By Dan Haag
If you read this column for marriage or health advice – and really, why wouldn’t you? – than you’re in for a treat. This week’s missive tackles these conjoined subjects with the most accurate reporting you’d expect from someone who writes most of his columns while eating children’s cereal and dressed in sweatpants.
Married couples share everything: hopes, dreams, happiness, sadness. It’s often a sitcom-on-a-loop menagerie of hysterical laughter and hysterical tears. Occasionally you take a break to yell at one another about the proper way to fold a towel.
Despite our best efforts, however, there’s one thing that spouses can never avoid sharing. Well, two things if you count in-laws but that subject would run well over the 600 to 700 words I’ve been allotted here.
No, I’m referring to germs.
Cold and flu season is drawing near and living with someone puts you squarely in the blast zone.
That first sniffle or sneeze from your significant other is a warning klaxon. It signals at least a week or two of sleepless nights, rattling coughs, and wadded Kleenexes stuffed in pockets and abandoned around the house.
The sitcom-on-a-loop of laughter and tears has been replaced by constant moaning and accusing glares.
Just as one of you starts to get well, the other will have begun their mucus-encrusted spiral. You’ll wake up one morning feeling better and tell your spouse so. Instead of a parade or a pat on the back, you’ll get a croaked “how nice for you.”
Our house was hit with an early season cold this year and we were, frankly, unprepared. We hadn’t yet stocked up on the sick essentials such as tea, soup, and those incredibly nasty cough drops that can burn a hole through steel.
Janell was hit first. I was initially relieved because I knew there was no way I could be blamed for being patient zero.
Marriage is about the little victories, after all.
My relief blew away about two days later when I awoke with a scratchy throat and pounding headache. Janell took one look at me and smiled like a cop who just caught a fugitive.
“Not so smug now, are you?” she wheezed.
Like I said. Little victories.
We spent the next 72 hours splayed on the couch together, watching horrible daytime television. At one point, I dropped the remote. I was weak and sweating like Val Kilmer in “Tombstone” so we ended up stuck on an OPB fundraiser for over 4 hours.
In a daze, I mumbled something about donating $10,000 if they’d just stop. They did, which means I might want to check my credit card statement.
When sick with your spouse, understanding their various grunts and moans is an essential means of survival, especially when dealing with sore throats and clogged sinuses.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
One brief grunt: “I’m very bored.”
Two short grunts: “I don’t need anything” or “Turn me over, I can’t breathe.”
A long, low moan: “This is extremely uncomfortable.”
A louder, wavering moan: “The dog needs to pee and there is no way in hell I’m getting up, so please deal with it. While you’re up, get me an aspirin and some ice cream.”
When the first sick person gets better – in this case, Janell – they get the prize of taking care of the still-sick person. She tried to help, but this how it went:
Her: “Can I get you a book?”
It was like communicating with Frankenstein’s monster and she probably deserves some kind of prize from the folks at Nobel for even trying.
Finally, we both returned to semi-functioning members of society.
Being sick together reminds us of two very important things: understanding that “in sickness and in health” is a vital component of marital success; and ALWAYS check your pockets for wadded up Kleenexes BEFORE you do any laundry for at least the next two to three weeks.