, “Mama!” using the same voice I’d use if I were being eaten alive by mountain lions.
Mama would come running up the stairs—two steps at a time. She’d find me in bed, looking like I’d been shot with a giraffe tranquilizer.
She’d touch my forehead. I would moan. Maybe work up a few tears. You know, put some heart into it.
“I feel sick,” I’d say.
She’d take my pulse and declare, “You’re staying home.”
And I knew I was on Easy Street. The bed became my home. Spider-Man underpants became my wardrobe.
There were a few drawbacks, of course. The biggest downside was when Mama would appear in my doorway unannounced with a thermometer the size of a turkey baster and say, “Touch your toes, sailor.”
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about traumatic incidents involving turkey basters.
The point is, I’m a guy, and my mother babied me. She’d place a television beside my bed so I could watch Fantasy Island, Andy Griffith, Family Feud, and commercials of Mean Joe Greene.
My mama knew that babying was a crucial part of the Guy Healing Process. She knew the antibiotic properties of double-decker grilled cheeses, Campbell’s soup, chocolate milk, Oreos, and collector edition comic books still in plastic.
Men need these things to boost immunity. I don’t make the rules.
My wife doesn’t understand this. She refuses to do things like: sing to me, bathe me, massage my arches, or deliver a bowl filled with only brown M&M’s. And the closest thing to a comic book she’s ever brought me were last month’s Visa statements.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m jealous of my wife’s purely female immune system.
Because in the time it took me to write this, she’s already reorganized the guest closet, written twenty thank-yous, bathed the cat, and installed a new septic tank.
It’s no fun being sick around her. This morning, I hollered her name for ten minutes straight. But she was too busy outside, rotating the tires on my truck, to hear me.
So, I screamed louder.
She appeared in the doorway, wearing a solemn look. I expected to see a sandwich in her hands, maybe a comic book. But she was holding something else.
She must’ve gotten that thermometer from my mother.