the lonely flu

The Lonely Flu

For Christmas, 2017, my family got the flu. Maybe you don’t remember but the 2017-2018 flu was seriously dangerous and physically disgusting. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Fever, body aches, congestion, bathroom adventures of all stripes. The first person to come down with the flu was Six. We had finished opening presents and I noticed Six sitting quietly on the couch. Six is a human of constant motion so when he sits still for more than 3 minutes it’s time to get out the thermometer.

And yes, he had a fever. I remember thinking, “Here we go, he gets it then everyone will get it and then we’ll all be better by New Year’s”

I was so, so, so, so, so, so wrong. Older Son saw that Six had a fever, grabbed his presents and ran out the door, shouting, “Can’t get sick right now, bye!” And my husband (at the time) pretty much did the same, disappearing and leaving me to take care of Six. Neither of them got the flu.

Six was better within 72 hours and so I thought it wasn’t going to be very bad if and when I got it.

A couple weeks later I was in the emergency room, alone, dehydrated, a tad delusional and very sad. And to be fair to Six, I didn’t get my flu from him, I got it from a hospital. I spent New Year’s Eve in the emergency room with my dad and that is where I got my horrible strain of the flu.

My husband (at the time) and I were in the process of taking our marriage apart and an aspect of that process was spending weekends apart. We were training ourselves and Six to the every other weekend schedule of visitation and things were going okay. I had a place to stay in Ventura (thanks to my work with Persistiny) and I would go there every weekend, half the time with Six and half the time alone. It was during this time that the flu struck. Six and I were planning on spending the week between New Year’s and the restart of school in Ventura. We had all sorts of grand plans. I started throwing up a few hours after we got there. The next day I had to call Six’s dad and ask him to come get him, which thankfully he did.

There began a six day run that, as I said earlier, ended with me in the emergency room. Those six days run together in my mind as one long sleepless night of staggering to and from the bathroom until I eventually gave up and slept on the bathroom floor. That is a sad image but if you knew how small the bathroom floor was, it is also funny. At one point I dozed off with my forehead against the base of the toilet and my legs in the shower.

I tried to watch  TV. That just made me anxious because I picked the wrong show. It was that Outlander show, which I’m sure is very good but was way too intense for someone with a fever hovering around 102. I ate bananas and drank room temperature gatorade when I could keep anything down. I started crying (a lot) around day 3.

It seemed my life had added up to nothing more than this painful and lonely existence. I was as sick as I could ever remember being and I was all alone in a tiny rental apartment. My husband who no longer wanted me, for some reason my older son was in Kentucky, my mom was dead, my dad was recovering from his bout with the flu…you can see how overly dramatic my thinking got. But there was something in that solitude that genuinely hurt.

Why was I alone? I had spent so much of my life caring for other people in their times of need and here I was, exhausted and sick and alone.


I felt like a cliche. The dumpy, shrewish first wife, left not because of any one thing she did but rather because of what she can never be, someone different, someone new. And that is when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my marriage of almost 21 years was over. And that is why I was crying so much. It wasn’t that I was alone, it was that I had been spending the past few months playing at being alone and this was the first time I was facing a relatively serious problem by myself and it was awful. And ultimately one of the most important moments of my life.

Because that is when I became single. Again. In a week of best left undescribed physical ailments, I was no longer part of the American social construct known as marriage that, in part, decrees, “If you are horribly sick, I will risk becoming sick so that you will not end up contorted on the bathroom floor for God only knows how many hours. And I will drive you to the ER.” There’s obviously more to marriage than that but you know what I mean.

I eventually drove myself to an overcrowded emergency room in Ventura where I sat on a hard, square shaped waiting room style chair and got an IV. I saw other sick people with their families and I felt even lonelier than I had in the apartment. Luckily I was so dehydrated I couldn’t really cry anymore.

The lonely flu taught me a lot. I will never have such a tiny bathroom ever again. I will always go to urgent care if my flu symptoms don’t improve within 3 days rather than waiting for 6 days and ending up in the ER. I now hate bananas and hope to never eat another one as long as I live. And I learned that no matter how many times you came to other people’s rescue, sometimes no one is going to come to yours. And that does not in any way impact your value as a human being. It teaches you to be your own imperfect hero. Which stinks but is doable. Did I gain personal strength? Who knows. But I’m that much less afraid of being alone than I was before and that seems valuable.

All that being said, I don’t recommend a gross flu as a way to come to terms with the end of a relationship. I would have much preferred some kind of Eat, Pray, Love bullshit but what can you do?

Best of luck in all you do, let’s talk again soon.


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