Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.
Tennyson “The Lotus Eaters”
In 1957, when I was five, I came down with rheumatic fever and was bed bound for two months or maybe even longer. (I can’t remember, and there’s no one left living to ask). I do know it was long enough for me to have forgotten how to ride a bike.
During the period of my incapacity, my mother borrowed a piece of furniture designed especially for the bedridden called a secretary. With me propped up on pillows, my legs stretched out underneath, the secretary provided a platform for coloring, putting together puzzles, and playing board games (which adults allowed me to win out-of-pity). It also provided me a stage to perform plays with my Zorro hand puppet (complete with mask and cape). I can’t remember if there was another puppet or not. It seems as if Zorro monologues delivered by a lisping five-year-old affecting a Mexican accent might get pretty boring.
On the non-Humanities side, my uncle Jerry bought me an erector set, which was about as appropriate a gift as presenting Donald Trump with a copy of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. I recall lots of screws dropped, uncomfortably discovered when I rolled over, but I don’t remember a project ever being completed, which brings to mind graduate school and that phantom thesis on Auden’s poetry in relation to painting.
Anyway, I wonder if spending such a long period in bed with only 60 months-of -being to my name negatively affected my personality or character, if I can point a finger at my fifth year and blame rheumatic fever for my sloth.
This Sunday, for example, I felt like not getting out of bed (as opposed to not feeling like getting out of bed), like lying there the entire day, like maybe calling Bert’s Market to deliver some camphor-soaked handkerchiefs. I had essays galore to grade, sheets to wash, groceries to buy, a garage in desperate need of sweeping . . .
Got the lotus-eater’s blues,
Too lazy to put on my shoes . . .
[Not to be continued].