Well done, my son

Originally Appeared in : 9805-3/1/18

Isolation is rarely achievable at our house. That rules out things like yoga, meditation or, as Magan regularly exclaims, “Five minutes. Five minutes of quiet.”


So it would stand to reason that a synonym like “quarantine” would fall into that category or, worse, get a healthy sarcastic chuckle. 


Occasionally, though, we have to at least attempt to employ similar methods to prevent a family pandemic.


Telling any under-six member of our house, “Don’t go in there,” is like telling our cat, “Don’t go in there.” Inevitably, they both end up under the bed behind the disassembled crib, drawn deeper and deeper with every “Come on” as the ice cream melts in the grocery bag on the kitchen counter.


“Hey Daddy,” Eli said, “I hope you don’t have the Black Death.”


“Thanks Eli, it’s the flu and you should go.” (Apparently that homeschool history chapter on medieval times sunk in)


“Okay. I love you and I hope you stop having the flu.”


I was sick.


Worst of all, though, so was Magan. She had all the aches and pains associated with the flu but none of the fever spikes I was suffering. Keep in mind, however, she was only weeks away from welcoming Ruthie Mae into the world, so she had a double-whammy of exhaustion.


My fever climbed closer and closer to 103 for most of the first night, as Magan and Noah took turns checking on the four-and-under crowd to make sure no new flu cases were arising in the wee hours.


Grandmas were limited in their aid, with one battling her own second bout with the flu and the other helping Grandpa Dan recover from surgery. So we were on our own. What am I saying? Magan and Noah were on their own and, at many turns, it was Noah going solo.


He cooked. He cleaned. He changed dirty diapers. He came and got his brothers and sister out of my room every time they clambered in—by this time with shirts pulled over their faces—with more questions about my illness or wellbeing. He also helped keep his brothers and sister on schedule all day, all the while checking on me in my room or tending to Magan in the recliner or beside me in the bed.


By Day Two of the Halcombe House Flu Pandemic, our kids had shifted from curious cats to lions sensing weakness in their prey, and like big cats pouncing on a small gazelle in those NatGeo specials, they lunged with fussiness, fights or plain, old-fashioned tears. The only thing missing was Sir David Attenborough’s dulcet tones saying, “and in this race, a second-place finish means certain death for the gazelle.”


Our kid-dy cats forgot, however, that Magan was, is and forever shall be, the stronger of the two of us, and she proceeded to tough out any aches and pains to aid Noah and keep the house in order. She even freshened up the bathroom, for crying out loud.


“You didn’t have to do that,” I said. 


“It makes me feel better,” she said.


Day Three offered up a new variable: rain. That meant the one release for the kids and Magan—outside—was off limits. Kids in different states of disquiet were shuffled from one room to the next long enough for them to simmer down and roil back up to a boil.


Noah didn’t lose his cool.


Every so often, he would come in to ask my advice or to relay a report from Magan in the living room, and then he’d return to either his math problems or to helping with whatever was needed at the moment.


As of the penning of this column, the crisis was anything but averted. The lesson in it all, however, had already been taught by Noah from the moment I walked in the door with glazed-over eyes.


Throughout the entire ordeal, Noah was embodying a simple yet powerful piece of Scripture, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).


(Attenborough voiceover) “In some cases, the savanna becomes a safe harbor. Once ferocious lions now offer up Tamiflu and home-cooked sloppy Joes to their one-time prey as peace offerings; the world in harmony as creatures’ creator had intended so many eons ago in the Garden of Eden.”


Jason Halcombe has five sons and a daughter. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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