Everyone has an opinion when I tell them that my husband has bronchitis.
"There's something going around," attest some. "It must be the change in weather," pipe in others. "He pushes himself too hard," chides the inner circle. Whatever the reason, my husband is home sick, and I'm trying to ignore my own scratchy throat and throbbing headache. We can't both be sick at the same time.
Who will take care of whom if neither of us can face getting out of bed?
This situation, a bilateral meltdown, happened just once in our married life. It was while we were on vacation.
My parents had generously offered to stay with the kids, then 10, 4 and 1, so we could get away for a few days to sunny Florida. It would be our first time alone since the baby was born. All signs pointed to good weather, romantic evenings and many blissful hours on the beach.
The night before our departure had finally arrived. I finished writing a lengthy list of childcare instructions: what the kids would eat, what they would probably not eat but you never know, who tends to spit out vegetables and feed them to the dog, who is most likely to need "time out," that kind of thing. My brand new resort wear in shades of pastels was tucked neatly in the bags, and with a final review of my list I went to sleep tired but happy, with sweet dreams of wiggling my toes in the sand while sipping a frozen raspberry daiquiri. Child-free.
Something felt wrong when we woke up to the 4 a.m. alarm. "I feel funny," I mumbled to my husband as I rubbed my eyes. "Am I coming down with something?"
I threw on my clothes and tried to tell myself, essentially, that I was nuts. "You're nervous about flying. You'll be fine. You did remember to pack everything. Don't make yourself upset. You are not sick. You are not sick. You are not sick." My husband carried the suitcases out to the car. "Take some Tylenol, honey. You'll feel better," he said. "Maybe it's something we ate. I feel a little bit off, myself." I am not sick was my mantra on the way to the airport.
The tropical resort was surrounded by swaying palm trees and lush pink and purple bouganvillea. According to the brochure, that is. I don't think we noticed, since we were swaying ourselves. We walked staggered into the sparkling lobby with doormen whose smiles froze when they saw our greenish faces.
The elevator ride seemed interminable. The porter opened the door to our ocean-facing room, as cheery as could be. "Here are the light switches to your closet. Can I show you the towels in your bathroom?" Please make this nice man leave, I prayed silently. The door shut behind him, and we collapsed.
The weather proved to be as predicted all week. A cloudless sky, perfect temperature, probably around 80. The slightest of cooling breezes to make beach goers comfortable.
So they told us in halting English, the housekeepers did, as they quickly changed our dampened sheets while we wrapped ourselves in blankets and tried not to shake. Ai yi yi, they murmured to each other as they made a hasty retreat from this room of doom.
My husband and I, afflicted with something akin to the Bubonic Plague, were sick in bed every day of that vacation. We could have been in Gary, Indiana for all the beach going we did. Until the day we left, our sole foray was to the local clinic where we were prescribed antibiotics that actually made us worse. I don't think we even stepped out on the lovely balcony to survey the activity on the beach.
The great restaurants we were going to sample? Nope, not a one. Room service? Couldn't bear the thought of food. I could barely make it down the hall for bottles of water which I urged my husband to drink. We looked at each other not with desire, but with dismay.
Our journey home was infamous, too. My husband had to push me through the airport in a wheelchair. I felt the alarmed eyes of strangers judging me as I lay inert on the baggage claim floor. Finally home, we could only stumble to our bed with our kids clamoring to find out what we brought them.
It took us a few more days to recover from that nasty flu bug. It's hard to be a caretaker when you want to be taken care of. Luckily for us, with youth and stamina on our side, we pulled it off.
My husband has bronchitis. But I am not getting sick.