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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Family Flu

June 18th, 2002

“You probably have a virus. The kid’s pediatrician said there are several going around the valley right now. Lots of people have it.”

The only time I want to be part of “lots of people have it” is if I’m part of a group who won the lottery. There’s no comfort in knowing I’m one of lots of people seeing their bathroom from a brand new perspective.

Whatever it was that was going around came around here with a vengeance. Full body ache. Sore muscles. Painful joints. My head felt like it sounds when you spill a box of wrenches on the garage floor. Admittedly, my pain tolerance is rather low. But when my plastic eye hurts, I know I’m really sick.

It’s never pleasant to be sick. That’s why they call it “being sick”. Yet some ailments are low profile. No one ever knows when you’re on antibiotics. You can take anti-inflammatory medication covertly and no one is the wiser. Even if carpal tunnel symptoms require you to wear a wrist brace while at your computer, the worst people can think is that you’re a professional bowler working on a spreadsheet.

But there’s nothing subtle about the flu. It’s hard to disguise dizziness and profuse sweating. And while one may be able to politely blow their nose with a clean linen hanky during a cold, there is simply no way to upchuck with dignity. The physiological term is “reverse peristalsis”. It sounds clinical. A topic you could discuss with someone in a white lab coat, clicking a pen and holding a clipboard. Yet when someone sees you running toward the bathroom only to return minutes later as white as the porcelain bowl you just made friends with, they never ask, “By the by, old boy, did you reverse peristals?” No. They ask, “Dude, did you puke?” To which you mumble a very soft response because to speak the actual word might send you running back to your newly appreciated friend from Kohler, Wisconsin.

When it’s just the two of you, getting sick at the same time is manageable. You just go to opposite ends of the house in solitary misery until you feel better. Getting sick at the same time when you have kids presents a new challenge. We experienced that for the first time when our twins were 18 months old.

Being sick when you have little kids means you can’t be as selfish as you want to be. When hosting a virus and you hear a crash in the next room followed by a tiny voice saying, “Uh oh…” there is no leaping out of the chair to survey the damage. Neither parent wants to get up and tend to the kids because doing so would be to admit that your pain isn’t as great as theirs. So you just stare at each other, hoping the other person will demonstrate themselves superior in servanthood and godly maturity so you can remain a selfish, semi-comatose blob on the couch. When neither one moves, you just tell yourself that Grandmas’s antique figurines were never your favorite anyway.

I had just returned to the couch after scoring perfect 10 on my reverse peristalsis with a twist. Exhausted and unable to move, I was flat on my back and everything was perfectly still. The sounds of the TV and the hum of the air conditioner blended into so much white noise and I began to doze off into what I prayed would be a sleep with remarkable powers of recovery.

I couldn’t have been more stationary in my reclined position had you rolled me in Super Glue and C-clamped me to the couch. I was seconds away from drifting into the arms of Morpheus, when right next to my ear,

“Da da da da, da da da da, Elmo’s world!”

Twin toddlers. Fully rested from a long nap and ready to push every button on their Sesame Street audio books. Annie brought hers to show me. I wish she’d waited till my eyes were open. That way I could have prepared myself before she slammed it onto my queasy stomach.

While I lay helplessly paralyzed on the couch, the two of them found every musical toy they possessed and proceeded to push every button, switch and trigger device. What followed was an eerie round of irregular musical meter. Try singing “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”, “The Muffin Man”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and the theme from “Blue’s Clues” all at the same time. Even if you’re not sick, you’ll need an aspirin when you’re done.

A virus is like a bad movie. The best part is when it’s over. And when it’s over you realize how good it feels to feel good. To walk and talk and eat and drink and breathe. These are blessings overlooked.

If the viruses are going around where you live, I hope they don’t stop at your house. If they do and you have toddlers, keep an eye peeled for Big Bird. He lands hard on the stomach.