...the flu before Christmas

Twas the weeks before Christmas and all the house knew,
The plans were on hold, because Mom had the flu.

It was a new concept—getting sick before the holiday stress begins, thereby eliminating all the work. It’s a great way to simplify Christmas, but I can’t recommend it.

I started the turkey and a sore throat together on Thanksgiving morning, and they dried out and crusted over together. By pie time, my eyes were flambé and my head, fricassee.

A day later, while the family consumed the leftovers, I moved up my post-holiday strep test, but there would be no simple antibiotic antidote. The doctor recited the viral litany; "Rest, drink plenty of liquids and come back." ...and pay more next week, when you’re worse?

Hope was soon dashed when each day dawned the same.
The Mom writhed and wretched, as the days waxed and waned.

There are very few opportunities for male heroics in our house because I can break the jar getting the lid off as well as any man, but this moment was defining. Alexander the Great has nothing on a guy faced with a flu siege, who will fortify and guard the children, wade into sibling battle skirmishes, forage for supplies, and not sacrifice at least one pet in the process.

On top of all that, my husband not only held the holiday bombardment at bay, but attacked it. Of course, his success set me up for his he-man debate later on, but at that moment I did not care.

The room was in quarantine, sequestered in bed,
while visions of absurdities danced in her head.

Days and nights melded as I woke only to hallucinations, imagining the distant hum of the washer and dryer, the illusion of tiptoeing footsteps, and the ridiculous idea of peaceful homework. I was roused several times by the vague scent of food, (and responded in typical flu-like fashion), but nothing completed my delusions like a vision of the Grinch decorating the Christmas tree.

I had staggered down the stairs on the sixth day and stood sobbing into my socks at the sight. My tears were no true barometer—I had wept earlier after finding my slippers by the bed rather than under it, but I could no longer contain my despair. I knew that seeing my husband voluntarily participating in a Christmas festivity meant that I was now certifiable. I had dropped over the edge of the wide abyss and would have to be committed.

Bring on cough drops and cold pills, make mustard in plaster
In a desperate attempt, to resolve this disaster.

I have a new, greater respect for illness and I’ve redefined the word patient. Midweek, I shivered over the candles on the five-year-old’s birthday cake and was reminded: Do not tempt the flu fates or they will curse you back into supplication! Back to bed with a new mélange of medication.

Bring me anything and I will take it. Diphenhydro-fexacloral-phenapropanala-mine, mine, mine! I don’t care that it’s been banned by the F.D.A. for five years. It worked last time I was sick. It’s not even the same symptoms, but I’ll take it anyway!

After exhausting my own personal pharmacy, I started the over-the-counter stuff. I sampled everything remotely related to flu, or colds, fever or aching.[1] I even stretched congestion to constipation, but this bug resisted it all.

When the M.D.’s advice bombed, I started--with advice of the A.D.T’s:[2] Honey with lemon, snorting horseradish and saline, fresh garlic and onions, even shark cartilage! I was desperate.

Finally in utter despair, I returned to the physician. For a mere hundreds of dollars, I was granted my idea of the Life-Blood Elixer—an antibiotic and a killer cough medicine. Hallelujah! I could now get better.

I’ve become allergic.

It felt as if the flu bug exited my body at midnight and crawled all over it, scratching welts until dawn. My brain raced and I wrote and illustrated ten books. So brilliant were my thoughts that I had to write them down… in tongues.

Finally off all of the medications, I’m left alone, broken and defeated.

When next I wake, the storm has passed and in its wake, lies the wreck on the beach. One side of the hair is four inches shorter than the other[3] and my face is a portend of myself at sixty.

The glitz of each card, the braggados of each letter
Should bring inklings of guilt, but it doesn’t upset her.

Only when you have made the prescribed sacrifice to the voodoo gods, will the curse be lifted. Chastened and humbled, I emerge from the sick room to disinfect the abode. I revisit my perception of the perfect holiday and prepare for the pared-down version. Nobody cares, no one notices, and I do it gratefully, stress-free.

And she heard the kids yell as they flew into sight,
Christmas break just begun, "Glad that's all put to right. 

Reality Bite: Where there is no mess, there is no clean up! I'll beat the January blasé bug too.

[1] Stuffy and runny, fixed with one product—ah, the marvels of medicine!
[3] For your information, that nineteenth century remedy doesn’t work.