Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dear Norovirus

I don't really write open letters, but this year, you have earned one.

I didn't really know what you were when we first met this year. My family and I had enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving with good friends. The food was delicious--the most tender turkey I had ever eaten. Little did I know, though, that you were there, nesting in the folds of turkey-flesh, swimming in the vat of tepid gravy, or perhaps it was the cheesecake, waiting to invade my body, and then my home.

I thought you were popcorn! I really did. The day after Thanksgiving, Lolly and I took the girls to see a movie and all three girls had insisted on the nasty theater popcorn, and had all eaten so much of it that when Tessa started puking in the middle of the night right at her bedroom door, I thought "blast it! That theater popcorn does it every time!" Within minutes, Viva was vomiting as well, and I rued the moment I allowed them to buy that greasy, nasty popcorn. It wasn't until the next day, when Anna (the last of the girls) started puking--many hours after the other two--that I realized something else was afoot. Maybe this wasn't about the theater popcorn after all? Maybe this was something else?

And then we heard that other attendees of that dinner were sick as well.

And then I started feeling nauseous myself. And I have you to thank for this.

I have thrown up exactly one time in the last twenty years, and it was the lamest excuse for vomit in recorded history about four years ago. Barely worth noting. Vomiting is not something I do. I have been called phobic about it, in fact. But later that day--after all three girls were sick and vomiting, and moaning in discomfort--I grew up. I learned that, at the age of 33, I can now call myself a man. I threw up, you see, all by myself, into the toilet like a big boy. I felt so proud of myself! And relieved too. I was so glad to have that over with.

But then, several hours later, you really got me.
As I was helping Anna puke yet again into the toilet by holding her hair back, I smelled the smell coming from the toilet and... well, you probably guessed it. Let's just say that I now know from experience that there is nothing quite so bonding for a father and daughter than to be standing, side by side, violently blowing chunks, she into the toilet, and I into the sink. It was tender, really. Tender in the same way a praying mantis chewing the face off the father of her children to nourish her young is tender.

You left our house within 24 hours, and I was so glad to be done with you. Lolly felt you last, and was sick for the night, and then you were gone. We recovered--we convalesced the next day eating crackers and drinking ginger ale, and lying around in our pajamas. Having you out of our lives was a complete relief--we had gotten you over with, and watched, now, your carnage as you infected person after person after person on our Facebook feeds. You have been very busy this year, my friend.

Little did we realize how well acquainted we would become with you only weeks later.

When you have 23 of your wife's relatives visiting your home, you do everything you can to make sure the stay is comfortable. You make sure all toilets are properly working. You clean a lot. You buy food. You put up Christmas decorations to bring in holiday cheer.

It turns out, none of that matters--even a little bit--when one of the 23 visitors has brought you along. The first vomiting occurred in our house on Sunday of last week. Lolly's sister got sick. And we knew. We knew we were in for one of the most disgusting Christmases of all time.

Yes, it was as bad as you can imagine.

Imagine dinners being eaten, punctuated by the sounds of someone heaving in the bathroom.

Imagine each night being awoken by yet another child, covered in vomit, half-awake and just wanting to have Christmas be fun again.

Imagine washing the bedclothes of every bed multiple times.

Imagine the water bill we will soon be paying.

Imagine 11 children under the age of seven vomiting continuously. Everywhere but in toilets or bowls.

Imagine wondering who of the 23 of us would be "it" next, as if we were playing the most horrible game of tag ever invented.

Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads on Christmas Eve, our children had tupperware bowls for vomit next to their beds, and fear in their souls that they would be sick again. (Note: children have a really, really hard time getting vomit into tupperware bowls. Even on their third fourth or even fifth try.)

At one point, Anna said this direct quote as she was rocking back and forth in her bed: "I just watch person after person throw up, and I wonder if it's going to be me. It's so terrifying! I just want to die!"

I hear ya, Anna.

We would be cleaning up one putrid mess only to hear another kid in another room pouring his or her stomach contents onto the floor.

It was... there are no words, Norovirus. No words at all.

You came. You infiltrated my home, again. I thought we were done with you, yet you came with a vengeance. You tried to ruin Christmas. You tried to ruin our family.

But you lost Norovirus.

We still had fun. We still built memories. The kids still had many, many hours of fun when they weren't busy playing show-and-tell with their intestinal contents. And we still enjoyed celebrating together as a family.

See? Nobody can even tell that as they took this picture, you are teeming in the bowels of the majority of Lolly's family, Norovirus. (Plus, added bonus: nobody threw up this day!)

So, Norovirus, you didn't win. We won. And we will always win. Because family love conquers all. And Christmas is a time of miracles. And the human spirit can't be conquered by diarrhea.

It wasn't until after everyone had left that I learned that you are a really special breed of norovirus that can't even be killed with hand-sanitizer. But now that I know, I'm publishing my open letter to you so that everyone else out there can stay away from you. Wash your hands with soap and water people! A lot! And remember you're still contagious three days after the symptoms have ceased! 

Until next year Norovirus,



  1. Dear Josh, Lolly and all of your family - close and extended - I'm so sorry!!

    I feel pulled to share with you one Hebrew phrase:

    Refu'a Shlayma.

    It means: Complete Healing/Recovery.

    Refu'a Shlayma to all of the Weeds and their relatives!

  2. Oh the memories! So glad you all survived. (and very glad I wasn't there!!!)

  3. going through it right now.... started the last day of our family christmas party... I started it, there where about 2 grown ups and 19 children... i keep texting my aunts to find out if anyone is getting sick or if i got our of there at the right time. I am sorry, the norovirus stinks (my husband is down for the count and my daughter, and our 2 yr old cant stop jumping on the bed and has no clue how crappy we all feel)

  4. Oh no! I wonder if my daughter has/had it. She was miserable and throwing up this past weekend. :( It sounds like it just needs to run its course then?

  5. Season's greeting's, Weed family! I haven't laughed like this in a while; at Anna's exclamation, especially.
    Glad you're all feeling better. Throwing up sucks bigtime.
    Warmth this Christmas to the whole family.

  6. Oh dear! The most horrible game of tag ever invented, indeed. I hate that y'all were so sick, but thank you for your witty writing, which made me crack up at your extended family's sickness.

  7. It's like "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and the apple pie eating contest in "Stand by Me" all rolled into one.
    Additionally, I am eating a bowl of pasta while reading your tale of intestinal carnage. Yep. That's how I roll.

    Glad you have come out the other side, so to speak, the better for it and with unbreakable family bonds. :D

  8. I'm so sorry that you had to experience something that seems to have become a tradition in our family. Doesn't matter if it's my side or my husband's side gathering, we just have to get sick and share the love and the germs. Glad you are feeling better and can laugh at it now:)

  9. haha sounds all too familiar. During Thanksgiving my family(12 kids and 10 adults) took turns with the flu and we had a wedding 2 days after thanksgiving and even the bride and groom were sick. They were given medicine to keep from puking during their ceremony. Even the officiator was sick. It was a wedding to remember!!

  10. Oh, Weed! Vomit free since '93 and now this? Fail.

  11. Oh my stars Josh, I can't decide if I am terrible for laughing so hard at your awful experience, or if you are terrible for making it so funny to read. Wait a moment . . .

    Okay, the results are in. You win. You are terrible. Shame on you for making me laugh so hard about something so awful. :)

    I'm still laughing by the way . . . but I don't feel guilty.

  12. One word: Zofran. But that wouldn't be nearly as fun to read about.

  13. Peppermint oil has kept us from this horror story. So sorry. Did that at Thanksgiving 8 years ago. In a house that carried every sound from one end to the other.

  14. Good Golly Josh n' Lolly! (And entire Weed Clan). What can I say? You had me at "swimming in the vat of tepid gravy." You are SO good at the disgusting stuff. My husband is also a Vomitphobe. I'm so sorry for you and your tender hearted daughters but like you said these are strangely bonding moments. Your family picture is wonderfully triumphant! Reading this very well-written ( as usual, but amazingly hilarious) entry was like reading an open letter to Satan. So glad you all survived. It was beginning to sounds like the opening chapters to The Little Princess!

  15. I remember when I read this article the first time. I've been meaning to comment, but I just forgot. However, I am gonna say this. Next time, don't even bother spending time with family or friends during the holidays. You'll just get really, really sick. This year since I'm not really speaking with my relatives, I'm gonna skip Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. That way I won't get sick. Now, my dad still goes to his relatives on those days. But, I hope he doesn't bring anything back. I also hear there are anti-emetics available that can help prevent vomiting from noro or any other stomach virus. You should look into it that way you won't be sick from Thanksgiving or Christmas provided this thing shows its ugly head again. Here's a forum talking about which anti-emetic works best: