A few years ago, on a day that strangely coincides with the birth of our first child, two dear, significant pieces of my identity went MIA, now reverently and fondly referred to as Immune System and Sanity. I’m sure both are being stored for safekeeping in a secure place, along with additional brain cells, half my vocabulary, and the tissue that belongs in certain flappy areas of my body. (Whoever has the key to the storage room full of these missing parts, speak up already.)
I can deal with the brain cell thing and even the fact that I often consider checking into the nearest psych ward. But as I write this today, I’m unsure if we need to call for an exorcism or an IV. Matt came down with the stomach bug last night, a few hours after Laurie*, and I’m feeling pretty queasy myself. I swear this year’s germs are contagious via 4G.
Here’s what happens when one’s husband is sick: he goes from lively, helpful, hardworking man with a pulse to a living corpse. Sick men, at least in this house, are much closer to the brink of death than sick women. They are physically helpless, to the point of paralysis. Their larynx is not capable of making sounds above a whisper, unless vomiting, in which the sound actually calls up dinosaurs and registers on the Richter Scale. Their head seems freakishly large compared to the kid-size noggins you normally run the thermometer on, and you’re left trying to convince yet another person to take in some liquids today.
Healthy wife, who may or may not suffer from a notable and documented lack of compassion and severe lack of nursing skills, replaces the barf-filled trashbags after each puke session, which is always a good time, but even more fun every hour all night long. Healthy wife brings straw cups of ice chips and Gatorade, warm washcloths, and blankets to the living-room infirmary. Healthy wife listens to the kids sleep, expecting to change pukey pajamas and sheets at any second. Healthy wife digs out the Emetrol and Zofran that expired three years ago, searches for a six-pack of tiny 7-ups in the back of the pantry, reminds herself to pick up some saltines next time she’s on the cracker aisle. Healthy wife takes out the trash, scrubs the toilet to provide sterile puking facilities, and washes all the laundry in the house on hot with bleach.
But what happens when Healthy Wife, with the missing Immune System, goes down too?
I’ll tell you what. Nick, Jr. stays on, the iPad loads new five-dollar apps, breakfast is a bowl of Ruffles, and the short people in the house have free rein. What’s that you say? You want to eat a popsicle on the carpet for lunch? Feel free. You’re only three and haven’t mastered the art of changing Sister’s diaper? Let’s set the wipes on the floor so you can practice. Illustrating every surface of the basement with crayons and Expos? Fine, fine. Go…do…just…stop yelling.
It’s noon and the countdown to bedtime is on. The kids don’t seem to be scarred for life just yet and all digits are intact. So far so good, but if you see smoke, dial 911. And if you see my old Immune System, tell it to come home.
*If you don’t have a Laurie in your life, you need one, stat. She is Matt’s sister, one of my best friends, our geographically closest relative, the most awesome aunt in the universe, and wears the exact same size clothes and shoes as me, so, basically, friendship perfection. She and Layne don’t have kids yet, so she helps with mine all the time, poor thing, and is always always always there when we need her. Except today.