2009.12.23 The ghost of sickness past

Written by David Green.

(Reprinted from Jan. 7, 1998)

Oh, we’re off to a good start in 1998. Things were looking pretty shaky when Maddy got sick a couple of days before New Year’s, but they plunged to rock bottom when four out of five family members went to bed feeling sick on New Year’s Eve.

There’s really no rhyme or reason why I should worry about how the rest of the year will pan out based on the events of the first day of the year, but it’s been five days now and there’s been not a whole lot of improvement and a fair amount of decline.

One bright spot—Rosie’s belly ache turned out to be the gaseous effects of a falafel sandwich, not a stomach flu. She woke up fine and dandy on New Year’s Day.

I was the healthiest member of the family and the only one still awake at 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. I puttered around some and then set upon the dirty dishes, determined to clean them before midnight—I didn’t want to ring in the new year washing dishes. I hoped to start on a more creative note—making pecan pie and orzo salad for our annual New Year’s Day gathering.

I was just about finished with the dishes when I noticed Maddy walk into the bathroom. She’d been sleeping on the couch so I could keep an eye on her. I was pleased to see her walking on her own—she’d been too weak to walk—and figured she was getting better. She seemed to be taking forever in the bathroom, but I rinsed the last of the dishes before checking on her.

I had a clue something was amiss when I walked in there and found her standing in a daze, poking her finger at the wall.

“Maddy, are you okay?”

No answer. Her eyes were glazed. I felt her forehead. She was quite feverish.

“Maddy, do you know who I am?”

She looked up into my eyes and said breathily, “A princess!”

Hooey! This was one sick kid. I think I’m a pretty good mother, but I couldn’t fool anyone—I don’t rank up there with royalty.

“Maddy, do you know who you are?”

“I’m Rosie,” she said quite seriously. Well, maybe she really wants to be Rosie and me a princess, but she really didn’t have a clue who I or she was. I thought about calling 911 to report a lost child. Instead, I gathered her up and carried her back into the living room where we settled into the rocking chair. Rocking a delirious child. That’s how I cheered the New Year on.

“Happy New Year, Maddy,” I said at midnight.

She gave no response. I took that as a good sign. At least she didn’t say, “I’m Rosie.”

That’s been the highlight of sickness at our house. Delirium is making the rounds, though. Maddy sent her seven-year-old cousin Kerry back to Minnesota with the flu germs. Uncle Tom e-mailed that a feverish Kerry walked into the room where he was writing and said, “I thought you were going to tell me about Grandma’s slime.” He put her back to bed and she said, “Yi Ho!”

I wish I could yell something that cheerful. Instead I’m yelling, “Life sucks!” only to be corrected by Maddy.

“Life vacuums,” she quietly reminds me.

I know better than to speak vulgar language around my kids. But I am sick and sick of being sick. Yes, on New Year’s Day, I bit the dust and became another victim of the flu.

I don’t know what kind of flu this is—chicken, swine, equine—heck, it felt like the whole dang zoo tromping through my body.

But there are signs that I am getting better. After four days of illness, I began laughing again when Ben did an accurate impression of me hacking up phlegm.

Another sure sign is the little ditties I began making up to describe my level of agony. Here’s my favorite:

Balls of pain

Rolling all around my brain

Running here, flying there

Shooting through without a care

Balls of pain

Rolling all around my brain

Miniature bowling balls—whizzing down the lanes in my brain. That’s what Day 4 was all about. The other three days had their own brand of agony and I’m happy to say I don’t remember all that head pain very clearly.

What does stand out is my very weak legs and the clear impression that polio must be on the rise with me as the newest victim. I think this bout with the flu is God’s way of telling me to appreciate my legs and start using them by walking long distances daily. As soon as those bowling balls stop making strikes with my skull, I’ll be out there lengthening my stride.

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