The spouse greets me with a hot cup of coffee and bad news.
I struggle to untangle myself from the comforter, even more grateful than usual for the thoughtfulness that brings the coffee. I woke up, inexplicably, at 2:30 am and didn't fall asleep again until sometime after 4.
"The son says he doesn't feel well," the spouse sighs heavily.
"What's wrong?" I ask clutching my cup and dreading the words "he feels sick to his stomach."
But that's not it. "Headache, really sore throat," the spouse replies.
"Oh," I reply, somewhat cheered. "Does he have a fever?"
"Well, he's warmer than the daughter," the spouse tells me.
That doesn't mean anything. If you touch my skin, I exude the approximate warmth of a glacier. Nurses attempting to take my temperature have asked whether I've considered the possibility that I might be dead. The son, conversely, always burns hot. I'll have to locate the thermomometer.
I stare at my coffee cup, still mostly asleep. Finally, I chug the contents and stagger out to the kitchen. The son has gone back to bed after eating a yogurt and drinking a glass of juice.
I wander around, looking fruitlessly for the thermometer. No piece of durable equipment moves more than that thing, and when I need it, I can never find it. When the kids were younger, I used to have one in practically every room in the house.
Finally, I give up and head into the son's room. He stares at me, heavy-eyed.
"So," I say. "What's the problem?"
"A headache," he moans. "Burning sore throat, and it's swollen." He clutches his throat dramatically.
"Mmmm," I respond.
"My eyes, my eyes!" he cries, throwing a hand over them. "I can't focus my eyes!"
"Did you forget to do a project or something for school?"
"MO-OM!" he wails, cut to the core. That I would doubt my obviously ailing son! "I'm si-i-i-i-ck!"
I put my forearm to his forehead. Warm, but normal warm.
I grab a flashlight and look at his throat, which is indeed red. He sniffles pathetically.
"And my nose. It's running. But sometimes, it's stuffed."
I check him for rashes, but his skin is clear. He's got a cold.
"Okay, do you want to cut the dramatics and give me the real scoop on how you feel?"
He looks at me doubtfully.
"Look," I say with some exasperation. "I never send you to school when you're sick; I don't want to infect the other kids in time for the holidays. You know you aren't going to get any Xbox time. So just tell me what's wrong!"
"Headache," he says in his normal voice. "Sore throat. I ache."
I bring him two Tylenol and another cup of juice. He moans in gratitude.
He's turning into a man right on schedule.
Go listen to some good music: "Would I Lie to You?" from the album Greatest Hits by Eurythmics.