When March 1st came, I breathed a sigh of relief that we had had such a well winter.
On March 2, Hope got a stomach virus. We had company coming--friends from Vermont. Our friend Karl Swanke (#67--look him up) played for Green Bay in the 80's and his visit was perfectly timed with our church's March Madness sports theme. He planned to say a few words at church while he and his wife, Maggie (one of my favorite people) were with us for the weekend college shopping with their daughter. I texted them with the news. They came anyway, and as usual, were a breath of fresh air.
The Swankes left right after church and by sundown the other seven kids and Captain Fun had fallen ill. You haven't lived until you have seven kids throwing up at the same time. Though, truth be told, the older five and the Captain were on their own, poor things, as I had to take care of Dorothy and Silas. All I could do was listen to hurried footsteps all night while I tended to the younger ones. Thankfully, our friends escaped it.
Ten days later, Dorothy woke up with a headache and high fever. For three days, she lay on the couch, and she missed the whole week of school.
Tiger and Matt, my two oldest sons, had the same spring break and planned to spend it at our house. I was elated to have all ten kids under the same roof. Within 48 hours of arriving, the stomach bug bit them. I brought them Sprite and crackers. It was just like old times, we joked. Somehow both of them agreed it was still a great visit home--one of the best, even, minus that 24 hours.
Within a day of their departure, Hope woke up from her nap feverish, inconsolable and lethargic. I rushed her to the doctor. Influenza B, he confirmed, and wrote a prescription for Tamiflu at $100 a pop. For almost a week she lay on my chest, not smiling, not playing, not eating. I have never had an infant with the flu before. I acted as if she was my first child, calling the nurse three times in the same day. I worried. I prayed. While Dorothy could tell me how she was feeling, all Hope could do was rest her head on my shoulder and cry. I thought of parents who have seriously ill children, wondering how they endured.
"I hope you don't get it," the doctor had said to me.
"Oh, I don't worry too much about getting it," I said, ignoring the tickle in my throat. By day three, the flu hit me full force. "I can see why you didn't get off the couch for three days," I told Dorothy. And on the day Hope and I were at our worst, a construction crew arrived in front of my house complete with jack hammers, waking Hope up from her much needed nap and allowing no relief for my pounding head.
By the time Hope recovered, Cory was down, calling for another $100 prescription and missed week of school. He returned to class today, but as I write this Mom Dot is on her third day in bed. Captain Fun checks on her, I check on her, the kids check on her. Soup, cold medicine, water and more water. She pokes her head out of her bedroom door, "Just to let you know I am still alive." I think she is on the mend.
Why the stomach bug and the flu in the same month? And why when we had so much company planned? (I even had a big birthday bash planned for sweet cousin Ellen that I had to cancel--twice.)
"Count it all joy when you fall into trials," the book of James says. Well, I am not quite celebrating trials yet, but I do know you just have to roll with them, let them stretch you, grow you, remind you that being there for each other is what family is for. It's no fun--the month of March has seemed three months long. But someone said we can let things make us bitter or better, and at least if we let it grow us, the experience is not wasted.
Once in a while when I was a kid, a strange man's voice would interrupt the Brady Bunch. "This is a test. This is only a test," he said before an annoying buzz would take over the TV for 60 seconds.
I still hear that voice during times of trial: this is only a test.
"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."