The Male Sibling Unit has caught a cold.
This in and of itself is twice as bad as any man catching some mild virus. 99% of the male population suffers throughout mild maladies as if they are going through a severe and chronic illness. They are convinced that they have the Bubonic Plague and what’s worse than that is if they had a doting mother who took awesome care of them when they were sick little boys because now they have unrealistic expectations about how the females in their lives are supposed to treat them. Excuse me, but Fuck you, all you Donna Reeds of the past. You’ve made it way more difficult for the women of modern times to manage your precious little boys. You were supposed to have our backs and teach us how to be fearless, warrior-like and strong, but you raised man-pussies who can’t handle getting the sniffles and who think they are dying when they do. They groan. They mope. They whine. They turn into 6 year-olds. Was this all a part of your plan? Are you passive-aggressively getting back at us for the inequalities of the past by raising your sons to think they married nurses? You’ve greatly disappointed me.
Anyway, The Male Sibling Unit is a man, but not like all men. His disabilities make him unique in the most infuriating, exasperating ways. This, of course, is not his fault; the blame lies within my impatience and inability to just deal with it. I am, by nature, not a patient person. I am, however, mindful with him and I try….oh, how I try. I’ve got a higher threshold for it than our mother did; she of the saintly demeanor with everyone who knew her except for her own children. We knew the real person, and that real person had ZERO coping skills where the Male Sibling Unit was concerned. Hell, she barely had half a nerve where I was concerned, and I was a pretty average kid. She moved him into assisted living when he was 21 and never looked back. He was taken OUT of assisted living nearly 20 years later, when she passed away, because I made a solemn vow to always be his protector when he was little and it was time for me to do that. I don’t regret that decision for one second but I do wish that I had a few more ounces of patience when he really gets going.
The Male Sibling Unit has many little OCD tendencies. He is a narcissist by nature, which again is not his fault. It’s all a part of the disability. He simply does not have an empathetic bone in his body. Everything in the world that occurs around him is met with an “How does this affect me?” attitude. If I’m sick, he worries about himself. If there’s a natural disaster in another part of the country, he will listen to the little soundbytes about travel and maybe delivery routes being interrupted and worry that the trucks won’t be able to get to us and replenish the peanut butter at the grocery store. He is that self-absorbed. This can be hard to take, and some days, I’ll admit that I am not very good at letting it roll off my back. Some days, I vent on Facebook or I just lose myself in music or I piss and moan to the husband, who has a longer fuse where The Male Sibling Unit is concerned but who doesn’t have to handle his shenanigans nearly as much. See? Men. The fuckers.
On an occasion when The Male Sibling Unit is sick, though, it becomes much like when a kid is sick and has a big field trip or a special occasion coming up and they are afraid that they might miss out because they are ill. They tell you constantly that they feel fine or that they feel totally better and then you take their temperature and it’s 103.6 and they are sweating and coughing their little fool heads off and you have to make them get back into bed. That’s what it is like with The Male Sibling Unit, except that there usually is no special occasion. In his case, the special occasion is LIFE. Getting up, going to work, coming home, doing his chores, getting ready for the next day, having his dinner, watching tv. Mostly in that order….except when he has social outings. Then it is way worse, because he has to fit all of that and his social activities into the day. Asking him to skip part of the routine is cause for distress. The OCD takes over and before you know it, he has asked 10,000 questions and wrung his hands in worry and on an occasional instance, thrown an actual tantrum. He simply cannot deviate easily.
Tomorrow, he has the day off. That’s good, because he sounds like a cross between a bullfrog and a bleating goat. He is pale, tired, and irritable. He does not like to take medication unless it has been prescribed, and he has an abnormally high tolerance to pain so it is very hard to get him to admit to any discomfort. A few years ago, he had a painful bout of shingles. I have never had them, but those who have relate a pain so awful it is truly distressing to even contemplate. This was back when he was still living apart from us, and so he didn’t bother with telling anyone that he had a terrible rash on his back and sides and stomach. One day, his house parent noticed and took him to the doctor, who diagnosed the shingles and prescribed him painkillers to go with antibiotics. It was so widespread and angry looking that the doctor felt that The Male Sibling Unit must be in agony. Except that life just went on for him and he went to work and did his thing. On a dreary, freezing Saturday afternoon, we were driving home from getting groceries and saw him out walking. We stopped and asked him why he was out, what with having the shingles so bad? He shrugged, said, “I’m taking a walk,” and insisted that he was not in pain. He never took one painkiller, either. This high threshold for pain can be great, but it is also equally bad. I simply have no idea when he is really sick or not. He will insist he is fine, but he won’t be. If being sick means he will have to deviate from his routines, he will lie to me and say he is fine. I really have to be hypersensitive when I hear him cough or sneeze or make an odd noise.
Thankfully, he agreed with me easily when I asked him if his throat was sore, and he took Tylenol with no resistance. Now, though, the worries are assailing him and he is in turn assailing me with them. In a bullfrog goat voice.
“I’ll feel better tomorrow, right?”
“I’ll take a hot bath, okay? That will help.”
“Should I drink all my tea while it’s hot?”
“I hope I can go to STEPS (community center) tomorrow.”
“What if my throat is sore tomorrow?”
“What if I can’t go to STEPS? What will they say if I am not there?”
“Should I take more Tylenol?”
“Should the tea make me feel better?”
“I drank the tea and now I feel great!”
*Cough cough* *Throat clearing*
20 minutes later, after I have popped a Xanax, wished for some rum, dug my nails into my palms, and asked him to please please PLEASE just relax in his recliner and watch some tv, I wonder why he is quiet. (Yes. It’s that Mom reaction I will never be able to set aside.) I tiptoe into his room. He is fast asleep, his mouth hanging open as he snore-honks, the tv droning quietly in the background.