Call the Doctor


Better make that the Pediatrician. Childhood diseases require specialized treatment, both for Junior and his terrified parents. While the parents panic, Junior, swathed in irresistible yellow footy pajamas, zipped up the front, with stitched ducklings on the lapels, seems perfectly able to weather the storm. There is that wrenching twenty-four hours of high fever, when Junior too closely resembles a waxen corpse. But as soon as the parents are in true danger of dying from panic, Junior is up, padding about the house, dragging his favorite teddy bear by a hind foot, raspberry cheeks from the fever glowing, looking quite fit again, fighting successfully for all the toys with his other siblings.


Childhood diseases should be restricted to children. Heaven help the adult that stumbles into a childhood disease germ cloud, with no previous immunity. Adults with paunches do not look good in footy pajamas, even if the pajamas are the proper size and a flattering color. Worse, no one cares when adults are sick. Your parents are already in heaven. If not, you have long since lost your charm in their eyes. You could try the teddy bear troll one more time…but it won’t work on your spouse. Your spouse is occupied taking care of Junior, who has the same malady.


The symptoms of the disease will include a head to toe rash, with itching severe enough to shame the efforts of an acres worth of chiggers, black flies and mosquitoes, combined with a severe loss of appetite. Shriveling away from the ravages of a childhood disease should be as good as going on the South Beach diet for a year, if only all the weight loss weren’t just in the elbows, knees, ankles and eye sockets. Not a single molecule of fat will shed from the waist (sadly, adult paunches don’t dress up swimsuits, either).


The real peril of childhood disease for adults is in the side effects. All the neighbors will be whispering (It’s almost worth being sick to turn Mrs. Birkenstocking’s volume down to a whisper). They are saying, “How sad. They always wanted a girl, but they had to settle for a dog. How sad that they ended up with four boys and a Jack Russell terrier.”  Keep mum. Don’t discuss the subject. You could float the rumor that you had a vasectomy just before you adopted the dog, but maybe you shouldn’t have named her Mumps.


If you contract a childhood disease late in life, say, any time between twenty- one and fifty-nine, stay focused; don’t succumb to the fever. Put a cold cloth on your forehead for the first twenty-four hours or so, then itch yourself all over till you ooze, so that you can start a really cool scab collection. Get out your credit card and order that remote control airplane kit you have always wanted. Yes, the big black and red Viper. The secret to weathering childhood disease is to end up with all the good toys.