I had planned to write a family story for today’s post, but life has a way of changing one’s plans. My husband and I spent the last week nursing each other through gastroenteritis.
Al came down with it first, and for two days I made him tea, toast, and chicken soup. His reaction to stomach bugs is to eat his way through them. (For a fictional version of this trait, see my story “Twenty-Four Hour Bugs” in A Shaker of Margaritas: A Bad Hair Day, published by Mozark Press.)
The whole time he was sick, I cringed whenever I went near him. I knew my turn was next. And sure enough, in the middle of the night Friday it hit like a freight train. There went my weekend.
But unlike my husband, my tactic is to quit eating as soon as I feel ill. All I wanted was water. Saturday afternoon I upgraded my diet to tea and soda crackers with disastrous effects. Back to water for the rest of the day.
So, when I was supposed to be researching and writing a blogpost for today, I was curled into a fetal position wishing I were dead. Not really, of course, but close to it.
And Saturday night, when we were supposed to be attending the gala fundraiser for Children’s Mercy Hospital, I was dressed not in finery, but in blankets.
Thankfully, stomach viruses are short-lived beasts, though they pack an impact while they live. Today, the world is a brighter place.
And now that I have a more philosophical outlook on life, I’ve been thinking about the attitudes toward dealing with sickness in our family.
My dad used to say when he’d come home to croupy kids, “I live in a house of pestilence.” He tried to stay away from sick children, especially when it was chicken pox, which he had never had. And he never got it from his kids, despite two rounds of it in the house, each involving two children.
My mother had to cope with all our childhood illnesses, but I don’t recall her soothing hand on my brow. She mostly just left us alone in bed. I complained of boredom when I had the mumps. She handed me Pride and Prejudice. “Here, read this.” I did, and it’s still one of my favorite books.
When I was in high school and babysitting the toddler across the street, who had upchucked in her bed, I called Mother. I didn’t have a clue what to do. Mother did the laundry while I cleaned the kid. Neither of us got an extra tip. A few years later when I was home from college and babysitting my little brother, who also upchucked in his bed, I returned the favor, and had everything clean when my parents got home.
One of my favorite memories of my husband involves him and our sick daughter. She’d been ill, and woke up in the middle of the night wanting apple juice. I didn’t think that was a good idea, but Al is a soft touch. They started down the stairs to the kitchen. Two steps down, she started to vomit. He sat on the top stair with her between his legs while she threw up in the towel I quickly brought. That was one of the moments when I realized I’d married a good man.
In sickness and in health . . . There’s a reason it’s in the marriage vows.