“What?” my wife Kara asked, turning off the blow dryer. She could tell something was wrong because the blow dryer normally doubles as a husband repeller, if only because when she’s using it, somebody needs to be downstairs, making sure that our sons are not creating crayon murals or experimenting with the aerodynamics of our cutlery.
“One of us is not going to work today,” I replied, holding a thermometer in the air and pointing at our son Zack.
“Oh, no,” she said.
This routine has become sadly familiar to us. Every day after daycare, our kids bring home wonderful art projects, often accompanied by a wide variety of colorful diseases, featuring pink eyes, red throats and green faces.
This year has been worse than most. Remember at the end of War of the Worlds, when the aliens keeled over due to their lack of immunity to Earth’s diseases?
“Go get ‘em, microbes!” I said at the time, before realizing that someday, we would be the aliens.
Also, my apologies for not putting a spoiler alert on the ending there, but the book is over a hundred years old (according to Wikipedia, which also notes that the original story was written by King Tut), and the movie has Tom Cruise in it, which means that you either saw it back when he was still cool, or you’re never going to see it anyway.
So Kara and I began one of our regular horse-trading sessions, when we compare our schedules to see who can go to work, who stays home, and how often we’ll need to commute to switch places. We ask important questions during these sessions, like, “You have a meeting? Is it with your boss? Are you leading it? Is anybody bringing donuts?” and we sort it out from there, hoping that we don’t hit any serious conflicts. Sometimes, when both parents work, it doesn’t really work.
Complicating matters, Zack’s fever occurred on the Monday before our vacation to Rangeley, Maine. We were to leave in six days.
“It’s probably Coxsackievirus. He’s going to be miserable this week. And you’re going to be miserable, too,” the doctor said, smiling broadly as if he couldn’t hear the words coming out of his mouth.
That evening, Zack briefly spiked a fever of a 104.5, putting us minutes from a trip to the ER. Sibling rivalry being what it is, Zack’s big brother Evan hit 104.6 two days later. Then Kara hit a paltry 100. I also barely cracked triple digits, a shameful performance.
On Saturday, when we were supposed to leave, the kids bounced downstairs.
“Can we go today? Pleeeease?” Evan said, bright-eyed, feverless. Both kids were the picture of health. Kara and I were feeling fine, too.
“Why not?” we said, taking a few hours to stuff the entire contents of our house into the car.
Somewhere around Vermont, I noticed the blisters on my hand, a symptom of Coxsackievirus that the kids had thankfully avoided.
“Dude, these weren’t there this morning,” I said, looking at my hand as if it had been bitten by a zombie.
“Oh, man, I’ve got one on my ankle. I thought it was a bug bite,” Kara replied.
We’d gone from War of the Worlds to Walking Dead. Too late to turn back, we continued toward the lake, where we‘d see lots of beloved family members who would be getting air-fives from us.
The waves gently lap against the shore and the loons call to each other across the lake as I type this, as quickly as possible, before my fingers fall off.
But really, Maine is as good a place to convalesce as any. Hopefully, it’s okay that we spraypainted a skull and crossbones on our cabin.
You can give Mike Todd a wide berth at email@example.com.
2 weeks ago