Monday, April 4, 2011

Why I Was Gone

The funny thing about getting sick...for those of us who have very little practice at knowing when "sick" is "sick enough" to stop and take it easy. I don't and therefore I didn't. I tried to remember the last time I went to a doctor for any reason. Eight years ago? Ten? Perhaps even longer than that. I think it was the time I tried to feed a feral cat which mistook my finger for a nice piece of liverwurst. Had it been a raccoon, I would have had to go through the series of rabies shots, but there weren't any reports of rabid cats going around so the doctor figured I was safe in that respect. Since a cat's saliva is pretty toxic stuff, however, I did need an antibiotic regimen. The bite hurt like the dickens, and continued to hurt long after it healed. I still have a scar on that finger. I think that was my last visit to a doctor.

We were never coddled much as children when we were sick. We were expected to rise above such trifling matters as colds and sniffles and broken arms. When Pestilence came knocking, we simply refused to answer the door. It is amazing how well that philopshy works. Toughing it out is a dominating trait on both the maternal and paternal branches of my family tree. Strength was as much admired as being able to play the piano or perform complex math problems. My Dad and his family spent a lot of time talking about being strong. Tough, even. As if to prove that particular point, my Uncle Joe showed up for Thanksgiving dinner one year when I was around 7. My mother had set the table with her best dishes, and she wore her prettiest dimity apron as she proudly carried the turkey, brown and glistening, to the head of the table, where my Dad sat with carving knife in one hand and sharpening steel in the other. Before us were bowls and platters of potatoes, dressing, gravy, creamed onions, spinach name it...the delicious smells wafting across the lace table cloth. Nevertheless, Uncle Joe asked only for horseradish... which he ate directly from the jar...with a spoon. "It makes you strong like bull," he announced to the three small children who starred saucer-eyed at him. It was the most memorable Thanksgiving of my entire life.

So, together with the stress of a very large trial, and some significant maintenance on the house that needed completion, and my in-bred ability to ignore anything short of the major malfunction of a vital organ, I ignored the signs that I was getting sick, had gotten sick, and would continue to be sick unless I broke from family tradition and actually sought medical treatment. It's a good thing I did, I guess, since willing myself well didn't seem to be working. The two weeks I dragged myself into work because I was far too "busy" not to tackle my desk were a false economy; I eventually had to stay home to recuperate at least that long, so I got behind anyway. Where is the justice in that, I ask? A respiratory infection (but short of pneumonia) which started out as a simple allergic reaction to pine pollen was the final diagnosis. I am afraid Uncle Joe is spinning in his grave. I can almost hear the incredulity, "Pollen got you, you say? P-o-l-l-e-n!?"

Time for redemption, it seems. Pass the horseradish, please.