It was Christmas morning when that same filthy virus that has attacked so many of us over the last few weeks took hold. Before my kids even came charging down the stairs to see what Saint Nick had brought them, I knew the day was doomed.
Every muscle in me was melting. Every head hair stung. And a hacking cough trailed me like a bad night on Route 99 in Malden.
I may as well have been wearing a pink onesie and a pair of knitted booties.
Sorry, that’s just what happens when I get sick.
I fold up like a child, whine constantly, and bathe in a river of negativity. My mind, literally, goes black, as if someone shut out the lights on my masculinity.
Cross-eyed and drenched to my thighs, I tried to be excited for my children and my wife as they opened their gifts.
“Your turn, Daddy. Open something.”
“Nah, nah. I’m good.” I told them, as I curled up into a fetal position on the hassock with one eye poking out from under a heavy blanket. “I’ll be fine.”
Could I be more pathetic? Of course I could, say all men in general. If there is one thing we recognize about our biological makeup it’s this: We as men are the wimpiest of all wimps when we get sick.
And by sick, I mean a cold, or the flu.
I don’t know what it is about you women. Not only do I adore you, but I admire your toughness when it comes to being sick. I remind my wife of this often. I say to her, “Remember a few days after you gave birth to Leo, and you were feeling all worn out and blue?”
“Yes,” she usually says. “You told me to go for a run and take a shower. ‘You’ll be fine.’ ”
“Exactly. And you did,” I say. “You were a machine!”
Then, within minutes of opening her last Christmas present, my young daughter, now looking more haggard and gray than her old man, was struck down by the virus as well. Boom, just like that.
So, while my wife and son ventured to the Bay State to enjoy a day of turducken, my little girl and I ached our way through the holiday, pilled up on Advil, covered in perspiration, watching bad Christmas movies on TBS.
Crawling my way into the bathroom, I managed to lift my head long enough to catch a glimpse of my sagging face in the medicine chest. “It’s over,” I whispered to the slab of ham hock staring back at me. “I just know it.”
I was in deep. Thick with a temperature hovering near 100 and with a definite respiratory infection, the worm in me began to turn. I forgot my past, denounced the future, and resisted all memories of spring.
It’s been a good run, I thought.
“Daddy,” I heard my daughter say weakly. “I’m just so thirsty.”
“I know, baby. I know,” I shouted from the bathtub. “But I’m just so cold.”
Returning to the living room, I expected to find my daughter racked out on the couch or hacking up into one of the hundred soggy tissues sprawled across the carpet.
Instead, she was in the kitchen, toasting a bagel, opening a jar of peanut butter, and pouring some orange juice.
I looked at her in awe. I’m 42, she’s 11, and for all I know, Wordsworth was right when he said “the child is father of the man.” (Thanks, Mr. Harrison.)
All 80 pounds of her loaded her bagel and juice into one arm, then reached in the freezer and pulled something out.
“Here, have a popsicle, Daddy,” she said, jamming one into my gut as she passed me in the hall. “It’ll make you feel better. You’ll be fine.”