Faking Illness

Tales of Vashon

“Mom, I’m not feeling well.  Can I stay home?”  “You get up and have some breakfast and you will feel better,” was Mom’s reply.  She always could see through our ruses to get out of going to school.

“I snuck the heating pad out of the drawer and put it on my forehead, so when Mom came to check my temperature, she could see that I was burning up.”  Mom saw through all our attempts to prove that we were too sick to go to school.  My sister Molly stuck the thermometer under the hot water tap to raise the reading before calling to Mom—it too didn’t work.”

John Sweetman rubbed witch hazel on his head, “To fake a fever, because it kind of burned.  I thought it was ‘hot stuff’…It turned out to lower my temperature because of the alcohol and in addition, my Mom smelled it and busted me.”  Off to school he went.

There were consequences for this fakery, as one morning several weeks after this incident of faking illness, John was really sick with what turned out to be chicken pox. Initially John’s mother was skeptical but after the ritual laying of hands on the forehead and testing, the mercury thermometer came out of the glass tube full of alcohol and was shaken down
in a menacing way, as his Mom said.. “You better not be trying that fake trickery again !”

After directing John to keep the thermometer under his tongue for 2 minutes, the results clearly showed that his illness was not fake.  His mom stripped all his clothes off and a body inspection revealed the tell tale red spots of chickenpox.  He was immediately given a bath with Epsom salts and sent off to quarantine which at that time consisted of being banished to an unfinished spare room and having no contact with anybody, other than his mother who applied all the home herbal  remedies at hand in those times. He still remembers the bitter taste of dandelion soup, slightly made better by the chicken broth. Recovery was fast and while in isolation he read and reread every comic book he had over and over. There was some sniveling about being too far away to hear the radio and enjoy his favourite evening adventure program, although he could hear faint noises in the background. After being released on parole to the general family company, his sister filled him in on radio adventures of the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger.

There were times when one of us would come down with the measles or chickenpox both of which are very communicable and Mom would wash the sick child’s dishes and utensils and store them separately to keep the disease from spreading.

I know of someone who used a hairdryer to raise the temperature of his forehead so his Mom would think he had a fever.

If you waited to complain of being sick and got to school, it was too late for Herpicide, an old time dandruff remedy that purportedly killed dandruff and stopped baldness.  You would be sent to the nurse who would take your temperature and call your mother if it wasn’t close to bus time, to come and take you home.   If the bus came in the morning and you dawdled on the way to the bus stop because you felt sick, “It was too late for Herpicide”.  Brother Mike tried this one day and took a bottle of mustard into the laundry room where he mixed the mustard with water in the wash basin and drank it to make himself throw-up, to prove to Mom that he was really sick.  The mustard trick did not work and Mike was in trouble again.

“I am down sick with a cold or the flu or something else and have no one to complain to or blame for my being sick which has been going on for two weeks.  Writing about our ‘childhood capers’ takes the boredom out of what is another beautiful day on the banks of the Salish Sea.”