By Jim Rosenberg
When one of the boys gets sick, it affects our whole family.
With David and Jacob, we have each end of the bipolar sickness mood
line. Allow me to use the dog analogy, first explained by me to Barbara
at 3 in the morning while David uncorked a fabulous night of whine
tasting. David is the classic "Big Mopey Dog" -- he gets all tired,
feverish, and pathetic. He just wants to be held and occasionally
whimper. This is sad, but not too sad. Barbara has always had the "80%
Theory" about David: he would be perfect if he were 80% of what he is
now. I don't like to ask her too much about the theory, because I
believe it extends to other, adult people living in the house, some of
whom may be typing this right now. Jacob is the "Little Yappy Dog" --
he squirms and squawks and lures you right up close to him so he can
issue the "Begin Spewing" command -- or at least open his bottomless
mucous spigot and drain it onto your suit jacket.
I often take the boys to the pediatrician, which is a stressful
experience. First, David can be counted on to mother me. Despite our
almost genderless family structure, David is deeply suspicious of my
nurturing ability, and keeps mental track of my failures in this
department. "Daddy," he begins. "Don't forget to take the checkbook.
Last time, you didn't take the checkbook. Last time, that frowny-face
lady said you owed money. Last time, you said you'd remember the
checkbook..." Okay, okay! I'll remember the checkbook, now get off my
back you three year old nag!"
I am typically the only man at the place, except for parents who are
obviously on their first visit with a newborn -- before the men have had
time to come up with the really good excuses ("Must hunt food. Must
kill beast."). When I open the door to the waiting room, the women look
up and gasp as if it's Elvis.
I cannot let it bother me, because my mind is 100% occupied with the
instructions Barbara gave me. She, and only she, knows *exactly* what
to tell the Doctor in order to get the medicine. This information is so
complicated I've got to keep repeating it to myself so I don't forget
(mucous green, fever for at least four days, poor appetite; mucous
green, fever for...). If I mess up, I've got to grab a Doctor, hold my
mechanical pencil up to his throat, and shout to the whole office:
"Okay, everybody chill. Just give me the pink antibiotic stuff and
nobody gets hurt. That's right, nice and easy."
When David is being examined, he lets up on lecturing me and starts
bossing around the Doctor for a bit. "You forgot to look in my ears to
see if they're pink," he says -- barely hiding his disgust. I enjoy the
break, and usually get a sympathetic look from the Doctor. Jacob, on
the other hand, screams from check in to check out at the top of his
lungs. When he is actually being examined, he hits a Minnie
Ripperton-like high note which shatters the glass covering the Doctor's
diploma. Then, he looks at me as if I've sold him out.
I love the boys' pediatrician. He is an older doctor who I like to call
"Metaphor Man." He has long since abandoned the awkward jargon of most
physicians, and replaced it with a mind-blowing repertoire of metaphors
for every possible sickness. I can't wait to get to the end of the
visit so he can let me have it, in all it's vivid glory: "Mr.
Rosenberg, David's cold here is like a train. We could try to run next
to it as fast as we can, but all that would do is get us tired.
Instead, we could let it run its course and guide it as best we can in
the right direction." I have a weakness for this sort of stuff, and
this guy is an absolute master. Every time I leave the office, I
rededicate myself to becoming a more colorful writer.
The problem is, when I get home Barbara asks me "what did the Doctor
say?" My answer is usually "don't run next to a train." This doesn't
sit well with the Mrs., who doesn't appreciate metaphors the way I do,
and simply wants Jacob to stop retching on her navy blue wool blazer.
I'm getting better at the sick thing, but I know I've still got a long
way to go.