Interesting the difference made by a comma and a space, isn't it? I am, in fact, home, sick. I am likely to be so for some time yet. By means that have now baffled my doctor, the director of personnel at my place of employment, and state and county health officials, I have contracted an embarrassingly childish disease, mumps, and sit with it now, half of my face painfully distorted, my neck sore down one side, and exhausted by the effort of remaining upright, but unable to sleep. I've been examined, prodded, pricked, swabbed, interviewed and made to fill out forms. I've been back and forth to my doctor twice in this one day, and while he's a lovely man and an excellent physician, I have no intention of or interest in seeing him in any but a social way soon again. It is on the best advice I am home rather than elsewhere. In my present state, I would be welcome nowhere else. I am, it seems, diseased, and all too obviously so.
When in such a sorry state -- and this not but a day after having recovered from a long-lasting and disgusting head-cold! -- I grow quickly weary of my own company, of wearing my pajamas all day, of watching television, of discomfort, pain, of pills and pillows and propping my head up, oh so gently, to read. I am, by nature, a sedentary man, but that is not to say I do not willingly work, and miss if not my labors, very much the company of my coworkers and customers. I miss my work-wife and work-husband, my laughing companions, my sad friend, my Thursday breakfast appointment, my bosses, my book-scouts, my elderly phone-orders, the wandering students and the bright, cheerful babies. Hell, I even miss the regular dogs. I miss the daily variety of human faces, conversation, new books. I do not "study health," but I miss it when it goes.
And while I am extraordinarily lucky to have a man who cares for me, who pampers me when ill or otherwise, and tends me as one good would a cranky child, I must confess, being home, sick, I am made homesick and nostalgic for the company of my good mother, now three thousand miles or more away. I do not doubt this is a common, a natural response, and I make no claim to originality or on any one's sympathy in saying so here. I am ill. I have "monarchal privileges" and would, at this moment use them to no better purpose than to have again a TV tray set next to the horse-hair sofa, a black & white game-show crackling like a warm fire before me, a knitted blanket 'round my knees, and my own little mother, bustling in to press her cool palm on my hot head and bring me tepid ginger ale and study me with worry, as much that I might be again malingering as possibly dying. As a child I was a weak and puny thing, halt and feverish and melodramatically eager to avoid school. I treasured up a real fever as other, healthier children, of better character might relish summer daylight for playing ball.
As a grown man, I've come to despise a little that whining brat I was, always happiest when not quite sincerely indisposed. I do not advocate for a longer life, like Oscar I would do anything to regain my youth but take regular exercise or change my diet, but I have developed a more active conscience, a better work ethic, and a genuine distaste for any failure of my body to do what it must as unnoticed as it might. To be off work is sovereign, to be unoccupied, to be ill, disgusting.
Nostalgia I consider but a symptom. I confess it as I might acknowledge a congested chest or dripping nose: because it can not be concealed. And so, today, between phone calls and consultations and unwelcome interest in my glands from government administrators, I miserably doze, read The Patchwork Girl of Oz, break down and call my elderly Mother in far-off Pennsylvania, and shamefacedly close my eyes with relief as she tells me, "mind you rest."
Sainted lady. Silly son.