Jackson Biko has man flu, something his father and forefathers never even knew
existed, let alone succumbed to…
Growing up I never saw my old man fall sick. Men of his generation seemed to have more important things to do than get ill. While us kids – Mom included – fell prey to malaria, flu, common colds, sore throats and all those annoying maladies, Dad remained unmoved by any disease. He never once took the day off to sleep. Never saw him toss a tablet at the back of his throat. I heard him sneeze, yes, maybe even cough, but that was it. He kept clear of doctors even though he didn’t subscribe to that old adage of the proverbial ‘apple a day’. This was way before the term ‘under the weather’ became a common phrase, used abundantly now by men who were laid low by a little sniffle.
Men of that era refused to see doctors. It seems that admitting that you were sick enough to see a doctor was a show of weakness. So they would feel aches and pains and they would say it was nothing and brave it out until either they collapsed one day or the diseases gave up and looked for a weaker host. The very closest they would come to seeking medical attention was perhaps to rub liniment on a sprained ankle. And when you heard that one of them was in hospital, you knew he had one foot in his grave.
You’d imagine that we’d take a leaf out of that generation’s book. But most of us didn’t learn anything from their stoicism. Now we watch House MD and Doctors and all those medical TV shows that make us more aware of our mortality. We can’t even handle a hangover. We stay in bed the whole day nursing it, and when we finally leave the bed we look like we just recovered from acute appendicitis. But even worse, we just can’t handle small levels of discomfort. Like a common cold. Or a little cough. We take days off cuddling with a cup of hot water and lemon, sniffing and staring at our past through red-shot eyes. We take days off just because of coughs. We have so much faith in doctors, yet that love is not reinforced with trust, because for all that love we can now check their diagnoses on Google. Google is the new medical school. Someone has to check up on these folk in white.
I’m writing this after I have just got off the phone with my old man. He asked me what I was doing in the house at 11am on a Monday and I said I had a bad flu. There was a pause in the line, that pregnant pause that suggested that I had failed him, and our entire clan by extension.