Be grateful it’s only a cold

Posted by GT on October 9th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns

Originally published in February 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Calling it a “cold” seems wrong considering how much my nose burns. It’s kind of stinging and grooved, too, like it’s been used to strike matches or maybe sharpen pencils.

Kleenexes rub like dollar-store sandpaper, the handkerchiefs Dad long ago badgered me into the habit of carrying gross me out after only four nose blows. Every morning I spend 15 minutes clearing a biohazard out of my head and throat. My eyes water and ears ring.

Last week, my conscience kicked in and wouldn’t allow me to go along on a dinner gathering during a meeting of Cox Newspapers features editors for fear of exposing my peers to germs. I missed out on a meal at the Salt Lick, a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas.

Woe is me, right?

Yeah, I know – wah wah, boo hoo, go cry in someone else’s coffee, pal. You got to spend three days in Austin on someone else’s dime and you’re whining about a cold?

No one is better at feeling sorry for me than me, but self-pity has been a particular challenge of late no matter how bad the taste of my Target Cough Formula DM (a buck and a half cheaper than the Robitussin formula it copies), or how embarrassing it is trying discreetly to blow my nose in a crowd.

If recognizing how good is life in general weren’t enough to keep me from griping, all I’ve needed to do is look at the black circles surrounding the blue-green eyes on the ashen face in my home, or the blonde hairs curling out from under the quilt covering that same little face on the living-room couch.

I’ve had a cold and some fluid in my lungs. In the last week and a half, our older daughter, age 5, has experienced: a bad cold, strep throat, infections in both ears and pneumonia in one lung. Some days she slept so much it was almost scary and her waking hours were bleary except for brief stretches of energy that followed battles to get nasty-tasting medicines into her.

My wife, Lisa, and younger daughter, 2, have had the cold; the 2-year-old also had an ear infection, which she endured cheerfully.

Instead of some cleanup and repairs Lisa and I hoped to do the last couple of weekends, we’ve largely stewed in what has become our own little sick house. The basic necessities have gotten done, but more than a few small messes have been left where they fell until we’re ready for a major cleaning when we all come out the other side of this. The only thing that motivates me to pick up dirty tissues around the house isn’t the fact that they’re a mess, but that our dog enjoys eating them, which is disgusting.

Germs always have and always will settle in for visits in our home and I’ll never get used to it. Again, though, all I have to do is pay a little attention to know things in general are going pretty well.

Recently, I listened to a man I respect describe his teenage son’s suicide attempt. Now, the boy’s family watches constantly for signs that he’s planning another attempt. Naturally, the father is deeply concerned, but he also noted the experience has made him closer to his wife than they’ve been in a long time.

Periodically, my family and I cross paths with a mother whose son – about the same age as my older girl – plainly has substantial physical and mental problems. We’ve seen this boy many times since he was an infant and never have we noticed signs from the mother that she’s angry or overwhelmed by her situation. We have, however, seen her kiss and hug the kid plenty of times.

We’ve got colds. Yuck. But we’re getting better.

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