My Daughter Said She'd Burn This Book! -- by L. David Mark

Chapter 9 - The Year the
Sickness Came for Christmas

We usually had people visit at Christmas time. Mostly my parents, because they were retired and it was easier for them to travel than for us with the kids. Later, after Dad died, Mom usually came, often with my Aunt Ruth as a traveling companion before she went into a nursing home.

      And when my sister Jane and her husband Gordon lived in the area, we always got together with them. But other than that, it was mostly just Mary and I and the kids. Except for the year the sickness came at Christmas.

      Mom and Aunt Ruth came first and we later concluded (or, rather, I guess I did) that Ruth was the carrier, the "typhoid Mary" who had brought that awful flu virus with her. Anyhow, she didn't have any symptoms. I vaguely remember that Mary didn't feel too good briefly & my Mom may have been in the same boat. I also do recall that that shortly after they arrived my stomach wasn't quite up to par -- felt queasy & uneasy -- but at the time I put it down to nervousness from having extra people around, and later it got better so I never really was that sick.

      The virus seemed to gain in strength as it "went through the family." When my cousin Nancy and her husband Jim came with their kids, I think it was Jimbo -- he was about fifteen or sixteen at the time and was the one who threw up at the bottom of the basement stairs -- who was hit first. Luckily nobody stepped in it and we were able to clean it up before the dog went downstairs the next morning.

      Also, it seemed to concentrate on men, avoiding women and smaller children. Nancy never was sick and I can't recall that her twelve-year-old Dana or six-year-old Mikey showed any symptoms either. But Jim -- a big strapping six-footer -- was felled in his tracks, as was my brother-in-law Gordon, who had arrived from Virginia Beach a day or so earlier with Jane and the three girls. Come to think of it, I believe both Laura and Sue were pretty sick for a brief period of time. But they were older.

      But nothing stops Nancy. So, when Jim was flat on his back and sick as a dog, Mary, Mom, my Aunt Ruth and I accompanied her on the White House tour that we had previously arranged for, leaving Jim in bed to suffer. I remember it was an extremely cold morning and after the tour, we stuck our heads in a nearby People's Drugstore -- both to get warm and because Nancy wanted to get some kind of book on the White House or something.

      Anyhow, that was the time my mother, standing near the newsstand, inadvertently started browsing through Playgirl. Yes, she found the centerfold! And immediately slammed the magazine shut and gasped, "Oh! That was a naked man!"

      Aunt Ruth asked, "Who was it?" to which my mother replied, "I don't know; I never got a chance to see his face."

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