Healthy curiosity can be a sick thing

Cold and flu season is here. At the first sneezing fit or sign of a sore throat, the question is not, “How long will this last?” but “Where did I get this from?”

We tend to get vindictive when we are forced to the sick bed. We don’t like it when our orderly lives are disrupted.

Oh sure, we hide the attitude and put on our best pathetic sick-person face but, on the inside, a lot of us slip into detective mode.

I may be weak, fatigued and sweating out a fever, but I can still muster the strength to cruise through a list of possible sources of contamination.

Chief suspects are always the grands—those lovable, adorable little ones we cherish dearly, the same ones who cough and sneeze into the crooks of their arms, and seconds later spray tabletops, countertops and doorknobs.

Next on the list of possibilities, merely by reason of proximity, is the husband. It is never him though, because he’s never sick. It’s one of the more irritating things about him. Always healthy. When you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want is to be reminded of others who enjoy perpetual good health.

Once family members have been eliminated as suspects, I expand the circle to consider the places I’ve been. There’s always the possibility of picking up something at the grocery. Who knows what germs reside on those carts or the produce? Did I really lick my finger to open that plastic bag?

The gym is a possibility as well. It’s easy to pick up something from an elliptical or a treadmill that wasn’t wiped down. Isn’t that ironic? We get sick trying to stay healthy.

Then there’s the ATM. Maybe it was that guy ahead of me in line. It’s going to be hard to track down a stranger.  It could have been the cash itself. Money is a huge carrier of germs.

Maybe it was that kiosk I used to order food. The findings of a recent study on all the microbes found on kiosks are disgusting. The conclusion was never order food at a kiosk. At least not with your hand. Use your elbow.

Maybe it was that friend I hadn’t seen in ages—the one who gave me a great big hug and who knows what else.

Paranoia is a faithful bedside companion to cold and flu season. All the detective work is so exhausting it can add another full day to recovery. Or lead to a complete relapse.

Maybe no one gave me this bug. Maybe I gave it to myself—inhaled at the wrong time, rubbed my eyes with some microbe on my fingertips or yawned wide when a germ caught a ride on an air current and sailed my way.

The truth is there’s no way to know.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop wondering. Or compiling suspects.

Your Someday is in the making today

This is for all the mothers and fathers who dream about Someday.

When our three children were small and I’d clean up after baths for the thousandth time, pick wet towels off the floor, squeeze water out of yellow rubber ducks and call the kids to come back and brush their teeth, I often thought of Someday.

Someday I’d do something important.

When I read bedtime stories, the same stories I’d read so many times that I knew them by memory, my eyes glazed over, my brain froze from the repetition and my mind wandered to Someday.

Someday life wouldn’t be so routine.

When I stared at a pound of frozen ground beef, considering my two standard options of spaghetti or sloppy joes, trying to remember when we last had what, and if anyone else noticed this culinary rut, I thought of Someday.

Someday I’d be creative.

Someday we’d eat food that required table knives. Someday we’d have a meal and nobody would fall off a chair, flip a serving spoon out of a bowl of peas or knock over a glass of milk.

When I had to have another nose-to-nose about lying and honesty, the consequences of disobeying and why you don’t take a swipe at your sibling, I thought of Someday.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I wasn’t one who was going to leave a mark on the world or build an empire. But I was going to leave a mark on this family, and I already had an empire. It was right under my nose, nestled snug in bed by 8 o’clock.

The Someday I often dreamed about was being shaped by all the todays and yesterdays. Someday was in the making now.

I was doing something important. Caring and nurturing children, creating family, trying to make a home that is a sanctuary from a rough and tumble world is one of the most important things a person can do.

Creativity? We didn’t always have ground beef. Sometimes we had chicken or fish. It wasn’t the food that mattered; it was being together around the table, the conversation, the laughing, the connecting.

As for routine, no routine stays the same. But even as the routine changed fundamentals are taught—the fact that choices matter because choices become habits, and habits become a way of being and that is how character takes root.

Sometimes routine meant another lecture on respect for others’ property or dealing with a kid who acted up at the grocery, then later growing misty-eyed reading the apology letter in crooked letters left on my bedside table.

The things that matter most—knowing you’re loved and knowing how to love others, being generous, extending charity, working hard and recouping after failures and setbacks—are learned incrementally, one day at a time.

Someday is closer than you think.

Marriage-related hearing loss

Sometimes the husband and I pretend we have superpowers and can hear through walls, around corners and upstairs.

Yesterday he was in the kitchen and I was in the family room and he said, “Would you like to see ‘Hank the Dirty Narcissist?’”

We have different likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment, but this was more puzzling than usual.

“Why would I want to see a show about some guy named Hank who is a dirty narcissist?” I called back.

He walked into the family room and slowly said, “Do you want to go see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?”

Oh.

Our superpowers aren’t as super as we think. In truth, sometimes we can’t hear each other when we are in the same room.

The husband thinks we may have age-related hearing loss, but I don’t think that is the case at all. I think we have spouse-related hearing loss, which is entirely different, but equally as frustrating.

Spouse-related hearing loss begins around the 20th anniversary, picks up steam by the 25th, and is a runaway train by the 30th.

The husband surmised he should have his hearing tested and I said, “Don’t bother, I can diagnose the problem.”

“You’re not a doctor,” he said.

“No, but I play one in real life—ear infections, sore throats, strep, sinus problems, chest colds, appendicitis, asthma, flu and broken arms. I can test your hearing right here, right now.”

He just looked at me.

“No charge,” I said.

“OK, have it your way.”

A few minutes later, we are in the same room and I say, “I’d like to go see a musical I’ve been hearing about. What do you think about Wednesday evening?”

Of course, in a musical the actors periodically break into song and dance and I knew that might be a problem for him.

No answer. Nothing. The man is within arm’s reach and he cannot hear me. His problem is twofold—tonal frequency and topic.

My tone told him I was about to attempt to sell him on something, so his hearing began shutting down. At the mention of the possibility of attending a musical, his hearing turned completely off.

Had I inserted the words football, basketball or baseball in place of musical, he would not only have heard and responded, but pumped his fist in the air.

To further test the theory, I try again.

“How do thick juicy burgers on the grill sound for dinner?” I whisper in a barely audible voice.

“GREAT!” he yells. “I’ll light the grill.”

Just like that, the man is out the door and fanning flames on the grill. Excellent hearing and even better response time.

Dinner is now on the table.

“The burgers are ready and I bought tickets to the musical,” I say.

“I heard the burgers are ready,” he says. “What else did you say?”