Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Shouts and Murmurs: A day or two under the weather

January 23, 2002

Nowadays, it's a rare doctor who makes housecalls. And, it's a rare patient who expects them. But being my father's daughter, which means having grown up with the availability of minute-to-minute medical care, I found myself again last week experiencing a rare convenience a housecall.

Dad first saw me for my upper respiratory infection a week ago on Saturday afternoon. Even though he started me on an antibiotic then, a day later, my temperature rose and the congestion worsened. By Monday morning my husband, Fred, convinced me I would have to go into town again to see Dad, and he called to say we were coming. But to our surprise, Dad said he would come out to our house during his lunch hour.

Barbara Hardesty, Dad's assistant for 25 years, said she would come with him on the 12-mile round trip on one condition that he let her drive. Anyone who has ever driven behind my dad probably knows excruciatingly well that Dad always drives far below a posted speed limit. Once they arrived at our house, Dad chuckled about accepting Barbara's offer to drive, and he said: "She probably cut the driving time in half."

Meanwhile, my mother catered our household, first by bringing chicken pot pies, Sprite, Hostess Twinkies (comfort food) and later my ultimate comfort food tapioca pudding, homemade no less. She also picked up my prescriptions at the pharmacy, made sure I started on the new antibiotic Dad prescribed and, of course, reminded me in her reliably motherly fashion what vitamins I should be taking to prevent colds (vitamins A, C, E and zinc, in case you're wondering).

While all this scurrying was going on, I was doing all I could to get through the bronchitis plenty of rest, plenty of fluids. Monday I slept. Tuesday I worked at home for about six hours, scanning in negatives for the paper and writing a couple of stories, only stopping when our publisher, Caroline Trowbridge, e-mailed and said, "Go to bed." From then until Thursday morning, time blurred as I alternated between sleeping and walking to and from the kitchen to reheat the bag of dried corn that my sister-in-law, Mary Lorance, made. Zap it in the microwave for two minutes and it will keep you warm for an hour.

And then there were the books. I read a spy novel loaned by son-in-law David Barth, then part of a book about the perils of African big game hunting that our oldest son, John, had recommended, and I got a good start on "A Tale of Two Cities," by Charles Dickens. Finally by Thursday I was able to go back to work, healthier, well-rested and well-read.

But I couldn't help but wonder what do people do when they're sick and they don't have a dad like mine. I guess they have to sit in the doctor's office and wait. But, I hope, not for long.

Dad said he's seen a lot of people lately who are very ill, whether from colds or from influenza. It's not unheard of, he said, for patients to feel so miserable that they come to his office still wearing their pajamas and robe. Were it not for the benefit of his surprise house call, I must admit I might have considered that, too.

In finishing my week of survival, my parents continued their doting concern.

Late Thursday afternoon, Mom called me at the office to say she and dad were going to stop by with a family-sized meal for me to take home. What a nice surprise.

In our portable world, so many people live in towns far from their parents, and when things go wrong they can't just call and say, "Mom, I need help." Once again, I realized how lucky I am. Or as Barbara said when she made the housecall with Dad and saw the Twinkies on the table: "We never get too old to want our mothers to take care of us, do we."

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