Trust me on this. It is worse than ants at a picnic, a trip to the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine, your parents announcing their “trial” separation and the local pool being closed for renovation. Imagine someone cancelling Christmas, your birthday or missing the Powerball by one number and you will have a slight sense of what it is like to be flat on your back for the three most glorious months of the year.
I still get a little queasy when I think about that cruel summer of 1986. I was 13-years-old, just out of the eighth grade, and ready to party only to be stopped cold by the news that somehow, I’d managed to contract a condition known to one and all as the “kissing disease.”
“Who have you been kissing?” my mother teased when the doctor announced my diagnoses.
“No one!” I shot back, praying she wouldn’t press the issue. There was an older boy I’d been seeing secretly for a month, but it didn’t seem like a good time to implicate him in the matter.
The world grew bleak as I listened to the doctor explain that, most likely, the accelerated end-of-school-year-commotion probably caused my condition and that I needed to limit my activity. He proceeded to give us a list of restrictions that were so comprehensive, he might as well have said, “Just sit there and do nothing.” I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t see my friends. I had to go to bed early. I’m here to tell you, it was like being grounded without having done anything wrong in the first place. On the other hand, I didn’t have any chores or responsibilities and my parents actually expected me to lie around the house and in sleep in on a regular basis. Like Charles Dickens once said: It was the best of times; it was the worst of time.
I’ve heard tell that several famous people had profound, and life-changing experiences when afflicted with mono during their teenage years. Ann Wilson, for example, was given a guitar which she practiced as she convalesced when she was my age and it ultimately led to her joining Heart, writing several hit songs, enjoying long lasting music career and even being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lucky her. All mono did for me is bore me to tears and force me to think up new and creative ways to break all the rules.
I’m not proud of that fact and I don’t condone my behavior, but do you really blame me? After two weeks of watching old I Love Lucy reruns on TV, I was going stir crazy. I started sneaking out just after my mother called from work to check on me in the morning and I would not come back until an hour before she pulled in the driveway each night. While I can’t recall where I went or what I was up to during those little furloughs, I’m sure I felt I was making up for all the fun I was missing out on at night and on the weekends.
To play fair, my parents were no better. After booking our first trip to Orlando that summer, my mother was not about to cancel the non-refundable vacation and decided that against our doctor’s orders, I was “well-enough” to travel. Nice justification there, Mom. (Can I just say that the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree?)
To this day, I am amazed that I didn’t end up in the hospital. Between the trip and my own sneaking around, I should be dead, or at the very least, have a permanent case of Epstein Barr’s. Still, whenever I look back at pictures of that time, I rarely cringe at my ‘80s hair or how sick and tired I look. Rather-I smile and remember what a great summer it turned out to be.