Editor’s Notebook: The good old (sick) days

June 8, 2022 5:38 am

The beach chair by the river. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

I remember being sick a lot as a kid. High fevers, ear infections, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis – an all-star cast of illnesses that would interrupt the routine of childhood for a week or two from time to time. There were many missed school days, marked by sleeves of saltine crackers and glasses of ginger ale on the nightstand, and hours upon hours of daytime TV: “The Price is Right,” “Donahue,” “Ryan’s Hope,” and reruns of “The Rat Patrol,” “McHale’s Navy,” and “Hogan’s Heroes” on the fuzzy UHF stations out of Boston.

I can recall much of the misery and some of the pain – especially those earaches – but most of all I remember the boredom. I was an outdoor kid, a baseball player and intrepid explorer of our patch of southern New Hampshire, and in between fever dreams the time within those walls hardly moved at all. 

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, my sister would show up at my door sometime after 3 p.m. with a stack of makeup work she had picked up from my teachers.

Sick days are different in adulthood – as any adult will tell you. Job and family responsibilities demand attention regardless of how you’re feeling, especially for those without paid sick days or health insurance. I’m fortunate to have both, but some chores are more difficult to delegate than others. So you never really get the chance to be bored in your room – you just do as much as you can between rising and falling into bed and hope it’s enough.

I started feeling sick on Memorial Day. Despite the fact that one of my daughters had tested positive for COVID-19 the week before, I told myself the overall feeling of yuck was probably allergies, or mild dehydration, or maybe I just hadn’t been sleeping well. This self diagnosis seems ridiculous in retrospect, but I had gone two-plus years without contracting the coronavirus and was certain that I had some sort of genetic advantage or had acquired superimmunity thanks to the vaccine. So after doubling down on the allergy/dehydration theory, I took an Allegra and began frantically rehydrating – while also isolating myself. After many, many ounces of water – and many, many trips to the bathroom – the chills came. And then the fever. And then the body aches. And then the cough. 

I tested positive on Wednesday morning, and throughout the week the symptoms would come and go except for one constant companion: fatigue. I could not sleep enough. And then, just like that, on Saturday I felt pretty good. I felt even better on Sunday. So good, in fact, that after some light chores and a light lunch, I sat in a beach chair with a beer by the river just to feel like myself again.

The sun was perfect, and the IPA tasted – disgusting. I poured it out and tried a lager. Gross. Apparently COVID – killer of millions around the world – has a sense of humor.

It’s day nine as I write, and the cough and fatigue, both mild, have settled in once again. I say that not as a complaint but out of respect for COVID’s persistence. I’m doing what I can to get better within the bounds of adulthood, napping whenever possible and drinking a lot of water and green tea. 

If things go south from here, I know what to do. I’ll set up the saltines and ginger ale on the nightstand, and track down an old pair of rabbit ears and a dusty television with knobs to adjust the color and picture. And then I’ll climb under the covers, pop a cherry-flavored cough drop, and spend hour after endless hour in the static with Phil Donahue, Bob Barker, and Ernest Borgnine. 

I’m no doctor, but experience tells me COVID doesn’t stand a chance against the boredom of an ailing ’80s kid. 

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Dana Wormald
Dana Wormald

Dana Wormald, a lifelong resident of New Hampshire, has been a newspaper editor for more than 25 years. He began his career on the Concord Monitor’s news desk in 1995 and later spent more than a decade at the New Hampshire Union Leader. In 2014, he returned to the Monitor to serve as opinion editor, a position he held until being named editor of the Bulletin.