I read Liesl Schillinger’s review of “The Spare Room” in The New York Times Book Review this past Sunday, and was struck by his opening paragraph. He writes that childhood illnesses can be bittersweet. He says,
Memories of the common run of childhood illnesses can be bittersweet. Time blunts the edge of a strep throat, muffles the pound of an earache, smooths over the bumps and itch of chicken pox, elides the infant’s croup. What remains is a shadowy, soothing recollection of being fussed over and ministered unto. Over the years, several of my friends have confided their fantasies of being “invalids.” They didn’t wish for the pain and anxiety of a grave disease; instead, they imagined themselves vaguely, pitiably under the weather, surrounded by gentle Florence Nightingales, cooing and clucking, consoling them, babying them — freeing them, at least temporarily, from the responsibility of looking after themselves or bearing the blame for what had befallen them.
And I realized that was what I’d been hoping for when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a 14-year-old girl…someone to look after me, someone to pull me back from the nest and say, you can stay a while longer. And that I wasn’t alone, that others had wished for the same thing made me feel better, made me think I wasn’t so strange or needy after all.