I'm one of seven children, and growing up, we were quite used to my dad's creative bending of the truth. While he was stringently against lies- even to the point where he felt the socially beneficial white lie was wrong- he was not above exaggeration. Dad was a postman for the better part of his working career, and with that particular occupation came a dislike of dogs. It came to the point where he'd come home with the latest story of an encounter with a dog, talking about the hound as if it was a foul beast ten feet long, breathing fire and blasting through brick walls. "It was a killer. I'm lucky I got home alive," he'd say of his latest brush with death. "It nearly took my leg off."
Dad also tended to think of sickness as something that was all in your head. "Go for a walk," he'd say. "In no time you'll feel better." Meanwhile, we'd be running fevers, coughing, or whatever else that Mom had kept us home from school for. However... once he would be sick on occasion, well, that flair for exaggeration would come right back in with a vengeance. "Oh, no one's ever been as sick as this," he would groan, curled up in bed fighting off a stomach bug or a cold, acting as if the world was coming to an end, or as if somehow his sickness was worse than, oh... the Ebola virus.
Several years ago, Dad had an accident up at the home where he and Mom had moved to after retirement. He'd been puttering around the property, handling a ladder in a place where he shouldn't have been, and he took a fall. It took months of recovery for him to get back to something resembling the active guy he always was, the one still walking several kilometres a day. Those first few weeks were painful ones for him, where for the most part the only movements he would be making would be from the living room to the bathroom. My mother stayed close by, worried about him, and gradually with time he started to pick up. But it was a long road.
A few days after the accident, my sister, her husband, and their son came up for a weekend. This was before the marriage imploded (you've occasionally heard me reference an idiot ex-brother-in-law? This is the guy). It seems they didn't take Dad's pain as all that serious, because they kept trying to coax him into coming out to the fire pit on the property for a campfire. This mere days after a traumatic fall. I suppose Dad's talent for exaggeration might have fuelled that frame of thought on their part, but when I first saw him some weeks later and he was recovering, I had no doubt how serious it had been. For one thing, he wasn't going on about how it was the worst pain of all time. I could see the effect of it on him. Why did my sister and her ex not? Is it callousness? Is it an inability to ask the question, "is there anything we can do to help?" Given the events of the past couple of years, and how much I've come to understand about both of them, I'd say it's both.
Well, I've been ill the last week. I'm getting over a particularly nasty cold. It started last Tuesday, with the full gauntlet: nose dripping like a faucet, sore throat, headache, congested chest, and painful cough. Usually a cold gets clear of my system inside twenty four or forty eight hours. This one I'm still feeling the remnants of six days later. Usually with colds, I will head out and about for the day, get done what needs to be done, and get on with it. I imagine that might at least have part of my father's influence to it: that it's better to just get out there and do something, even if you do feel utterly miserable.
It's something that perplexes my partner in crime and fellow writer Norma, who thinks I should stay in, sleep it off, get as much rest as I can. She's right. I've thought about that in these last few days, and it occurs to me that one other reason that I do go out, even when I'm sick is that I'd feel cooped up to stay at home all day. I'd feel restless staring at the proverbial four walls. And so I'm compelled to go. Unlike Dad, I won't say that this cold has been the worst cold anyone has ever had, bar none, in the history of the world. I can't recall having a cold that's taken this much out of me personally though. That's fair to say isn't exaggeration.
Next time I'll be back with my more usual brand of mischief and anarchy, I promise. It's just peculiar the things you get to thinking when you're up half the night sneezing.