homesick for sick

“New Slang” by The Shins is playing in the living room as the rain taps on our skylights. You’re on the other sofa, resting a book on your thigh as you read. In your own orbit. Your toes march along in the air, keeping the beat.

You’re home with a fever, 101.7. Not strep. Not the flu. Just sick enough to stay home. Your cheeks are pink, as mine are when I’m febrile. Your hair falls in limp ribbons. I love your warmth and the sounds you make when you leave the room to blow your little nose.

I wasn’t sick often as a child, but what I remember most is the way my mother cared for me. A sore throat meant Luden’s Wild Cherry Cough Drops, a box of candy masquerading as medicine. Mom brought me Highlights magazine and puzzles with invisible ink pens. Madlibs. I’d take my father’s side of the bed. He was off at work, and I’d take over his bedside table with my sick pile. A roll of toilet paper for my stuffy nose, empty juice cups, a thermometer. Sometimes a tumbler full of Ginger Ale with a lollypop “spoon” to stir out all the bubbles, the remedy for an upset stomach. I’d watch TV all day, so long that I’d become bored even with TV. Mom would leave me with the housekeeper and drive to Blockbuster to rent me movies. Two days of fever and one day of “just in case” where I was probably well enough to return to school.

Phil says you shouldn’t have TV. “This isn’t a vacation,” he says. I say it’s not your fault that you have a fever. We all know your flair for the dramatic, that you need an x-ray because you tripped on the carpet. You limp for days when we know perfectly well that you can walk without one. You want the attention.

This sounds sexist because it is. A mother knows. Call it instinct or animalistic. I know. I know when you’re sick, when you’re not faking. And I’m going to shower you with the same love my mother gave to me. “It’s rewarding the behavior,” Phil says. Which would be true if you were faking. I don’t see the harm in giving you extra tenderness, letting you feel the physical love as I pet your forehead. There’s a reason we call out for our mommies when we’re sad. If I can give you comfort and spoil you when you’re sick, I will do just that. Reward away.

Luden's Wild Cherry


  1. This post bought back many memories for me and made me think of how lucky I am with my husband.

    My mum was like your mum when I grew up. She would make me a ‘fairy bed’ on the sofa and I would be snuggled in. You are right when you say that as a Mum you just know when your children are ill. My 2 are rarely ever ill so when it does happen it make is much more noticeable.

    With my 2 I always tell them that staying off school means you are poorly enough to be in bed, but of course they would end up on the sofa under a blanket.

    My husband spoils our 2, especially if they are poorly. Phil’s responses make me really sad. As if being ill is bad behaviour and undermining your actions even in this circumstance.

    Just sad.

    1. Author

      I will say that sometimes Phil is all talk, so I’ve learned to follow my gut and not let him overpower or bully me into submission. I heard him, but in the end, I went ahead as I felt was right and showered our girl in affection and movies and favorite meals. The next day, when she was still sick and I had an event to which I’d previously committed, Phil took care of her and promised to treat her as I would. He let her watch movies and pampered her. Sometimes he just comes out of the gate swinging, refusing to relent, in the moment. But whatever I say EVENTUALLY sinks in, even if he never admits to it.

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