Soul Coughing

I’ve been coughing all year. Since January started I and everyone in my household have been coughing. Our chests are sore from the seemingly endless contractions of muscles that come from repeatedly coughing, and some nights it’s so irritating that I can feel the strain of the cough behind my eyes. I’m starting to feel like we’re in some period drama, only without the fancy costumes.

There are two upsides to this, though. First, we’re not alone in this. Second, I’m used to this.

In the first, everyone in our town has come down with this month-long cough. My son’s elementary school has had strep throat going around, which doesn’t help, and everyone who doesn’t have that has had this same lingering cough that just won’t go away. It’s become something of a relief when I bring up my upper respiratory struggles and whatever parent I’m chatting with gets that same look of recognition and sympathy, like they’ve been going through the very same thing. This would be so much worse if it were confined to my household, so I take morbid comfort in knowing that there are so many others who are stuck with this very same cough.

In the second, I’ve had lingering coughs for as long as I can remember. I don’t cough all the time like this, mind you. I’d have sought serious medical attention years ago if this was my default state of breathing. But when I do catch an illness, it’s the cough that always sticks around longer than anything else. My record cough was several months long, leading up to my wedding in 2011. That sucked. But this has been happening to me for so long that it doesn’t scare me any more. My reaction is more akin to an eye roll and saying to myself, “Here we go again.” It eventually goes away, so long as I take care of myself, and I haven’t had a streak like my 2011 cough since then.

My son has inherited this quality of mine. Sometimes he will catch a cough that doesn’t go away for at least a week. My wife and I know the sound of it, the signs that it’s coming, and we know how to get him through it. What bothers him most about it is my nagging insistence that he drinks lots of water, which I feel is good advice with or without upper respiratory struggles.

With any luck, by the end of this week my family and I will be able to breathe more easily without feeling like we’re coughing up our lungs. If not, at least we have company in our misery.