816 Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: One flu over the cuckoo’s nest


As the holidays pass into memory we are left with not only a mess, a few extra pounds and a strong desire to clean, but a more pressing issue from all that sharing time: family illness.

Since Thanksgiving, whole families have been knocked down one after another like dominoes, felled by a bug of some variety. The expression “dropping like flies” sounds fitting, but isn’t quite accurate. Flies are pests, unwanted and annoying intruders; their final flight downward occurs with their demise. While some family members, especially after an extended and high-stress holiday visit, may indeed be unwanted and annoying, no one would wish a final death-spiral drop on them.

My heart always goes out to families with small children all down with some crud. Every parent has stories of the times they creatively and successfully dealt with their own and their kids’ illness. When my youngest was still at the crawling stage, my husband and our other two caught a stomach virus of the loudest variety. (I’m trying to be delicate.) Fever was the least uncomfortable of their symptoms, and all three were miserable for days.

With a baby on one hip, I doled out fluids and crackers, applesauce and sympathy. I was changing sheets, cleaning out buckets and doing an unbelievable amount of laundry. Somehow the little guy and I were spared, but the experience left me with exhausting memories and a deep compassion for others in that particular, unavoidable and frequently occurring trench.

Maybe it was a protective haze of Lysol and bleach, healthy living or — more than likely — dumb luck but it seemed as if we had managed to avoid the bugs flying around this past holiday season. As 2015 approached, we were still healthy.

Most everyone knows that announcing this is an invitation with GPS coordinates for all the germs to flock.

Party at the Vollenweiders!

Of course, I announced our good fortune.

Keeping my mouth shut is clearly a lesson that has yet to stick.

Last January, after declaring our healthy blessings, my family was hit hard with the flu. Nasal-swabbed, pass-the-Tamiflu, high fever, coughs, aches, questions about where the truck that hit us went flu. I was the worst and feverishly kvetched in bed for two full weeks.

Since then I thought I had discovered a highly effective method of annihilating illness at the first sign of a tingly throat (by “discovered” I mean I saw it on someone’s Facebook status and tried it myself): Vinegar Tea.

Several times I mixed an oddly lemony tasting combination of one part cider vinegar to two parts honey stirred into hot tea. My big gun treatment was to follow this up with a traditional hot toddy of tea, lemon, honey and brandy, which works on me like NyQuil (which is to say, I should drink it already in bed because wherever I finish it will be my bed for the night).

The old wives’ remedy worked on this old wife. Better than putting on a pair of wet socks before bed or downing a gallon of chicken soup, the vinegar tea worked great … until it didn’t work at all.

As I write this I am on day three of jammies, hot liquids, aches and no voice. My family thinks that the last of these is a New Year’s miracle.

My family also thinks that they are really funny.

To you, my village of sniffling, sneezing, yaaking, fevered friends and those who are currently virus free, I silently raise my mug of tea and make a toast to us: We won’t let the bugs won’t keep us down.

Whatever it takes.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.