A monster cold descended on our house two weeks ago. First it claimed Kenold, then D'Arcy, then me, and finally Ben.
This was no run-of-the-mill cold you could just push through for a couple of days.
It was an "I can't get out of bed" marathon that lasted way past the seven days you'd expect a cold to run its course.
In fact, over a week in and feeling just as bad, I asked D'Arcy: "Did I catch a second cold? Is this a NEW cold?"
D'Arcy couldn't answer because he couldn't speak: he'd lost his voice.
Ben has been off school for a week.
Although feeling crappy, he's happy to stay in his PJs and immerse himself in TV and computer games all day.
I didn't want to send him back too early, but I also knew that Ben would play his sickness card for as long as possible.
Last night when I told him he was going back to school today, he signed that he felt "green" and launched into a dramatic series of over-the-top, forced coughing episodes.
"Yes, you have a bit of a cough, but you're better and everyone has to go back to school and work," I said.
Ben couldn't sleep last night. He worked himself into a frenzy that he was too sick to go back to school -- and kept coming into our room to act out his symptoms with great relish and sign that he had to "stay home."
Despite some repeat performances this morning, we managed to get Ben out the door for the bus. But I knew his attendance was tenuous.
The call came just before lunch.
Ben couldn't stop coughing -- on everyone -- and had to go home.
I picked Ben up at lunch. His assistant told me he was really sick and asked if he'd seen a doctor. "You can really hear it in his cough," he said.
Not surprisingly, I didn't hear anything.
Ben, mission accomplished, was no longer "in character."
There was no coughing as Ben got into the van. No coughing all the way home. No coughing up the 29 stairs to the house. No coughing at the dining room table eating lunch. No coughing watching a video on his iPad. Clear breathing, no sniffles.
Luckily, Lucy happened to be home for the day.
"I'm going back to work," I said to Ben. He nodded in agreement, eyes stuck to the screen.
No coughing as I walked out the door to return to work.
His assistant messaged me to let me know that he could do the homework in his bag while he got better over the next couple of days.
"Clever Ben," D'Arcy wrote in an e-mail. "He puts on a show and gets a free pass -- no school!"
Yup, Ben definitely deserves an Oscar for his winning performance!