For anyone that reads me regularly, I don’t have to tell you that I have the flu this week, but I will anyway: I HAVE THE FLU. I hate being sick. Everything gets derailed — my diet, work, writing, exercise, and parenting. Not that my teenagers require as much parenting these days, with Suz self-sufficient at school, Clark with a drivers’ license, and the oldest 3 outta-da-house. They require a whole lot of other stuff, though, like money, patience, money, money, and more money.
This week one of them also required attendance — ours. Susanne had a choir concert. Eric and I strive to attend all of our kids’ events. That’s why my butt is permantly numbed from sitting on hard bleachers at multi-day long swim meets.
There was just no way to swing Susanne’s concert this time. Our guilt was magnified by the weeklong trip we’d made to Chicago to see Liz sing, but what could we do? Our attendance would risk infection of 100 choir members and their assembled 750 fans. And we felt, and probably smelled, like hammered dog poo, too.
We drove Suz to the concert together in solidarity (and in case one of us passed out from fever), and I wrung my hands the whole way.
“Are you sure you are OK with us missing this, sweetie?” I asked.
“MOM, it’s fine. I don’t want you to go. Have you looked in the mirror? You haven’t brushed your hair in a week,” she said.
I turned to Eric. “Does this make us bad parents?”
Eric doesn’t pass up many opportunities to raz Susanne, even when he’s on death’s door. “It’ll give her something to talk about with her therapist someday.”
Susanne rolled her eyes in his general direction.
I loved this game and joined in. “Remember MadLibs last night? That prophetic story that had her as an exotic dancer? She’ll be at her therapist and go, ‘I was all set to be a veterinarian for starving animals in third world countries and marry Tim Tebow, when my parents quit coming to my choir concerts. It’s then that I turned to drugs and became an exotic dancer.'” I blew my nose.
“Mo-o-o-o-o-m,” Susanne protested, with her hand over her mouth. She doesn’t like to be caught smiling.
“I noticed she used a heavy hand with the poppyseed dressing tonight at dinner,” Eric added. “She made a point of telling us that opium comes from poppies. And I think that was right after you said we couldn’t go tonight, on the heels of us bagging on her for the Blake Shelton concert.”
“And me missing my duet with Blake of God Gave Me You,” I lamented.
Susanne had taken two friends in our place. Methinks she was happy with the spoils of flu last night. Still, she rubbed a little salt into the gash in my heart. “Hey, I videotaped it on my cell phone for you. Did you hear him calling you to the stage?” Hair toss. “I didn’t think so.”
Eric ignored the sidebar. “Next thing you know she’ll be asking us to grind hemp seeds onto her strawberry toaster streudels.”
I dropped my Blake woes and rejoined the fun. “Shave mushrooms over her macaroni and cheese,” I said.
“Huh?” Suz asked.
Eric’s voice was starting to give out, but he rasped on. “Pour cough syrup into her Dr. Pepper,” he said.
“She’ll start stealing our Sudafed, and her room will always smell like a freshly cleaned gymnasium*,” I said, then rattled the Malibu with a cough.
“And to think it all started because we had the flu,” Eric sniffed, wiping his dry eyes with a pretend hankie.
We pulled to a stop to drop off our daughter.
“You look pretty, honey. Sing good,” I chirped.
Susanne just shook her head, but this time she didn’t bother hiding the smile. “You guys are weird.”
She shut the door and joined her friends walking into the church, three young ladies with the world in their hands, beautiful in long black satin dresses with full length black gloves.
I put the car in drive. Tiny guilt prickles bit along my arms and face again. “Do you think she really will rat us out to a therapist some day? What if she repeated this conversation, for instance? Maybe that’s where we’re bad parents and missing this concert isn’t the real problem. Or maybe I’m delirious on too much Theraflu and Mucinex.”
Eric leaned his head back against the passenger seat and sighed. “Relax, Mom. I’m pretty sure she’s going to turn out just fine.”