Nibbled to Death by Coughs

A true story:

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She didn’t have any brothers or sisters.  Her father worked shift work.  It rotated: for two weeks he worked all day; for two weeks he worked all night.  After working all night he would come home, put a thick blanket over the window, and sleep all day long.

During the weeks when her father was sleeping all day, 26 of them every year, the little girl had to stay very, very quiet in the house.  She learned how to play quiet games like Traffic Jam where all her little matchbox cars would be lined up in a row and silently move forward an inch at a time.  She learned to doodle with smooth ball point pens, never scratchy pencils.  She learned to walk noiselessly and never snapped any twigs in the hallway when stalking prey.  She read many, many books.

She grew to love the silence of the house.

At that same time there was a different little girl.  Her babyhood was one of quiet happiness.  And then a little sister came along.  Then a brother.  Another brother.  Another sister.  Another sister.  Another brother and a last sister.  Her life stayed happy, but was never again quiet.

Babies cried, toddlers tantrumed, mothers hollered, brothers shouted.  Though she was the oldest of all the children, she stopped growing earlier than the others and ended up being the smallest.  In order to keep her younger brothers and sisters in line she had to learn to speak her mind.  She had to be bold.  She had to be LOUD.

She grew to love the noise of her home.

When the two little girls grew up they became acquaintances.  One day they met at a bowling alley where their children were bowling with a group.  The alley had just opened for the day and the group was the only one there.  There was the smell of stale cardboard pizza, the sight of the faded neon carpet, and the sounds of children laughing and talking and balls rolling and pins falling.

Twenty minutes after the group arrived, the bowling alley owner turned on the music.  Loud music, so that it could be heard over the laughing and talking and rolling and falling.

The quiet little girl, now all grown up, frowned and turned to her loud acquaintance and murmured, “Why did they do that?  Everything was just bearable and then they had to turn on that music.  I wish they hadn’t.”

The loud little girl, now also all grown up, looked shocked and boomed, “Oh I love it!  It was too quiet in here.  I love the noise.  I was the eldest of eight.  When I moved away from home I lived in an apartment all by myself.  The silence was oppressive.  I would feel twitchy unless I had on the television and the radio at the same time.”

“Really?  When I’m alone I keep my house completely silent.  Listening to music in the house makes me twitchy.  I never use the tv for background noise and when it’s on, I keep it as low as possible and still be able to hear it.”

The two woman gave each other friendly “huh, well, waddya know” looks and went on their way—the quiet one sighing over the music and the loud one humming along.


Oh the noise!  Oh my poor little ears!  Oh the cacophony!


As happens every year, Darling Husband and Boy11 have been afflicted with Coughs since 7:52 a.m. on December 14th.  Ahhh….remember way back to December 13th when our house was peaceful and quiet?

At first they coughed just a few times here and there….and then it got worse….and worse…and worse…until the two of them were hacking away and doubled over and getting tears in their eyes from all the coughing.   Cough, cough, hack, hack…a few times every hour…a few times every half hour….every 10 minutes….every three minutes!


I haven’t been able to finish a sentence without pausing to wait for someone to stop hacking in 3 weeks.  You should have seen me trying to read to them.


The extraterrestrial peeked (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) through the louvers of the closet door.  The boy had (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) returned to bed.  The mother placed a tube in the boy’s (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) mouth and left the room.  The boy quickly held it up to the light above his bed, (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) heated the fluid within it, and placed it back in his mouth (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) as the mother returned.

The old scientist nodded. (pause for cough, cough, hack hack)  A trick known around the galaxy. *


Boy8 and I were being as patient as we could but the constant cough, cough, hack, hack wears on a person.  It was all we could do not to say, “Would you just STOP MAKING ALL THAT NOISE!?!?!”

Boy8 handled it the only way he could–by making fun it.  He’s developing quite the sense of humor and his impressions of Darling Husband coughing are hilarious.  Well, they’re hilarious to everyone except for Darling Husband.

Darling Husband is getting better, but Boy11 is still hacking away.

It doesn’t help that I started watching Breaking Bad in the middle of this whole mess.  The main character is diagnosed with lung cancer (first epiosde, I haven’t spoiled it for you) and HE COUGHS, TOO!   I just can’t get away from the coughing.  Every time the actor coughs I shake my head and think, “Lame!  That cough was lame!  If you want to hear a real cough, just head on over to my house and I’ll show you a real cough (yo.)”


* Excerpt from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in his Adventure on Earth” a novel by William Kotzwinkle.  You probably recognize that author’s name from the very famous book “Walter, The Farting Dog” (which I also own).  With a resume like that you know he’s a good author.

But seriously, it’s a fun little book.  It’s based on the movie E.T. and does a nice job of flushing out the details.  I read it as a kid and recently bought it to read it to my kids.

(Do I need to state the obvious, that I was the quiet little girl in the story?)


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