Monday, January 19, 2009

Being Sick

MP is sick this week. He was sick last week, too. Actually, he’s been sick ever since we went to NYC – too much drinking and shouting and dry air in airplanes. Then he had to go to Minnesota, which finished him off.

He has a cough. Sort of.

“What kind of cough do you have?” I ask.

“I dunno. I only cough in the morning.”

“Is it productive?”


“Do you want anything for it? An expectorant or something?”

“I guess. I don’t want anything liquid. That stuff tastes like crap.”

And armed only with this cryptic knowledge (morning cough) and specific instructions (nothing that tastes like crap), I go out to find him some medicine. I make a mental note to ask the pharmacist for some laudanum. That way we’ll both be happy.

Different people are sick differently, and you have to understand and respect that in a relationship or some bad moments will ensue. For example, when MP first feels sick, he takes two Advil and passes out on the couch for four hours. This cures him of most everything – which is how I know that he’s really sick this time and needs drugs. But I didn’t understand this when we first met. At the first sign of him feeling a bit phlegmmy, I treated him like I wanted to be treated.

“Do you need a blankie?” I softly asked.

“No, thank you, I’m fine.”

“You look cold.”

“I’m fine.”

“Would you like some chamomile tea?”


“Have you gargled with salt water?”

“No. My throat isn’t sore. It’s my nose.”

“How about a decongestant? Maybe an antihistamine? Here, have a Kleenex.”

“I’m fine, Sweetie.”

“I can get some Puffs. Do you like Puffs?”

“I’m fine, Sweetie.”

“Your nose looks really sore. Rub this on it.”

“Go away, Sweetie.”

And all my ministrations rejected, I slunk away to play computer solitaire. When MP is sick, he wants to die alone on his couch with dignity. He does not want to be coddled and irritated.

Of course, when I got sick early on in our relationship, things didn’t go any better. MP treated me like he wanted to be treated:

“I feel terrible MP… (sniff) My throat hurts. My nose is sore from blowing it. I want to die… (sniff, sniff)”

“That’s too bad, Sweetie. Go lie down.”

“Thanks… (sniff) I think I will.”

And then he left me in the bedroom. Alone. In the dark with my Puffs. Four hours later I stagger out, purblind, and he’s on the couch playing videogames.

“Whoa. You look terrible. What’s wrong, Sweetie?”

“You left me in there!”

“I thought you needed rest.”

“I didn’t need four hours of it! You didn’t come check on me to see if I needed anything!”

“I thought you were sleeping?”

“I could have died in there! Don’t you love me?” (It’s very difficult to love a pale and whining woman who has Carmex slathered all over her upper-lip in what I call “cow-nose,” but somehow MP managed.) When I am sick, I want to die with my loved ones bending over me offering fragrant teas and soft tissues. I do not want to be left alone on the ice floe like a wounded dog.

Now when MP passes out on the couch, I poke him at about 6 PM and ask if I’m responsible for my own dinner. When I am too quiet for too long, MP creeps around looking for me, and if he finds me staring at him with one bleary eye, he asks if he can do anything. And thus we learned: Do unto others what they want done to themselves.

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