November 16, 2022

It's Tough Being an Adult

Last Friday was a busy day. I got up early to register for classes at UGA and then I loaded the car up with Christmas decor to take to the shop for our annual holiday extravganza. I spent most of the rest of the day cleaning, organizing, and decorating for that. I also spent most of the day ignoring emails that were remnants from a super stressful work week. Apparently, I also caught the flu, but I wouldn't figure that out just yet.

I was so tired and sore when I got home, and the next day, I was still tired, so I decided to make it a rest day. No work. No projects. Nothing. I fed the animals and spent most of the day finishing a book I'd been reading and watching the Georgia game. On Sunday, I was planning to start working on some cleaning projects, but I was still just too tired. Maybe I just needed to make it a whole rest weekend and start again on Monday? Plus, I was cold. We went from temps in the 80s last week to temps in the 40s this weekend, so that made sense. Maybe I just needed to spend another day on the sofa with a book and a blanket. Make that three blankets. Oh, and let's turn on the central heat that I rarely ever use because it dries out my skin. And let's turn it up about four degrees.

"I think you're sick," my dad finally said to me on Sunday evening, around 6:30.

"Me? Sick? Nah. I'm just exhausted from last week. And cold. Very cold."

I said this through chattering teeth. He finally convinced me to check my temperature. It was like 93 or something. The battery in the thermometer was low. But it didn't matter because I was fine.

Okay, maybe not fine. But I was just dehydrated and needed some protein. The only thing I'd had all day was a doughnut and half a Diet Dr. Pepper, and so, I ordered a burger and drank some water. Then I decided I needed a bath because to be honest, I hadn't showered in a few days, but mostly because sitting in scalding hot water sounded like a perfectly fine idea. And it was. For about an hour. I was feeling much better. Definitely warmer.

I dried off, got dressed, and made my way back to the sofa. And then a wave of something came over me. I decided that I probably shouldn't move anymore. I remember saying to my dad, "There are two really important things I need from you. Bring me two bottles of water and take Sadie out one last time." I remember there being a football game on TV. And after that, all I remember is that a scientist was explaining to me that my skin cells were turning into plastic blocks because there was some kind of slight variation in some kind of genetic matter, and that I needed to explain this to my dead mother and grandmother so they wouldn't worry.

Yes, I was a tad delirious. I guess I passed out because around 3 am, I woke up drenched in sweat. I was turning on fans and pulling off blankets. And then I woke up Monday morning with a sore throat, a headache, a cough, and body aches. Probably just allergies or a little virus or something, right? I got up and did my normal things. Fed the animals. Checked my email. Got started on some work. But after doing all of that, I was exhausted. So exhausted that I just kind of had to lay down ASAP or I might die.

And this is when it finally hit me — maybe I am sick. I found a better thermometer in my mom's medical supply stash and took my temp. It was well over 100 and over the next hour, it just kept going up and up and up. I haven't had a fever that high in a long time, and I really haven't been sick since February 2020 when I most likely had Covid and didn't know it.

Covid. That was my first assumption because that's what we've been trained to think over the last few years. But I really didn't see any point in taking a test because aside from my fever and body aches, the other symptoms were fairly mild, and it wasn't in my chest at all. Plus, my dad is super paranoid about getting sick himself after his ordeal with sepsis and open-heart surgery a few years ago, so why confirm that's what I have and make him even more paranoid? He agreed with my theory at first. About 10 minutes later, he said, "Well, it's up to you." About 10 minutes after that, he called me from out in the yard and said, "I think you need to take a Covid test. Right now."

So, I did, and it was negative, but my cousin who brought me the test told me that the flu was going around, and that my symptoms sounded just like her son who had it a couple of weeks ago. And then I found out that some people I was around last week currently have the flu, and then I found out several local businesses have had to shut down due to flu-related staff shortages, so I decided to go out on a limb and diagnose myself with the flu. I mean, I've had it before. I know how it goes.

Looking back to Sunday night, I was definitely very sick, but I can't figure out why I was in such extreme denial. I do have a few theories:

First, as I said, I haven't been sick in nearly three years. When the pandemic began, I was just getting over an illness that was probably Covid. After that, I was careful. I was taking care of two parents with major medical issues at the time, and I had no idea how it would impact them, so I adjusted my life accordingly...which wasn't a huge deal because I generally already avoid crowds, have my groceries delivered, and prefer to be at home most of the time anyway. Now that my caregiving days are over, I really don't think much about it.

Second, I really haven't been allowed to be sick since my mom's started dialysis back in 2016. I've written about how grueling the schedule was. Throw in all the other health issues both my parents had on top of it, and anytime I got sick, I usually had less than 24 hours to get over it if that. As a matter of fact, the last time I actually had the flu (March 2019 - your doctor's medical record software has nothing on my brain), I had about one night to sleep it off because my mother who was high on pain medication she wasn't supposed to have was trying to bust out of the hospital, so I had to go up there in a mask and pretend I was fine so she wouldn't kill herself. I also broke out in hives that weekend, but this is a fun little story for another day.

Finally, aside from that incident, I've never been sick without my mom around before. Sure, I'm on the wrong side of, um, 20, but even as an adult, who is the first person I call when I'm sick? Who brings me orange juice and homemade soup and tells me work will still be there when I'm better and if it's not we'll figure it out? Who comes up with these wild home remedies that actually work, like forcing me eat an onion sandwich once when I couldn't breathe? Who comes over and makes sure I have clean pajamas and blankets and adjusts the fans and heat to my liking without complaint? Who runs out to the store when I have even the slighest craving? Who tells me to stop looking up symptoms because I am not dying and do not have cancer or multiple major organ failure. I could go on.

And maybe it's a bit of all three.

But good grief, I am sick. And I have to do this on my own now.

(Okay, full disclosure, I'm not doing it on my own. My dad lives with me. He's been taking care of my animals. As I type this, he's cleaning Sadie's bed. DoorDash and Instacart have been bringing me soup and orange juice and such. My cousin was nice enough to bring me a Covid test, and I've had a few other friends and relatives ask if they can do anything.)

But it's just not the same. I guess deep down, we all want someone to take care of us on occasion — even those of us who are usually stubbornly independent and think we can do it all ourselves. I certainly never turned down an opportunity for my mother to baby me or take care of me. And according to a Google search I just did, I'm not alone. No matter how old you are, most people still want their moms when theyre sick. And my dad really is great, but he has that stereotypical "walk it off" dad attitude about everything that ails you. (Unless he gets like a minor cold or something, but we won't talk about that.)

When my mom died, I knew there would be firsts without her — first birthdays, first Christmases, etc. But I never really prepared myself for the firsts like this, the minor every-day stuff like getting the flu. They pop up often, and I am learning to live with that. In some ways, it's even liberating. In the past, I've read interviews with Clint Eastwood and Stevie Nicks, and both said something simiar after their own mothers died, and that's always stuck with me. That's the silver lining of going through such a terrible thing, I guess. For every moment that you feel the most soul-crushing grief, you eventually find a little more freedom within yourself. But even so, there are moments when I'd give anything to have her come through with a tray of soup and crackers and ginger ale. Somehow, walking to door to pick up a bag of chicken noodle soup that some stranger dropped in the garage doesn't have quite the same effect.

I was sort of explaining this to my friend, Chris, last night. Or probably whining about it is more like it... His response? "It's tough being an adult, ain't it?"

Yeah, I guess it is. But thankfully, God made us resilient enough to make it through.


I hadn't intended to write a whole blog post about being sick, though doing that years ago is actually what helped launch my writing career, so who knows... Hmm. Anyway, I'm bored from my sick bed and too dizzy and tired to do anything important, so this is what I've got. Soon, I want to start reviewing a pile of great books I have sitting here next to me and modernizing this website and editing old posts and adding them back, but for now, you'll have to settle for this.