Virtue & Mischief: Taking turns with ‘it’


It is only mid-February and already it seems like it’s been a long slog of a winter. Just how desperate, how tired, how melancholy would I feel by now if we’d experienced anything resembling “typical” Ohio temperatures and/or precipitation over the past two months?

I shudder as images of the fictional Jack Torrance (think Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”) and the very real Edvard Munch (think the emotionally tortured Norwegian artist responsible for “The Scream”) amble through my brain. If the Seattle-like weather (think gray skies and 35 degrees Fahrenheit) wasn’t quite enough to put a damper on my emotional outlook, the family’s physical health has been dodgy enough to tip the scales in a negative direction.

If memory serves, Abby was the first to come down with “it.” In this instance, “it” refers to a virus—I think—whose symptoms vary depending on the poor schlep suffering its effects. According to my notes, the symptoms of “it” include fever, headaches, sore throat, itchy eyes, coughing spasms, achy joints, runny nose, extreme fatigue, and…how to put this in a family-friendly column?…general dyspepsia.

“It” migrated from Abby to Krista, thence to yours truly. By the time I recovered, a couple of weeks ago, I harbored the irrational belief that Daniel and Luke might be spared, proving once again that Alexander Pope knew a little something about human nature (“Hope springs eternal in the human breast….”). My pipe dream was shattered on Friday morning when I received a voicemail message from one of the nurses at the new Greenville Middle School.

I couldn’t take the call immediately, as I was in my office conducting a meeting with a law student. The student and I were discussing her various career options and the means of pursuing them effectively when my phone rang softly in my left-hand pocket. Hmmmm. It’s rare, curious, and mildly ominous for me to receive a call on my cell phone during the day. I apologized to the student and plucked the phone out of my pocket to inspect the number indicating where the call was emanating from. Greenville-area landline, but unfamiliar.

I knew Krista was at work herself that morning, and the number displayed did not belong to her office. Feeling a little unsettled, I resumed my meeting with the courteous and understanding student and resolved to review the message after the session concluded.

“Mr. Swensen,” it began, “this is [name redacted], one of the Greenville School nurses….” Oh boy. Amigo # 3, aka “Luke,” was now the hapless host of “it.” He was running a fever, felt generally lousy, and needed to go home. A message had been left for Granny Amigo, but she wasn’t home. Could I swing by the school and pick him up? Well, unfortunately, no—I was an hour away and, in any case, had a full slate of appointments, both in the office and in downtown Dayton. As mentioned above, Krista was at work so I wanted to exhaust other alternatives before resorting to hauling her away from her optometry responsibilities.

“Let me make a couple of calls and get back to you as soon as I can,” I replied to the nurse. “I think I can find someone who can help out but it might take a few minutes.”

“That’s fine,” she responded. “Luke can just take it easy here. No emergency.”

I called Aunt and Uncle Amigo and hit pay dirt. Uncle Amigo, aka “Rob,” answered immediately and generously agreed to drive up from Wayne Lakes to retrieve Luke and deposit him, safe and…well…not-so-sound, on one of the Amigo couches at the casa Amigo. Thirty minutes later Uncle Rob dutifully called to let me know the (currently) ill Amigo had been delivered; operation “FedEx” was completed. Over and out.

In the intervening few days Luke has spent most of his time in bed or on one of our couches, slumbering, sucking on cough drops, watching TV, and waiting patiently for his fever to deliver a death blow to “it.” Last night he coughed and sniffled incessantly, poor fellow, and even had to make a 3:00 a.m. trip to the bathroom to throw up—a consequence, I believe, of all the mucous drainage and the fairly constant input of Halls honey & lemon cough drops. I got him a glass of water after his convulsions were over and escorted him to his bed. He dropped heavily in a heap, and curled up in his blue and white checked top sheet and heavy blanket.

“Hang in there, Luke,” I told him. I felt his head. Cool. No fever. Thank God. “I think you’re slowly getting better, but it’s going to take a little while before you’re 100%. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. Not your fault,” he mumbled and closed his eyes.

I touched his hair, rose from his bed, and began to walk back to the room I share with Mama Amigo. Before departing, however, I glanced over at the slumbering Daniel, shook my head gravely and mused with resignation, “The bell tolls for thee, my boy, the bell tolls for thee.”

By Tim Swensen

Virtue and Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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