I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
See the Mom Before Mom category for more of my posts in this series:
This week’s prompt: Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?
In the days before DVR, DVDs, On Demand and a zillion channels to choose from, we had the basic channel numbers up to 13 (PBS), and some were only static. So being home sick meant getting to stay in my parents bed or on the couch and watch daytime television between naps.
Sip some flat ginger ale, watch As the World Turns, choke down dry toast, flip to Price is Right, a slug of fuschia Pepto, now it’s time for Hollywood Squares.
I have memories of both of my parents, and both of my grandparents caring for me at different times, in different ways when I was sick. Daytime, home-from-school sick was solely my Mom’s gig. She took care of me and my Dad would come see how I was feeling when he got home form work.
There was a holiday we hosted one year when I was sick enough to stay in bed. I remember a haze of visitors to check on me, to slather me anew with Vick’s Vap-O-Rub, to take my temperature with a glass thermometer that stabbed under my tongue and always crept out toward my teeth.
Even as I got older, I benefited from her plan-ahead-Virgo ways. When Nick and I were first married, we had one car and commuted from Connecticut into New York City together. Once I left work early to go home sick. I called upon my reliable grandparents. My grandfather drove the half hour to pick me up at the train station and he brought along a package full of containers of grandma’s chicken soup.
Throughout the years, I was not so much sick from germs as I was sick from asthma. No one I knew had asthma, I was a rarity at the time and it was often misunderstood with teachers keeping me in from recess or advising me not to play the flute. There were also none of the fast-acting medications I value now for my own asthmatic children. There was literally nothing anyone could do if I was having an asthma attack, but they tried.
For some reason we never fully figured out, I often had attacks over weekends at my grandparent’s house. She cleaned meticulously but they did live in the middle of acres of wooded land, then again, so did we. My grandmother bought special pillows for me, bought me special foods and vitamins, honey for my throat, but in the end, they just had to be with me, rubbing my back as I tried to capture some air on all fours.
My Dad tried different things, too, like breathing steam over a boiling pot, or drinking dark, black coffee, but nothing worked, so when things were particularly bad, my parents would drive me to our wonderful pediatrician. Dr. Joy (I love that name!) would be waiting at his office at 2 am, (it’s a rare pediatrician who does that now) where he would give me a shot of adrenaline, like an Epi-pen now. I would savor the instant ability to breath. Then I would throw up.
As a parent of two kids with asthma, I look back and understand how hard it was for them to watch me suffering and feel helpless and limited in what they could do for me. I’m thankful for albuterol and nebulizers in my parenting tool bag.
My asthma attacks were fairly regular, which often required me to stay home from school the day after a big attack because I was drained and physically sore from the act of breathing.
Thankfully, my sick days were mild and infrequent and I always felt loved and cared for, soothed and comforted when I was sick.
A spoonful of chicken soup, an hour of All My Children, a throw up in the bowl beside me, listen to Phil Donahue, flip the channels round and round again, settle on Ryan’s Hope, nap a little then catch the end of The $20,000 Pyramid. Childhood sick days.