Author and columnist overcomes harrowing summer illness

Have you heard that for the past two weeks I’ve been fighting a brutal case of the summer flu? You haven’t? I’m surprised. I thought I’d told everyone.

I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve been this ill during the summer. Sure, I’m usually good for a round of the flu every winter and I’ll get a few runny noses. Well, not at the same time. Even when I’m sick I’ve just got the one nose.

It’s been quite the scare. I’ve had aches, pains and the kind of congestion that feels like a cement mixer is parked on my chest. After a few days it migrated north and now my throat is so sore I sound like I’m doing voiceover work for a “Transformers” film.

True story: At church on Sunday a friend returned my sandpaper scratchy greeting at the door by saying, “Congratulations, Jason, you’re becoming a man!”

My wife has been her typical and remarkable self through my life-or-death ordeal. She’s doctored me up, rubbed my headaches away and forced upon me all manner of natural remedies. I’ve been reminded that, much like my mother, my wife is one of those straight-to-heaven, skip-to-the-front-of-the-line saints. Seriously, if Disneyland has a “Fast Pass,” can’t heaven have one, too?

During the height of my illness, on the night when my wife sent me to bed four hours before my 5-year-old, it hit me just how lucky I am for the women who’ve nurtured me back to health throughout my life.

My mother helped me recover from pneumonia and surgery when I was young. My sister, an avid sports trainer and physical therapy major, nursed sprained ankles and jammed fingers in middle and high school. My wife led me through a bout with a rare disorder I contracted from a vaccine needed for an international trip – and that was after a yearlong tussle with mononucleosis and a fall that left me with a foot broken in four places.

Just reminiscing on it all makes me nauseous. And isn’t it interesting how differently men and women handle illness?

When a woman wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever of a 102.2, she carefully slips out of bed without waking her husband, takes a Tylenol and checks on the kids. When her husband wakes up with a fever of 99.3, he wakes her up, asks for a cold washcloth, a glass of water and then mumbles something about life insurance and walking toward the light.

When a man comes home from work with a headache, he sends the kids to the backyard, drops in his favorite chair and asks his wife to massage his temples. When a woman ends her day with a migraine, she cleans up dinner, does the dishes, writes three thank-you notes and orchestrates a peace treaty between two warring children.

When a woman gets a nasty cough and sinus infection, she makes a long list of the things she still has to do that day. It includes making meals for both her family and the one across the street who just welcomed a newborn, stopping by the bank, mailing a package to Ghana, dropping off clothes at Goodwill, running a Neighborhood Watch meeting and helping the kids build a live volcano that spews environmentally-safe lava. When a man gets the sniffles, he says goodbye to those he loves and makes a list of buddies to speak at his funeral.

Thanks to my wife and the miracle of modern medicine, I think I’m going to pull through this one. Soon I’ll be able to work a full day, help more at bath time and pass the medicine cabinet without instinctively opening it. I might even buy my wife a bouquet instead of just joking about the flowers I want at my graveside service.

But what if I’m not quite over this diabolical summer flu? In that case, I suppose I’ll just be grateful for the best possible care in the world from the finer, gentler gender. The world is blessed that women generally put caring above complaining, gratitude over grumbling and benevolence over bellyaching.

Speaking of bellyaches, I think I’ll punch out early today.

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