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The family that coughs together

February 25, 2012
By SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER , Weirton Daily Times

An elephant is sitting on my chest, and it is all the daughter's fault.

Well, not a real elephant. It just feels that way. It also feels like I should have gotten my flu shot, but my hate for needles is second only to my hate for insects. Even when the kids were babies and needed to get shots, I couldn't hold them for the doctor. That was the Long Suffering Husband's job. (It was his part of baby duties, and, if you ask me, he got off lightly.)

I am a nurse's nightmare. I grump. I whine. Frankly, when I'm ill, the only time I'm pleasant is when I'm sleeping. (And maybe not even then, since I'm guessing I snore on account of the congestion.) Since I am ordinarily an agreeable person - stop laughing! - I try to sleep as much as possible when I'm sick. I'm doing it for everyone around me. Really.

However, since I usually fall prey to whatever germs the loving children bring home from school - also known in our household as the germ factory - I am stuck taking care of other sick people while I am sick.

Can I confide something to you? I hate it. I hate being miserable and gritting my teeth and sucking it up because I've got a sick child who needs my concentration, not me sleeping all day. Sometimes, it really sucks being a responsible adult. (Try telling that to any teenager who thinks being an adult means doing and saying whatever you want. Haha*cough*hahaha! The universe's revenge on know-it-all teens is swift and certain. Enjoy having your parents pay for/handle things for as long as possible. Trust me. Or not. It doesn't really matter in the end. You'll see.)

This time, it was my daughter who infected me. I knew I had to take her to the doctor when she started coughing so hard she threw up. On a dry-clean only coat. Someone please remind me to never, ever give any person under the age of 21 dry-clean anything ever again.

Try telling Sainted Child cuddling and/or using me for a pillow is a bad idea while she's coughing up a lung. I tried to enforce a germ-free zone of an arm's-length, but it did no good. She just gave me the Patented Sad Eyes. (My fault; I taught her Sad Eyes in the first place to wheedle things from the LSH.) Plus, she's developed pneumonia, so wearing a breathing mask around her felt like less than Mother of the Year behavior.

Pneumonia meant I was having her eat or inhale something eight to ten times a day on the worst days. She hates the breathing treatments, we've taken to calling them "puff-puffs," as I keep yelling at her to "puff! puff!" (On my top 10 list of things I never thought I'd say to my children: "You've got to pull it into your lungs and hold it there." Good gravy, Mabel.)

She was miserable, but, unlike me, she never complained. And she doesn't get it from the LSH, either. The only time I've ever seriously considered divorcing him was when he was sick. He's terrible, and, in fact, there are no adequate words for what a whiney baby he becomes with something as inconsequential as a stuffy nose. (I can write that because he doesn't read these columns.)

Luckily, he rarely gets sick. Ordinarily, his super immune system would make me grouchy, but for his health and that of our marriage, I'm glad. (While I am on the subject of the LSH, I want give to shout out to Jim Pauchnik's mother-in-law, who is a regular reader and yet another LSH fan. Don't anyone introduce all these ladies to my mother or else he'll end up with a fan club and I'll never hear the end of it.)

We hope that she will no longer be infectious very soon, so we can send her back to school. Until then, the family that coughs together, stays together - on the couch with a bowl of chicken soup.

(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at She is a Weirton resident.)

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