It dawns about as slowly as the pox start to form. At first, you shake it out of your mind's Plausibility File -- nope, too unlikely. But those bumps don't lie. Sooner or later, you are faced with the awful truth:

You are an adult, and you have the chicken pox.

It happened to me last week, about 30 years after it should have.

No, the baby wasn't in any danger. Her mother had the good sense to have gotten chicken pox as a child. She thus passed her immunity along through mother's milk.

And no, I have no idea either where I got it or why I didn't get it as a kid like every other human being. All I can tell you is that the doctor chuckled a little when he looked me over. "They don't have you in the medical books," he said. It wasn't exactly the distinction I'd been dreaming about.

In case you've forgotten, there's no treatment for chicken pox. You simply stay out of communication with the rest of the world until you're not contagious any more.

For me, that meant reading six weeks worth of saved magazines, answering letters I'd expected to forget about answering and figuring out which afternoon radio program I liked best. I hadn't listened to the radio at the same time on four consecutive afternoons for years.

But worst of all were the jokes.

I got bored with explaining that it's mumps that can make adult men sterile. I got tired of people telling me that, in my case, it had to be the turkey pox, because I was one.

I absolutely deny that Some Divine Being got even with me for having to read nine weeks worth of Children's Hospital columns. And if I hear again how much my skin resembles an acne-infested teen-ager's, I'll burst.

In any case, as the cowboys say, I'm back in the saddle again. I may not look so terrific, and I've felt greater. But it's good to be back