As I lie in bed coughing, battling body ache, and trying to kill that monster playing ping-pong in my head with Advil, I think of mom and dad.Twenty years ago, I’d be smothered with care and affection. Soup, fruit, hot meals, sponge baths, loving fingers caressing my messy hair … needs met before I even had the chance to articulate them.
It was good to be a child. Even better being an only child. Not that I was pampered … but I could revel in undivided attention. I was the queen of the house. Mom would deny me the title by saying “little princess” instead, but both of us knew.
I wasn’t one of those sturdy,healthy, bouncing babies. More of the wimpy, frail, sickly bambino requiring a lot of nurturing. From what I remember of my childhood, I was sick every time the weather changed 15 degrees; every time we came back from vacation; every time I was around other sick kids. My immunity was always taking a beating from an assortment of viruses and bacteria. I was used to downing pills and syrups, sticking the thermometer in my armpit or mouth depending on the age, and called our family physician, “Dr. Uncle.” Still do.
Teenage years were a tad better, although they were fraught with their own set of mental anguish.
And then came those two years in Iowa City where it hit me for the first time what being sick by oneself really meant. If I needed food, I had to get up myself and make it. Water? Plan ahead. Keep a bottle next to the sleeping bag I called my bed. Medicine? Trudge slowly to the bus stop, haul myself on the bus, go to the clinic, then the pharmacy, and drag my sorry feet back home.
Amid classes, midterms, a foreign country, and many acquaintances but no real friends, falling sick in the first semester was a real eye-opener. I missed my parents a LOT then.
And I miss them today — despite my loving, caring husband, who makes the best daal-chaaval when I’m sick; and friends whom I can count on for anything … I miss my parents’ devoted caregiving. And even though I say this, I know that if they were here today, I’d be acting all grown up and adult-like refusing to be taken care of. “It’s just a sore throat and some body ache, ma,” I’d say refusing her repeated requests to stay still in bed and keep the laptop away. “Stop treating me like a baby!”
If only that were true…
Better will my “adult” body into going downstairs and fixing some lunch now.