Nothing chicken about this pox

I had the misfortune, early last month, of contracting chickenpox. According to history books, the origins of chickenpox date as far back as the 14th century. It is unclear where the disease got its name from. One theory is that it is called chickenpox due to its relatively mild nature, when compared to smallpox, a now eradicated disease with similar symptoms but a much higher mortality rate. That theory is bullshit. There is nothing chicken about chickenpox, at least not when contracted in adulthood. Now that we’ve established that fact, let me tell you a few conclusions I’ve reached after my experience with this truly awful disease.

First, let’s get this clear: the chickenpox people contract in childhood is not the same as the chickenpox others get as adults. Medical books would tell you that chickenpox is more severe in adults than in children, but I’m not talking about severity here. The chickenpox people told me they had when they were 6 or 7 and laughed about and said was over in about a week or less after rubbing calamine lotion cannot be the same disease I was afflicted with last month. Virologists may not know this yet, but there are 2 variants of the virus – the type that likes to pester kids and is little more than a nuisance, and its vengeful, malicious sister that only goes after the few of us that were lucky (actually, unlucky) to have escaped the former in childhood. For the purposes of this write-up, we would give to the variant of chickenpox that people contract in adulthood the fancy name “chickenpox AD”.

Chickenpox AD was invented by the CIA. No, I didn’t spend all my time in quarantine gorging on conspiracy theories, and I haven’t lost my mind either. But I am 100% certain about this: Chickenpox AD was deliberately created by a covert programme established by the CIA. I arrived at this conclusion, not through research, but intuition and very simple logic. First, chickenpox AD is not a creation of nature. Why? Because nature does not have the capacity to create a disease so evil, so virulent, so … ugh. Words fail me. Man on the other hand? We all know fully well man’s infinite capacity for evil. It’s a smoking gun really: if nature didn’t do this, then man must have. If it was man, of course we know who was behind it. Like we know who’s behind HIV, the Middle East crisis, Ebola, Africa’s underdevelopment and half of the problems of the world. The Americans of course!

After contracting chickenpox, you realize, in a very profound sort of way, that you are (or used to be) very good looking; you just didn’t know it then. By the time the outbreak of blisters on your face is full blown and you look into the mirror and Gollum stares right back at you, you would realize – in that brief, illuminating moment – how beautiful you once were. My recommendation for anyone that is insecure with their appearance: a healthy dose of chickenpox AD with concentration on the face. You would be grateful to have your face (or a semblance of it) back when the blisters have scabbed over. By the time my black spots have completely faded – I hear this can take as much as a year (chai!) – I’m sure I will think I look like David Beckham.

One of the most remarkable ironies of chickenpox is that it is when you have it that some people will insist on visiting you. Now, that anyone would want to visit someone with a highly contagious disease that requires being in quarantine makes little sense, right? Well, so does the way of the world. I am not talking about the kind visits of genuinely concerned close family and friends. God bless them. No, I am talking about that guy that has been asking you out for several months but you’ve kept turning down. He would want to come around, offer his sympathy from the safety of a few metres away, while thinking to himself: so this babe can look ugly like this? Thank God she never gree sef. Who knows what her face will be like after this. Or that busybody neighbor that is a nurse, who takes the saying “seeing is believing” a little too literally, and would insist, in spite of your assurances that you have chickenpox, on visiting you to confirm it with her own eyes.

Apparently, everybody and their dog has had chickenpox at some point in their lives. The standard response from folks to my disclosure that I had chickenpox was that they too, their spouse, sister-in-law and third cousin had had it too. Although most people appear to have had it in childhood, several people contracted it in adulthood like me, and were willing witnesses to how awful the disease is when contracted in adult life. I don’t know whether those stories made me happy or sad. They may have been meant to provide some “you are not alone in this” consolation, but at that time I would have given anything to have roles reversed and be the one consoling the other person. Anyway, now that I’ve had mine – and survived it – I wear my survivor badge proudly around my neck and look forward to the day I have a first opportunity to comfort someone with my “oh dear, so sorry about that; I also had chickenpox in er .. yeah it was June of 2015”.

I emerged from my experience with chickenpox generally a more grateful person. The denial, during the period that you are infectious, of little liberties we often take for granted – a hug from your spouse, carrying your child in your arms, taking an evening walk in your neighbourhood – generally leave you a little more appreciative. I’ve told some folks that in order to ensure that Damisi – my 19 month old son – didn’t get infected, my wife locked me up in a dungeon in the basement of the house and passed food to me under the door. That, of course, is a joke – but that was how my 10 or so days of isolation sometimes felt. I am still haunted by the bewilderment in Damisi’s eyes that evening he innocently ran towards me – expecting me to sweep him up in my arms and I had to literally flee from him. It almost took having to get a certificate of discharge from a government hospital for my wife to readmit me into our bedroom. I cannot remember any other time sleeping on my own bed had felt so good.

The word “affliction” has several definitions in most dictionaries. One of its definitions in the Free Dictionary is “a condition of pain, suffering, or distress”. I don’t know why the writers of dictionaries bother with so many words. If I ever get to write a dictionary, here’s how I would define the word “affliction”:

Affliction

noun \ə-ˈflik-shən\ Chickenpox AD.

 

Little man, big drama

I’ve wanted to write about babies and the delightful quirks associated with them for some time. It is fitting in a sense that this post coincides with the end of a week in which my wife – for the first time since Oluwadamisi, our son, was born – has been away from him for an extended period of time. In the two nights that she’s been back, boy, have we seen some drama! Here’s some insight – from the perspective of a 10-month-old father – into the complicated, mind-boggling world of babies.

Toys

Look at this poor fella...
Look at this poor fella…

Let me give parents-to-be some free, useful advice: don’t waste your hard earned money on those things they call toys. As far as babies are concerned, they are an utter waste of money. Invest instead in durable and inexpensive mobile phones, remote controls and laptops, for these are the things babies find most attractive. They ignore the splash of red and green easily within their reach and instead gun for the TV remote control – in all its majestic blackness – that you had tucked away where you thought they wouldn’t notice it. It is as though they can tell that all those brightly coloured toys are cheap and worthless. Having a baby is expensive enough, save some money on toys until they are toddlers.

Sleep

Don’t be deceived by those cute pictures of babies in blissful slumber; it is often hard work to get them to sleep. Generally, with adults, the more tired one is, the easier it is to fall asleep. Not so with babies. The more exhausted they are, the crankier they are. The crankier they are, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. Twisted baby logic. There’s a lot of drama with babies, but the drama that comes with sleep trumps them all. They want to be rocked and nursed to sleep, and they don’t care if it’s 3 in the morning. On other days, they wake up at 4 am, wanting to play.

IMG_1362
Don’t I just love when he is like this

Picture this: after two uninterrupted hours of turning the living room upside down, it looks like Damisi has finally worn himself out. I pick him up, sling him over my shoulders and begin pacing about the room. Ten minutes later, I spy his shut eyes in the mirror. Just to be sure, I pace about for a few more minutes. I go up to the bedroom and place him, gingerly, on the bed. He is now fast asleep. I shut the bedroom door gently behind me and go back downstairs, already relishing the prospect of an hour or two of serenity whilst he is asleep. Five minutes later, I return to the bedroom to get my internet dongle and there he is seated upright on the bed, wide-eyed. My wife calls them “power naps” – short, intense 5 – 10 minutes of sleep that leave him reinvigorated, fully charged for another couple of hours of wearing himself and everyone else out. If ever there was a misnomer, “slept like a baby” is one.

Living on the edge

It is true that the intrinsic nature of man is to be disobedient and it is that which is forbidden that we are most drawn to. Damisi has convinced me that much. I’ve already talked about how babies are drawn more to remote controls than to their toys, but their proclivity for danger and the forbidden goes beyond this. Enjoy those first few months when you can leave your baby somewhere and return to find her in exactly the same spot. As soon as they can crawl, babies are all about living dangerously. I find it perverse that it is the things that pose the greatest risk to them that they are most bent on playing with – wires and electric sockets are easy examples. They never stay in the middle of mum and dad’s king-sized bed to play; rather you are most likely to find them precariously at the edge of the bed, one turn away from falling over and landing on the floor with a thud. The edge of the staircase; the top of the center table; the base of the standing fan: these are the little ones’ favourite places to play.

Crying

They say babies only cry when they are hungry, tired, frightened, upset or in discomfort. That is not entirely correct. They also cry for no reason at all; or if we must attribute a reason, because they are babies and crying is what babies do. It is this last category of crying that tests my patience the most. The others I perfectly understand and can accommodate. On those occasions when I am convinced Damisi is crying for no reason at all, I sometimes wish we could leave him to cry, just so as to find out how long he can keep it going. Luckily for him, his mum would never give me a chance to see this evil experiment through. Come to think of it, why didn’t I try this out whilst she was away?

… & some more drama

As a general rule, babies are most comfortable, when adults are in the most discomfort. How else does one explain the fact that they find it easiest to fall asleep, when someone is carrying them whilst standing or walking about? In some cases, the instant you attempt to sit to rest your aching back, they begin to fuss. You return to an upright position, and they go back to being quiet. You can almost hear them say: I’m not asleep yet; how dare you sit.

They also seem to have a knack for disrupting intimacy. I’m sure a lot of couples can relate to this. If they are not waking up whilst you guys are just about to get it on, they make sure they successfully wear you out beforehand. Why does it have to be the night you put a bottle of wine in the fridge and are looking forward to having the missus to yourself that your little one decides not to go to sleep without creating a fuss? Almost as if they have an inkling that what you guys are up to could result in another baby that would take their place in the pecking order, and are not prepared to take any chances.

Oluwadamisi
Oluwadamisi

It has to be one of life’s great mysteries how one so little has turned our lives completely upside down. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything else on earth. To my little man: here’s to loads of more drama.

Photo credits:

1. “Look at this poor fella” – Olutola Bella

2. “Don’t I just love when he is like this” – Olutola Bella

3. “Oluwadamisi” – Olatoun Okunnu