the way through the daily drive to work -- his hands on the steering
wheel, my hand on his thigh: our default marital *commute position* --
when David suddenly erupts with a single, explosive,
snot-intensive/window-rattling/sinus-imploding sneeze: the first such
eruption of the day.
bless you!" I say
to him automatically.
point of fact, God
bless you is no longer my
default sneeze response. It
used to be -- back
in the I have decided to
follow Jesus! glory days of my
youth -- and then beyond, into motherhood, when a sneeze often heralded
the beginning of some ghastly childhood illness that was certain to
keep everybody in our household awake and cranky for at least the next
seventy-two hours. In those days, God
bless you was less a benediction
than a desperate plea for divine intervention. Later, when the Tots
were older -- during the drunk dysfunctional days just before I ran
away -- we used to say 'Shut up' to each other, whenever somebody
sneezed. We were firmly in the grip of Beavis & Butthead at the
time, and I'm sure we all thought it was uproariously edgy and amusing
and cool to say such a thing to each other. Now it just seems
incredibly mean-spirited and awful. These days, I generally go for
something gentle and generic and safely secularized: Goodness!
or May the deity or belief
system of your preference confer health and long life upon you!
you" is what pops out of my mouth now. Old habits die hard, I guess.
me!" David says wetly, once the violence has passed. "I didn't even see
that one coming!"
with one hand on the steering wheel, he continues
to negotiate 880; with the other hand, he begins groping around on the
floor beneath the drivers seat. I know what he's looking for: the
half-empty roll of Charmin Ultra we keep in the Subaru for just such a
nasal emergency. By this point I'm sure it has probably rolled all the
way under the seat, out of reach, and is floating around somewhere on
the floor in back ... along with the orphaned shoes, the uncapped felt
pens, the empty Fiji Water bottles.
I unzip my
purse and pull out the auxiliary roll of toilet paper.
I say to him,
ripping off a fat wad of Charmin from the roll. "Use this." Still
driving, eyes never leaving the freeway in front of him, he takes the
toilet paper gratefully and mops up his nose (and his chin, and the
lapel of his suit jacket, and the steering wheel). Then he scrunches
the snotty tissue into a ball and tosses it on top of the dashboard,
with all the rest of the snotty used tissue balls.
know that's gross,"
he says apologetically, nodding his head in the direction of the pile
of old snot rags. "I'll clean it up tonight."
is his first full
day back to work in three days. He was feeling vaguely unwell all last
weekend -- even as we were chauffering my son around town, in the
pouring rain, shopping for baggy pants and Brothah Lynch CDs -- but
somehow he managed to ward off a fullblown viral meltdown until Kyle's
visit was over. When it hit, finally, it hit hard and fast. Wracking
cough. Soaring fever. Blistering headache. Crippling ennervation. He
limped into the apartment on Monday night, his face the color of
week-old egg salad, and quietly announced that he was "sick." As soon
as we got home from taking Kyle to the airport that night, David went
straight to bed and pretty much stayed there for the next forty-eight
hours. He spent most of Tuesday in a fog of OTCs and misery, sweating
beneath a pile of blankets. Wednesday he went into his office for a
couple of hours, against my wifely protests, but at least he came home
early that afternoon and napped the rest of the day. I got home from
work that night and the detritus of his convalescence was everywhere:
crusty juice glasses on the kitchen counter. Sticky cough syrup rings
on the headboard. Crumpled magazines. Rumpled blankets. Sad little
puddles of socks and underwear and shoes, left abandoned on the bedroom
floor. And everywhere -- from the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the
cluttered desktop real estate surrounding the computer -- those little
piles of snotty used tissue balls, like a sad, soggy paper trail of
night he was still
barking like a Pier 39 sea lion -- I crawled off my spot on the living
room sofa at 1:15 a.m. and dosed him with Robitussin, and then got up
and did it all over again at 4 a.m. -- but this morning he climbed into
his suit and tie and announced that he was well enough to work again.
feel fine," he said.
"You'd hardly know I was even sick." And he promptly burst into another
four minute episode of wet, strangled coughing.
you say so," I said
knew there was no
point in arguing with him. When somebody you love as much as I love my
husband hates being sick as much as David hates being sick -- when they
steadfastly resist all your attempts to coddle them and nurture them
and hover over them in the middle of the night, mustard poultice in one
hand, rectal thermometer in the other hand, like a demented Grandma
Nightingale -- you don't press the issue. Instead, you observe them
from a safe, quiet, neutral distance. You resist the temptation to lay
your hand on their forehead every time they look at you. You crawl out
of bed at 1:15 a.m. to give them cough medicine ... but only if they
really need it. (Read this: only if nobody in your household has gotten
any sleep in the past seventy-two hours.) You stuff an auxiliary roll
of toilet paper in your purse, in case it becomes an *issue* during the
you definitely don't
say 'Shut up" when they sneeze.
to throw a rock?