Monday, January 07, 2013

The suggestion of sickness--or, how are you feeling?

My dad had an assistant (he called her his secretary/receptionist but that was in the old days) who would say to him, “Are you feeling all right, Dr. MacBain? You look a little peaked.” By the time he got home, he was a sick man, anxiously asking my mother how he looked and saying he wasn’t sure he felt good. He came from a family that thrived on illness. As a newlywed, my mom dutifully wrote her mother-in-law and once mentioned that Dad had a slight cold. Immediately his mother and sister were on the phone, worried to pieces about him. Even he could see the folly: “Do not ever mention illness to them,” he told Mom.

Yesterday I woke with some sort of stomach bug, whether a real bug or something I ate or what I don’t know, but I was in and out of the bathroom from five until ten in the morning, and then I was wiped out. By one, I was back in bed for a nap. But always my mother’s daughter, I soldiered on, made potato soup for eight people, and hosted a Twelfth Night party (see Thought I felt okay if not great. My neighbor and I were in the kitchen when he asked “How was your day?” I confessed it was so-so, that I hadn’t felt well, and he said, “I can tell. You’re not your usual bubbly self.” Right then, I turned the wrong corner and began to wonder—if it was so obvious, maybe I didn’t feel as okay as I thought. Later in the evening, Jordan asked, “How are you feeling?” and Jay said, “She’s fading fast.” They all did the dishes and left with admonishments to go right to bed.

I would have told you it was midnight when they left, but in truth it was eight o’clock. I couldn’t have written or read a word if I wanted to, so I was in bed a little before nine. Slept, not soundly, for ten hours and feel better this morning but a little rocky still. More soup for lunch. Still, with Jacob’s help, I’ve gotten Christmas down and mostly put away and some computer work done.

So, was it really a bug or the power of suggestion or a bit of both? I don’t know, but I won’t say to someone, “Are you feeling alright? You don’t look well.”

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