Last Friday I received our first ‘your son is coughing at school and endangering all of our lives how dare you come and get him before we put him in one of those decontamination tubes from Monsters Inc and shave all his hair off’ calls from Milo’s school. The call is abrupt and accusatory and not very pleasant, but probably fair enough given that person probably has to now make that call 20 times every day.
Now, I am very supportive of keeping sick children at home, but I am sure most parents would agree in the post-COVID, or mid-COVID, or post-mid-COVID, or rump-COVID world, or whatever world we find ourselves in, the threshold is somewhat lower than it once was; a polite clearing of the throat in an enclosed space is likely to earn you an express trip to the infirmary.
So, I picked up Milo post-haste (with all the shame entailed therein), removed him from the hermetically sealed zip-lock bag in which they had placed him, and took him home. The Friday was a pleasure. The three of us had grand adventures and complimented each other on the positive and healthy father/son, brother/brother relationships we had fostered and built together as we played, listened and respected each other etc etc. Friday flowed effortlessly into the weekend.
Now, readers of this blog will know Milo’s general attitude to all things is no corners cut, no compromises made. A fine attitude which will no doubt lead him to the very apex of science, the corporate world, or an organised crime syndicate. Anyway, his uncompromising attitude extends, of course, to his management of phlegm. If he identifies a small globule lingering in his throat, a globule that could perhaps be gently coaxed away with the gentlest of train-friendly rasps, he will instead gather all purging forces at his disposal and deploy them with impunity, each and every time. There is a deep intake of air, a pause, a wind-up and then an unholy hacking exhale that no globule could possibly endure. He waves the inside of his elbow around the general vicinity of his mouth, like all our virus-conditioned children now do, but that slender little elbow pocket has no chance of even stymying the progress of that great gale. Every cough invokes for me those slow motion videos of nuclear tests in the Nevada desert from 1945.
I have no doubt his immune system had almost declared victory over the weekend; little white blood cells cart-wheeling, jigging and playing drums on the helmets of their vanquished viruses like victorious Ewoks at the end of Return of the Jedi. His mucous was on the wane, his disposition brightening. We even secured a negative RAT; a nostril tickler, not just one of those lolly-pop jobs we all received from school which you only use if you want to guarantee a negative.
Still, as the sun set early on our wintry weekend it was obvious to us both that, despite our delusion, Milo’s no-holds-barred uber cough was going to do us in. There would be no school for him on Monday.