It happens at least once a year and I can almost always tell it’s coming by the anxious and questioning look on his face when he says “Hon…?” I wait for it.
“Why am I sick?”
After nearly three decades together, I’m still not sure if my husband actually wants me to answer this with some sort of comprehensive explanation of white blood cells, microorganisms, the causal correlation they have with viral infections and their substantial influence on human biology.
[Illustration: Wes Rand]
Or if it’s simply a rhetorical question meant to inspire me to call 911 or at the very least, tuck the blankets up under his chin and assure him in a soothing voice that he’ll live another day to take the garbage out.
As for me, I never question why I’m sick. Instead I need to know how I got sick and more important, who got me sick so that I can channel my scorching blame onto the individual responsible for the spontaneous expulsion of every fluid in my body, including some that I didn’t even know I was capable of producing.
Using fingerprint powder and an evidence collection kit, I’m compelled to retrace every step leading up to the first sniffle in hopes of identifying the unseen benefactor who coughed all over the grocery store credit card machine prior to checkout, leaving behind a germ inheritance for me to collect.
Even worse, though, is if the donor is someone I know. Someone who willfully stopped by my house, met me for lunch, or came home from school knowing that they were harboring some form of Dengue fever, and yet neglected to mention it.
This happened one year when a family member showed up to Christmas dinner with their son, who’d been throwing up in the preceding days and then used the old “It-Was-Probably-Something-He-Ate” excuse.
Let’s take a quick break for a pathology lesson right now. While I’m no doctor, I’m pretty sure that unless your kid has eaten a casserole of raw hamburger and uncooked eggs, he or she probably isn’t going to vomit for 72 hours from anything other than a stomach virus so highly contagious that everyone within a city mile should avoid eating tacos for the foreseeable future.
And in this instance, the child should not be allowed to leave the house unless in a decontamination tent being transported to the nearest quarantine base camp; let alone go out in public or attend family gatherings.
Anyway, shortly after Contagion Christmas, me, my husband, and both kids were simultaneously awarded an extended holiday with our household collection of plastic buckets.
We dined on clear fluids and saltines and when sitting upright was possible, we watched cartoons on the Disney Channel until one scene showed Winnie the Pooh swirling round, round, and around some more, holding a jar of honey and I had to run for the bathroom.
For nearly a week our house resembled a trauma center. People were randomly lying on the floor. There was excessive moaning, crying and pleas for it to end that only subsided when my husband napped.
Going forward, that incident marked a new chapter in my life, one I like to call the “Hand Sanitizer Years.”
No outing of any kind was permitted without a 2-liter bottle of Purell in tow and infection checkpoints were established at all family gatherings. If anyone was dripping, coughing, wheezing, sniffing or burping, they were turned away at the door.
Even so, there were still some occasional security breaches. Once, I caught a head cold so bad that I filled a kitchen-size Hefty bag with crumpled, wet tissues in under two hours, which I’m pretty sure qualifies as some kind of record. Not even toilet paper stuffed into my nostrils like makeshift sandbags and a tourniquet fastened around my neck could stop the surge.
I got over it, of course. But not before first passing it on to my husband.