I don’t mean to brag, but on a typical day I would give my quality of life four stars. (That elusive fifth star is reserved for a person who is healthy [and, if he suffers from empathy, whose loved ones are healthy], wealthy and blissfully unaware of his own imperfections. I use the male pronoun here because women’s troublesome lady parts and their associated hormones and potential malfunctions plus the patriarchy make a five-star QOL unattainable.) But this week every one of my stars went down the toilet when our home was struck by an outbreak I hesitate to name Flulapalooza 2017 for fear a worse plague will befall us before year’s end. (That’s my go-to consolation: It could always be worse. Somehow. Just imagine that.)
It started Thursday when I was unable to finish my dinner, which is simply unheard-of. Soon I was alternately shimiting (my ladylike term for simultaneous diarrhea and vomiting), sweating and shivering in bed as my internal monologue rambled: “Think of all the cancer patients and Princess Kate and all the women with über morning sickness and that nasty sandwich you had for lunch that was probably contaminated with norovirus which can last for THREE FREAKING DAYS OH GOD TAKE ME NOW.”
Lucky for me I had not yet used the six hours of annual sick leave I am entitled to as a stay-at-home-mom (exercise your rights, ladies: Nobody is going to give you that time off unless you are too physically incapacitated to perform your maternal duties, and sometimes not even then), so I was free to lounge in bed/on the toilet while Chris tucked in Maribeth for the night — or so I thought. Shortly after 11:30 she breached the sickroom, claiming her stomach felt bad. Knowing that Maribeth is prone to psychosomatic stomach complaints because she loves nothing more than middle-of-the-night TV watching with me, I told her to keep her trash can handy and go back to bed because I didn’t want her catching my germs. Foolishly hoping she might read herself to sleep, I dozed but soon awoke to nonmuffled crying. “Am I sick enough NOT to have to deal with this?” I thought, but unfortunately, if a mother can even ask that question, the answer is NO. So I dragged myself upstairs to find Maribeth sitting on the floor by her trash can, insisting that her stomach felt “SO QUEASY.” Still unsure whether she was actually sick, I finally said she could sleep on my bedroom floor because Chris had already occupied the living room. As I hauled her pillow, blanket and trash can downstairs, she puked in the middle of her bedroom carpet and I cursed the day I was born. While Chris remained asleep on the couch, I pondered the question: “How sick would I have to be to NOT be the one cleaning up someone else’s vomit in the middle of the night?” Part of me genuinely wants to know and the other part is afraid to find out.
Commanding myself to JUST BE GRATEFUL that by this time I was physically capable of cleaning up the mess, I tucked Maribeth into my bed and spent the rest of the night holding her hair while she threw up. The next day (TGIF!) I washed all of our bedding (seven loads, y’all!) and attempted to disinfect bathrooms and handles and switches and remotes just in time for Chris to come home and start shimiting himself. Meanwhile Ella and Kate treated us all as pariahs, constantly wielding disinfecting wipes and covering their noses and mouths with their shirts when forced to interact with us before scurrying back to their germ-free havens — I’m surprised they didn’t sleep in Ella’s car. (Probably the Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough in the garage.)
It usually isn’t until February that I wish our house had a self-immolation feature like that of the Centers for Disease Control in (spoiler alert!) season one of The Walking Dead, so I’d like to hope that we got this winter’s plague over with early. Nevertheless, I’m calling on science and Amazon/Walmart to help a mother out. First, science: We do not need any more flavors of ANYTHING. We all have ample opportunity to feast unto obesity. USE YOUR SKILLS ELSEWHERE: namely, to develop germ bombs that can disinfect entire houses while inhabitants stand in the driveway or, better yet, sit on the couch and inhale immune-boosting agents. Really, this idea is so simple I can only assume Big Hand Sanitizer has prevented its fruition. In the meantime, Amazon/Walmart: You want to send delivery people into my home? Fine. I’d like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and for you to launder everyone’s bedding and sanitize EVERYTHING — like slightly less tragic crime-scene cleanup. (Come on, Jeff Bezos; I can envision the dollar signs in your eyes as I write this. Make it happen.)
Since it is not actually February but November, I feel obligated to end this post with some gratitude. I am thankful that my illness was relatively brief, that so far Ella and Kate have escaped physically if not psychologically unscathed (though my typing that probably jinxed them) and that Maribeth’s standards are so low that as I was tucking her into bed Friday (most of which she spent vomiting or at best feeling nauseated), she said, “I had a really nice time spending the day with you today, even though I was sick.” So I guess we should both add Netflix to our gratitude list, even if I did have to endure Barbie: The Princess & the Popstar. It was terrible, but compared with my internal monologue, a pleasure.