The Rockwood Files: My so-called sick day

By Gwen Rockwood, mama of 3

Around 4:30 a.m. this morning, my stomach woke me up with an urgent message: “Get up or throw up.” So I got up. I wandered down the dark hallway, down the stairs and fumbled through the refrigerator until I found the cold can of ginger ale I’d stashed in the crisper drawer for an emergency like this. I sat down with my soda, put a cold washcloth on my forehead and faced two alternatives: Either I’m plain-old sick or I’m pregnant and sick. Which one is it?

After doing some quick mental math, I was 99 percent sure the sickness was the plain-old kind and not the nine-months kind. So I sipped my ginger ale, moaned about my headache and prayed I would not have to throw up.

At 8 a.m. I dialed my doctor’s phone number and asked for the earliest appointment. There was no time to lose – today was my son’s preschool graduation and I wasn’t going to miss it. He was scheduled to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” at the ceremony, and we’d been practicing for a week. But the receptionist said there were only three doctors working today and the earliest appointment was not until tomorrow.

I hung up more than miffed and wondered where all the doctors had gone. Didn’t they know that I was too busy to be sick today? Didn’t they know about the preschool graduation and my newspaper deadline and the laundry piling up?

Not to be outdone by a bunch of booked-up doctors, I decided to get through the graduation ceremony and go to a walk-in clinic afterward. Graduation went well, and my son did a bang-up job with his song, although he did slightly alter the last phrase when he sang “Merry, merry, merry, merry, life is but a dream.”

After graduation I walked into the clinic with my big ol’ pounding head and asked how long the wait would be. “An hour and a half to two hours,” she said. I walked back out. A two-hour wait would mean we’d have to miss the post-graduation picnic in the park – the one my 3-year-old had been looking forward to for weeks. I decided I’d try a different walk-in clinic later in the day.

After the picnic, I dropped the kids off at home and their dad took over so I could try again to see a doctor. I went to the Wal-MartSupercenter’s walk-in clinic down the street. At the counter was a sign that read: “Closed for staff meeting. Will reopen in one hour.” I went home again and forced myself to eat a baked potato in hopes it would ease my queasy stomach. An hour later, I was back at the walk-in clinic, but four people beat me to it and the wait would be at least another 45 minutes. The nurse handed me a pager and said I could walk around the store until it was my turn. So I wandered around with my sore, swollen head and hoped my stomach would not revolt against the baked potato. (Note to fellow shoppers: When you see someone in the Supercenter browsing while carrying a big, black numbered pager, give them plenty of sneeze space. They’re not there for groceries.)

Finally, the beeper beeped, and I rushed to the front of the store toward the clinic. I answered the sign-in questions and was all set to see the doctor when I noticed my watch: 2:38 p.m. My oldest son would need to be picked up from kindergarten in less than 10 minutes and my husband couldn’t do it. I had to go. With my most pitiful, sickly voice, I asked the nurse if she could hold my spot for the 20 minutes it would take for me to pick up my son and return to the clinic. Mercifully, she said yes.

After racing to school and back, I walked into the clinic at 3:05 p.m. with my 6-year-old in tow. He wasn’t too happy about the visit to the clinic, since he’d been hoping we could go to Wendy’s for an after-school frosty. A wonderful woman named Judy checked me over and, after ruling out pregnancy, confirmed that I was indeed plain-old sick with a nasty sinus infection. So we were off to the pharmacy with my prescriptions to wait for medicine.

As I drove away with my antibiotics, my son asked again if we could please, please go to Wendy’s (the way-across-town-in-five o’clock-traffic Wendy’s) so he could get a frosty. As much as I wanted to reward his patience for sitting through the doctor’s visit, I was exhausted and miserable. I told him we needed to go home because I was feeling very sick and I didn’t want to risk having my head explode from sinus pressure while waiting in the Wendy’s drive-thru. It wasn’t the answer he wanted. I said, “What’s more important? Taking care of Mom when she’s sick or getting a frosty?”

“Frosty,” he answered, stubbornly.

“Well that’s too bad because we’re going home. Helping someone who’s sick is more important than a frosty and you need to learn that,” I said, more than a little wounded that my firstborn would so casually pick ice cream over his own mother’s health. As we pulled into the driveway, he told me he wanted to “quit this house and this family,” so I sent him to his room. Neither one of us felt very “merry, merry, merry, merry” and life was definitely not a dream.

Half an hour later, we checked on our boy and found him asleep on his bed, which tells me he needed a nap even more than a frosty. Speaking of sleep, that’s exactly where I’m headed. I’m going to zip these words off to my editors, swallow my antibiotics and pray for sweet relief to come soon because, like I said 800 words ago, I don’t have time to be sick.