I like to think I’m not a superstitious person, but there is one area of my life where I’m as superstitious as they come.
Health. Specifically, the health of my wonderboys.
Which is why, when I am asked the question – and believe me it happens more than you might think – ‘so, have you guys managed to stay healthy’ or some version thereof, I visibly cringe, fully aware of what’s about to come my way.
Whenever I’m asked ‘that question’, it just so happens that my kids have been paragons of health. Perhaps the odd sniffle or runny nose, but nothing resembling what one might call ‘illness’. And then, some well-meaning conversationalist wrecks it.
As soon as ‘that question’ is uttered, I have to count but one, two, three (days) and, 99.9% of the time, someone will be sick. Multiple someones.
On Sunday, I was asked ‘the question’ and on Wednesday (less than 72 hours later), two of my boy-children stayed home from school. One being legitimately ill and the other riding on the coattails of his brother’s ill health; doing his best to cough at fairly regular intervals so as to remind those present that he is, indeed, sick.
Perhaps you recall that little video on youtube from several years ago about the ‘Man Cold’? That’s pretty much my life. Cubed.
The professor called me on Wednesday afternoon. He wasn’t feeling well. By the time he got home, he was convinced he was about to die. Literally. As in, when our youngest boy snuggled with his ill father on the couch, the professor said ‘this will be my last snuggle before the grave.’
For the next almost forty eight hours, he was either confined to the couch or the bed. Sipping orange Gatorade and mumbling about how he had the bird flu.
It got me thinking. When you’re a woman with children and you happen to get sick – and very, very sick at that – you might get 24 hours of confinement. After that, all bets are off. Children no longer care when told ‘mommy is sick leave her alone’, the house is threatening to implode and no one’s eaten anything but boxed macaroni and cheese or pancakes.
Up, you must. Because, let me be perfectly honest (and hit upon another difference between genders) lying in bed for more than 24 hours makes you feel terrible. Or, at the very least, not any better. Getting up, moving around, taking a shower, these are the things that make you feel like you’re still in the land of the living. At least when you have the double X chromosomal configuration. When you’re XY? There’s nothing better than a bed or a sofa. Preferably with some sort of professional sports playing in the background or something streaming from Netflix. You don’t even have to watch whatever’s on – just lie back, enveloped by sound and see how long it takes before someone forces you to get up and put on a clean sweatshirt already.
The professor got 48 hours. And then he knew: the gig was up. Mostly, anyway. I mean, the ‘bring me stuff to eat and drink because I’m sick’ gig won’t end for at least 72 hours after illness began.
Just as the professor got up from his sickbed, the fourth Johnson boy went down. Percy, the one who’d snuggled with his father, had succumbed to the same bird flu. Having observed his dad, he played his first sickbed like he’d been practicing for years. He got a blanket and climbed upon the couch, clutching my striped scarf for comfort. Shivering and mumbling as if on cue. I brought him Gatorade and turned on the Netflix. ‘I want to watch the one with the sword,’ he pointed to the screen, weak from illness. ‘Puss ‘n Boots?’ I verified. ‘Yeah, Puss ‘n Boots.’
As soon as he was done sipping his Gatorade, he called out for someone, anyone to place his drink on the coffee table. (No ill boy should have to extend his arm twelve inches to do something for himself, after all.) And, when he wanted a drink, he summoned me or his brothers to pick up the drink and hand it to him. Eventually his oldest brother fell out of sympathy, and moved the coffee table closer to the couch.
Of course! I realized, this is how it begins for men. They’re little and adorable and their mothers and siblings fawn over them – running to the basement to fetch them stuffed animals, begging them to eat something (ice cream?! cereal?!), letting the Netflix stream continuously until they close their feverish eyes. Patting their cheeks and their head and saying – soothingly – ‘poor, little bunny.’
We created the Man Cold! (Or at least fanned the flames.)
When the time came for bed, he let us know – in no uncertain terms – that’d he be sleeping on the couch. ‘I’m sick,’ he explained as though I hadn’t heard, ‘I need to sleep on the couch.’
Because that, is what men do.