Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Week That Wasn't

I'd like the past 7 days of my life back. But that's not going to happen, thanks to a failed attempt at heroism by one of my co-workers, who insisted on showing up and hacking and sneezing all over me for three days before she finally called out herself.

I've been laid up and laid out in bed for the past week or so. Yes, we're starting to seep well into the "or so" portion of that time frame. But you can't call out sick from parenthood. So even if you're home with a fever dangerously approaching 104 degrees, there is, as they say, no rest for the weary.

Despite the hallucinations, the dry heaving, the cold sweats, a certain little girl still needed tending to. Because in case you didn't know it already, when there's a baby in the household, everybody gets sick. We were a two-bedroom epidemic. There should have been yellow police tape and plastic drapery with a bio-hazard logo set up outside of the door to our condo. This place was toxic.

Penelope caught a stomach bug while at day care (her first week there - hooray for day care). So that means mommy and daddy caught the same bug. But daddy caught the flu too. So nothing could go in, and everything was coming out. And what is the most important aspect of the treatment when you have the flu? Right... sleep. No, there's no sleeping when the little one is doubled-over with her little apple-sized head puking into a waste basket at all hours of the night.

The last time I helped a blond girl throw up at 3 in the morning, Penelope's mother and I were still binge drinking our way through the Greek system at Syracuse. Rah! Rah! Phi Alpha!

My wife, I must say, was quite a trooper during all of this. Due to my weakened state, and my inability to reasonably function when I am suffering from razor burn, let alone the mother of all flu bugs, most of the Penelope duties fell on her. And she picked up the ball and ran with it until she couldn't run anymore.

This little bug bit everyone. And when I say everyone, even my poor, helpless, innocent mother-in-law, who dropped in from the sky like some angel Mary Poppins to rescue us from our sleepless, foodless misery, got it too. Like those tough guys in zombie movies who storm in to save the main characters, guns blazing, only to be eaten themselves. She was eaten. Slowly. And we sent her on her way, back home to Pennsylvania, when she was no longer of use to us.

You see, your enemies come with smiles. And in this case, our enemy was a darling little baby with the sweetest smile in the world. She would peek her little head into the bedroom from time to time, as I lie there quivering and quarantined, and flash me her toothy grin, and wave hello. Too bad she was carrying a mild form of the ebola virus.

Between naps, I could hear things happening through the door. New foods being tried. New tricks being attempted. New sounds she was forming with her voice. But I was powerless. Powerless to participate. Powerless to influence.

Luckily for my family, I was the only one with the devil's flu. A strain so bad my doctor said, "You're lucky you're a healthy young man. If you were your grandmother's age, you'd be dead by now." I told him that I didn't really feel particularly healthy at the moment, was there anything he could prescribe? "No. And you're going to continue to feel really lousy for at least a few more days. There's nothing I can help you with."

Brutal honesty. Well worth the energy it took me to traipse to the East Side of Manhattan after a night of hallucinating that I was attending a concert performed by "The Killers." Mr Brightside will forever be the anthem for this bout of influenza.

So here's my bright side: there's still time for you to get yourselves a flu shot, people. I know I'll never skip one again. Not now that I live with a person who carries germs like pigeons carry messages. It's my only shot at not missing anything again.

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