Sick Day

Dearest Rachel –

The only bit of good news when I woke up this morning at 4:30 (yeah, I guess I still haven’t gotten used to the time difference yet) was that my temperature was only 97.2°, so at least I know there’s no fever. That’s not even taking into account the fact that last night, it would seem that the space heater, after behaving itself perfectly well for the past week, has decided to over-perform (despite no change in instructions from me), and crank up the temperature in the bedroom to just about 80° again. Between that, and the layers of bedding I always pile on top of myself, it’s a wonder I don’t wake up with a fever. But, I don’t, so… yay?

Still, it’s not like you need to have a fever in order to feel lousy, now, do you? It was a challenge getting back to sleep, what with having to deal with congestion (which made it hard to breathe normally) and coughing (which shouldn’t require any explanation). Top it off with the slightest stirrings of a pressing headache, and it shouldn’t surprise you that I got in touch with both Lars (who I was going to go walking with today, despite the growing chill in the weather – to be fair, it’s at least quite sunny and otherwise pleasant this morning) and the folks (who would have been serving the usual Thursday dinner for Daniel and I, if only for Mom to keep in practice with cooking for herself once in a while), and let them all know I would be taking a sick day and staying home.

Do you remember how, back in the day, sick days weren’t a thing? Oh, sure, we would get sick as kids, but moms seemed to know how to deal with it (and were familiar with how kids might pass themselves off as sick to avoid school on a given day – one of the problems with my having a mother who’d studied to be a nurse), and sent us off regardless. Indeed, certain classmates might even catch grief from the rest of us for staying home at the slightest hint of a sniffle, rather than toughing it out.

College was even more so. After all, you were paying how much for each lecture? Better darn well show up, no matter how you were feeling, and get your money’s worth. Besides, professors never appreciated the question “I this gonna be on the test?” (translation: “Can we ignore this part of the lecture, and take a nap now?”), and might just say “no,” only to include it out of spite. You had to assume that anything being taught could be important, and take notes accordingly – and that meant showing up, in sickness and in health, like you were in a relationship with the class.

This ethos carried over into my work life, as well, you’ll recall. Part of it was because there was always work to be done, and deadlines to meet, but for a long time, they added an extra incentive to show up, no matter how you were feeling. We employees were given a certain number of sick days a year to use when we weren’t feeling well, but however many we didn’t use by the end of the year were paid out to us, as a sort of New Year’s bonus (which, given that it was a Japanese company I worked for, was actually somewhat culturally appropriate). So, as we were not exactly well-off during our first decade or so together, I would generally power through even my worst days in order to get that extra payment in the beginning of the following year – especially since it was perfectly timed to deal with Christmas gift expenditures.

Eventually, however, it was determined that I wasn’t the only one doing this sort of thing, and, seeing as the practice ran the risk of sick employees coming in to work and spreading whatever they might have to the rest of the staff (not an outcome that they would consider desirable), they changed their policy to require us to simply lose whatever sick time we hadn’t used by the end of the year. This got me at least to stay home when I was feeling like i am today, but not always – because those deadlines still hung over my head on a regular basis. As a result, I know I lost days just about every year thereafter, but hey… it wasn’t as if I could use them capriciously for a ‘mental health day’ or some such. I’d just be that much further behind the next day, after all, which would do no favors to that mental health, as far as I was concerned.


I alluded to the vows of marriage earlier; I’m still convinced that dealing with each other when each of you is fighting an illness is a pretty good test of character for a marriage. It’s not that one has to pamper the other, necessarily; no requirement for breakfast in bed, and certainly not a good idea to warm the other with your body at night – why run the risk of catching the cold at the same time, leaving you both incapacitated? Just a little understanding when they can’t do what they ordinarily would, and grant a little bit of slack to show it; sympathy rather than irritation, forbearance over frustration.

And a mug of hot tea would do wonders, as well.

You never complained when I would stay home, flat on my back from illness. Granted, that was probably in part because it didn’t happen unless I was obviously sick, at which point it wasn’t difficult to accept the situation. In turn, if you needed to be somewhere on a given day, I let you know that you should carry on as planned. There was even a family Christmas party you went to with Daniel while I stayed home, too ill to even sit up from bed. That was how I got colds back in the day.

This one, thankfully, doesn’t seem that awful. I’m at least ambulatory, and I’m going to take care of a few chores around the house (like laundry) that I’ve let slide by going to the ‘office’ every day. So, it isn’t as if the day is a complete washout.

And, speaking of washouts, Daniel had been informed, and is taking a semi-weekly bath, both in preparation for seeing the folks tonight without me, and in order to keep his distance from me, lest he catch what I have. He may have disdain and skepticism about the whole Covid flapdoodle, but he recognizes an actual illness and its symptoms when he sees (and hears) it. So, he’ll be carrying on the way you would have, while I do a few things you might still have done as well. It’s not easy without you, honey, but as each day and hour passes, we do our best to manage.

Until next time, keep an eye on me, and wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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