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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

In sickness and in health

Jan 29, 2024 02:57PM ● By Gary Chalk

When I was young, I became surprisingly good at coming down with some mysterious imaginary illness that would prevent me from having to go to school.

I had a system. I would open my parent’s medicine drawer and read the symptoms on one of the containers; then I would describe those symptoms to my mother, telling her they prevented me from going to school that day. It worked like a charm. 

“Gary, you’re describing a sore throat. Stay in your pajamas, and I will get you some Children’s Tylenol from the medicine cabinet.”

But my sickness strategy did not always go as planned.

“Mom, I have this throbbing, cramping pain in my stomach. Sort of a dull, continuous ache that sometimes goes down into my lower back and inner thighs. I am also experiencing mood swings.”

“Gary, that is impossible! I am not giving you Midol for PMS. Next, you’re going to tell me you have a urinary tract infection.”

Recently, I told my wife Jan I was achy, cold and so tired I couldn’t sit up in bed, let alone go out. 

“It is the worst case of flu EVER! I hope you don’t get it this bad.”

Jan shrugged and retorted, “Gary, you have the ‘Man Flu’. Women call it a slight cold.” 

She continued, “The problem when you get sick is that after a while, I get sick...of being with you and your non-stop groaning and complaining.”

Jan does have a point. When I come down with the flu, a bad head cold with a stuffy nose, or even worse—the Broncos lose three games in a row—I become a nuisance. I don’t get out of my pajamas, I prop myself up in bed and moan loud enough that Jan will hear me from the den and come see how I am feeling.

Just two weeks ago I woke up with a headache, that quickly spread—to become a pain in Jan’s butt!

“Gary, it’s another case of Man Flu! You’re carrying on like you need to be treated at the Mayo Clinic.” (Clearly, I was losing the sympathy battle.)

Later in the day, lying in bed, I called Jan to come. Would her bedside manner be more compassionate?

“Dear, can you please go to the store for some things? I would like ginger ale—not diet. And some frozen sherbet—not sorbet, not yogurt, not gelato. It must be sherbet.”

Under her breath, Jan muttered something along the lines of, “This Man Flu is driving me nuts. Next, you’re going to tell me you want a particular flavor of frozen sherbet.”

“You’re right, Jan. I only eat rainbow sherbet—raspberry, orange and lime. Not that passion fruit, tropical island, prickly pear stuff!”

I fell back against the pillow and closed my watery eyes. 

“Jan when I don’t feel well, I usually eat soda crackers—Nabisco Saltines, not the no-names. I don’t want ‘With Sea Salt’—I only eat Nabisco Saltine Originals! It’s not that I am picky; it’s that when I am sick, I am particular.”

Silence. I opened my eyes. Jan was nowhere. She had left me. Alone. In sickness!

There was only one thing I could do. I needed that medicine they advertise on television this time of year. Not “Don’t Let A Flu Get You Down” TheraFlu. Not “It Tastes Awful and It Works” Robitussin.”

“Jan, I need some of that ‘nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can sleep’ NyQuil.”

Yesterday, Jan said she was feeling “off.” I went to the medicine cabinet. The best I could do was Super Beta Prostate.

Jan does not have Man Flu, but she is definitely sick—of me. 

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