Sunday, July 11, 2010

Self-pity with a twist of Lyme

Shivering and sweating under a down comforter, I stared at the useless house phone in my hand, trying to figure out how I could use it to get some help. Or sympathy. Mainly sympathy.

We have no phone numbers stored in our house phone, which we’ve kept as a relic of a simpler era, a time when you could actually get stuck on the phone with people who weren’t even calling to talk to you.

“Oh, hi, Aunt Darla. No, Mom’s not here. Yes, I’d love to hear about your goiter.”

But with my cell phone stranded all the way upstairs, an impossible journey away on my weakened, beflanneled legs, my only hope for summoning my wife lay with our quaint little house phone, the telecommunications equivalent of a butter churn.

It’s often said that Einstein didn’t know his own phone number, so perhaps I can be forgiven for not knowing my wife’s. As I suffered on the couch, I sifted through digits in my mind, searching for a combination that sounded right. Remembering phone numbers is a skill that just isn’t relevant anymore, like knowing basic grammar, growing sideburns or wrestling bears.

It’s not that I don’t regularly call Kara. At the mall, our cell phones free me from the prison of standing outside the women’s dressing room, holding her purse. Now I’m allowed to wander off, a free range husband, stopping every fifteen minutes to press the button to dial “Kara’s Cell” and to say, “I’m walking past Auntie Anne’s for the fifth time. Are you done in there yet?”

“Just trying on two more things,” she’ll reply, and I’ll swear in the background I can hear the tap-tapping of the thimble making its way around the Monopoly board as Kara hurries to finish her game with the sales clerk. That’s the only possible explanation for what’s taking so long back there.

In the end, when I began to feel so sick that wetting the couch sounded like a pleasant alternative to standing up again, I had to humbly call my parents to ask for my wife’s phone number.

“Kara’s over at a friend’s house and I need someone to dote on me. Can you get me her phone number?” I asked.

After I explained that I couldn’t call Kara with my butter churn, Mom went off to grab the phone number. Just then, from our driveway, Kara pressed the button that makes the dog fly into a barking frenzy and also raises the garage door. I pulled the hood on my sweatshirt tighter to look extra pathetic when she came in.

As it turned out, I had gone from perfectly healthy in the afternoon to running a fever of 103 by the evening, setting a new personal best, though a dubious one, like the time I held it at summer camp for six days.

“It sounds like you have Lyme disease,” my mom said later, remembering her own bout with the illness. You get Lyme disease from an infected tick bite, which at first sounds awesome, like how Peter Parker turned into Spiderman, but instead of being able to shoot webs out of your wrists, you get flu-like symptoms and weird rashes.

In all seriousness, Lyme disease, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, is nothin’ to mess wit’. (For those familiar with the original Wu-Tang lyrics, forgive me for cleaning them up. This being a family publication, we’re not allowed to say “ain’t”.) But I wasn’t ready to accept Mom’s diagnosis, since a fever can be caused by a million things, like typhoids, cabins and Saturday night.

Mom did scare me enough to actually go see a doctor the next day, something I usually won’t consider doing while I’m still ambulatory. I’m still waiting for the blood test to come back, but since I’m feeling much better now, I suspect they’ll be negative, like my chances for getting any more pity.

You can get stuck talking to Mike Todd at

P.S. The test indeed came back negative for Lyme, so that's fantastic news for me, but it might also mean I had something wildly contagious. Sorry about that, everyone who came in contact with me last week.

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