What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 30
Infectious Disease: The Gift That Keeps on Giving 

[p.94]I hope Philip doesn’t have to write an essay about what he did during his summer vacation when he goes back to school next month. That’s because his essay would read something like this:

“In the morning we got up and watched television until 10:30. Then our mom got up to feed us popsicles for breakfast. I wanted banana, but Mom always gave the banana popsicles to my brother Alec. After breakfast we all watched Perry Mason reruns on Channel 13 while our mom worked up enough energy to crawl back into bed. As soon as she went upstairs, Alec and I had a fight. He called me Stupid so I called him Stupid back. He kicked me in the stomach so I kicked him in the eye. Alec started it. Then we watched some more TV. At 4:00 it was time for lunch. We had popsicles …”

The reason Philip’s essay would look like this is that my entire family and I spent the summer quarantined inside our house, trying to get over what certain persons in the medical profession blithely refer to as an “infectious disease.”

Actually, this summer has been a very educational experience for me. I have learned a great deal about infectious disease. The main thing I have learned is that there are two kinds—type A and type B. Type A infectious diseases are the viruses that nice polite people who always pay their cable television bill on time get. Examples include cold and flu bugs. These viruses show up at your house wearing white gloves and Sunday hats with the assurance that they’ll only stay at your place a day or two before they go next door to infect your neighbor.

Type B viruses, on the other hand, pull up at your house on choppers, dressed in black leather jackets and hobnail boots. The minute they show up, your property value drops, thereby causing the decent people on your street to put up FOR SALE signs in their front yards.

Also the county health department gets wind of what’s going on, [p.95]and before you know it, they send out stout nurses to strap bells around your neck so that everyone will be warned of your imminent approach. Examples of Type B viruses include impetigo, giardia, head lice, pinworms, hepatitis, and certain strains of hoof-and-mouth disease caused by eating food with your feet.

Naturally we all had a Type B virus, although I have been advised by my lawyer, Mr. Mason, not to tell you which one.

Admitting that you have contracted an undesirable disease is almost as embarrassing as losing your slip on Center Street in Provo, which is something I once did while I was talking very loudly to my husband and not paying any particular attention to what my underwear was doing. Still, never let it be said that Ann Cannon does not have a strong sense of Civic Duty. Since I have become an authority on antisocial diseases, I gladly entertain the questions that people come to my home to ask (usually after dark) in hopes that they may benefit from my experience. Here are some of the most common queries.

1. How can I tell if I have an unpleasant infectious disease? If you have recently turned any shade of green, yellow, mauve, or taupe, chances are very good (a) that you have an infectious disease and (b) that you will be shunned in polite society for the rest of your life. But don’t worry. The good news is that nobody will ask you to donate at the next blood drive.

2. Should I notify the people with whom I have recently come in contact?  Yes, unless you spent the day before you got sick chopping up vegetables for a church dinner. Then you should strongly consider getting on the next flight to South America.

3. How can I live down the experience? Don’t write a column about it.

If there’s anything worse than contracting a disease, it’s accidentally passing it on to someone you really like. I think this is even worse than sending chain letters to a friend, especially the kind that make veiled death threats such as “IF YOU DO NOT SEND OUT TWENTY COPIES OF THIS LETTER BY MIDNIGHT ON SEPTEMBER 5, 1989, BOTH YOU AND YOUR DOG WILL BE RUN OVER BY A TRAIN!”

[p.96]Oh, well. We survived the experience. The viruses and their girlfriends got back on their choppers one day and headed for the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

And if it weren’t for the nice little postcards they keep sending us, we’d probably forget they ever visited in the first place