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Well, I managed it. The year that everyone is desperately trying to avoid the flu is the one year I manage to catch it. And it is just as miserable as I remembered from years gone by. The aching, the coughing, the headache, the unmentionable “other” symptoms. It’s been a blast. The funny thing is, I kept whining to myself (because, wisely, everyone has been avoiding me like the plague victim I am), but anyway, I kept whining Oh, my gosh! I forgot how rotten the flu was!

And honestly, it’s been years…I mean years since I’ve fallen victim to the flu bug, despite the fact that I avoid flu shots religiously. Now that I’m three days in and can once again form coherent (no wise cracks!) thoughts, I finally remembered just exactly when I last had the flu.

Senior year of high school — Fall of 1991. I was 17 going on 18 and ready to take on the great big world that awaited me in college (at UAB, no less. I was totally delusional even before the fever kicked in.). I’d been dating the most awesome guy ever for over six months and was stoked because I’d just gotten back my senior portraits and I looked HAWT! I was skinny from all the exercise and not eating I’d been doing, and my hair screamed 90’s with a perfect mix of hot rollers and hairspray and height. It was big, but not trailer park big. It was volumized (all the commercials assured me of this). And the piece de resistance? My skin had been perfectly clear that day. It was the senior picture perfect storm.

So there I am, with my awesome pictures in hand. I’d already alerted my college age boyfriend (squeal) that I’d have his copies ready when he picked me up the next night for Friday Date Night (read: walking around Wal-mart and dinner at Hardee’s — welcome to a small southern town). And then it hit. The works. Fever, chills, hacking cough — you name it I got it. And it hit like a mack truck. I was so far down, I thought I’d never get back up again.

By Sunday afternoon, I was pretty sure I’d live, but not convinced I actually wanted to when super-cool-college-boyfriend called. He was in the area, and wondered if I felt like him stopping by to see me. He didn’t want to go the whole weekend without seeing me and he had to head back to college that evening.

There I am, practically crying into the phone about how I haven’t washed my hair in three days. I’m wearing the Garfield nightshirt I’ve had since the fourth grade and the world’s ugliest blue robe (Sorry, mama. I know you made it and all, but let’s be honest here). And really, truly, he’ll just have to wait until next week to get his pictures.

I don’t know how he did it, how he talked his way past all my defensive blather. I blame his phone voice. It was one of the first things that attracted me to him, and he’d used it to unfair advantage from day one. I’d initially noticed him in a High School play, and I was sitting so far back I could only discern two things: that he was male and that he had a voice that made my knees go weak. It was that voice that made me forget my greasy hair, and threadbare nightshirt, the ugly blue robe, and the fact that my skin was literally gray from being so sick for the last three days. It seemed like I’d barely hung up the phone when there he was at my parents’ front door.

I retrieved my envelope of portraits, and tried to just hand them to him out the door, turning my face and hunching my shoulders in an effort to hide the fact that I’d become a monster. Every sickly fiber of my being begging him to just take the pictures and go, because that’s how I wanted him to remember me — perfectly coiffed, smiling and poised, with lovely pink-hued skin — instead of the partially embalmed look I was currently sporting. Why couldn’t he take a hint? But he was too much for me.

Before I knew it, I’d actually let him in the door. Actually let him see me in all my cadaverous horror. In full daylight, no less! I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wanted him to go far, far away and not come back until I was cute again, but he was relentless. I don’t remember what nonsense he said to me, but just being with him made me feel better. Soon I was smiling and laughing (croaking), despite the fact that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d brushed my teeth. And do you know what he said before he left? You’re always beautiful to me.

I’m getting misty just writing it. I think I have to write it again. You’re always beautiful to me. Can you believe it? Who says that to a smelly, greasy, ashen-faced girl and really means it? Even now, almost 20 years later, he makes me feel beautiful even when I’m at my worst. And he makes me feel smart even when I’m so stressed out and tired I have to pantomime words like car, or eat, or refrigerator (that one is tougher than you might think). In short, he makes me feel wonderful always. And if there’s one good thing that’s come out of my latest bout with the flu, it’s the memory of that day, and that unbelievably thoughtful boy who turned into the incredible man I married.

There’s always a bright side. Isn’t there?

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3 Responses

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  1. Paige says

    How sweet, Jodi! It’s wonderful that you and Jason are still so much in love after so many years and so many little boys! And all of us who went to high school with both of you know that two quality people like you belong together!

  2. Bells says

    Oh man. What a guy. All the way through that I was just begging for the story to end with the boyfriend turning out to be Jason! I’d have been so disappointed if it wasn’t him. And i don’t even know the guy!

  3. Bells says

    ps that post would have been improved by a photo of said hair.

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