One of the many unwritten rules of motherhood is that moms are not allowed to get sick. Ever. Another one is: If you go away for a “girls-only” weekend, you will pay for leaving your family to fend for themselves like wild savages. Even if fending for themselves includes Dad treating them to dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant and taking them to a movie about dragons.
Last week, these two rules collided when I returned from a women’s weekend at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. I brought home an unwanted souvenir: the World’s Worst Cold. You may think I’m exaggerating, but that would violate an unwritten newspaper columnist rule. Trust me when I say I was afflicted with an Uncommon Cold of Epic Proportion (UCEP).
It started on Sunday, with a vague tiredness which I attributed to too much Cyndi Lauper music and rich food. When Monday dawned and I couldn’t breathe through my nose or hear my alarm clock, I knew I was sick.
“I’m sick,” I said to my husband, as he left for work.
“Stay in bed today,” he replied.
Right. Law enforcement frowns on 10-year-olds driving themselves to school. So, I dragged myself out of bed, put my slippers on and grabbed my keys. Sam just stared at me. “I’m sick,” I told him.
“You still can’t take me to school in your bathrobe,” he said.
After returning home, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer. Deadlines are no respecter of illness, no matter how epic. I took a sip and scowled. Coffee doesn’t taste good when you cannot breathe.
I filed my story and I may have alluded to the fact that I was near death because my editor wrote back, “Take a nap.”
Obedience to editors is another journalistic rule, but I’m pretty sure that one is written in a contract somewhere, so I returned to my unmade bed. That’s when I discovered if you want to take a nap, you shouldn’t take your cell phone with you. Thirty minutes and three phone calls later, I gave up.
On Tuesday, my day bristled with appointments. “I think I’m better,” I told my husband. “I think I’ll make my usual rapid recovery.” He just shook his head.
I spent a lot of time stuck behind trains on Tuesday, and I’d only given myself a half an hour between an appointment in Mead and a meeting downtown. I’m positive watching minutes tick by while counting endless boxcars triggered a relapse because on Wednesday I felt worse than ever. Not only could I not breathe or hear, but I sounded like Barry White. When I called to schedule a conference at my son’s school, the secretary said, “See you next week, Mr. Hval.”
I decided to try napping again. My cat was worried. I know this because the minute I laid down Milo jumped up and started licking my ear. Then he curled up on my head. You grow to appreciate the value of taking a deep breath when you have the World’s Worst Cold and a 15-pound cat on your face.
By Thursday, I was getting a bit cranky – even the cat started avoiding me. I sensed my family was growing weary of my blow-by-blow accounts of how many tissues I’d used in the past hour. After two days of unwashed, sweatpants-wearing decrepitude, I decided to shower.
As the hot steam cleared my nasal passages, I inhaled the fragrance of my Flirty Jasmine body wash. I could smell! (Though my family said I’d been smelling for a couple of days). I even dressed in clothes that wouldn’t embarrass my fourth-grader when I picked him up.
On Friday, the sun shone, my ears unclogged, and I sounded more like Kathleen Turner than Barry White. My nagging cough subsided to a soft squeak instead of a startling bark. I felt rejuvenated.
And then I heard a sniffling sound from across the hall. Sam wandered into my room. “Mom, I don’t feel so good.”
Unwritten law of motherhood No. 53: Mothers share everything with their children – even Uncommon Colds of Epic Proportion.