So maybe it wasn't the plague, bird flu, or the Ebola virus; it was a cold. But not just a cold -- it was THE COLD, and it could not be defied.

My family had planned a wonderful rendezvous in Miami where my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live. My daughter-in-law was bringing her two little girls for fun in the sun in Miami (my son couldn't come). Although they live in California, and were not trying to escape the snows we've had this winter, she wanted a last hurrah before her maternity leave ends. Of course the minute I heard that I could spend some time with all three of my grandkids together, (oh yeah, and their parents too) I booked a flight down south.

Everyone was eager for the chance to see the Western contingent of the family. My younger daughter and son came, my daughter-in-law's mom and brother and sister planned to come after we left. It was going to be great.

The day I arrived, my daughter immediately started obsessing about her friend who shares a nanny with her. She went on and on about the inconsiderate behavior of this woman who had brought her little girl to their house day after day, despite the fact that the child was sick. I agreed that it wasn't very nice behavior, but what can you do -- kids get sick. Little did I know that this little girl was carrying THE cold.

My daughter worried about bringing her son to play with his cousins, but he seemed just fine. My daughter-in-law and I blithely told her to bring him and not to worry. We didn't know the super germs that we were dealing with.

By the end of the day he was coughing. We tried to be optimistic. He seemed perfectly happy, full of his usual energy and good cheer. He (almost two) and his older cousin (a little over two) were fighting over the toys with plenty of gusto. "I need the ball." "No, it's mine." Normal behavior.

However, by the next day his nose was running, and he was much more subdued. We forged on, figuring that everyone was already exposed. When there is a cold going around, not everyone gets it, right? At least that's what we told ourselves. Except that my daughter was starting to cough and her nose was looking suspiciously red.

That night, my grandson had a fever and the fun was over. He and my daughter stayed home and gave in to sickness. But it was too late. My granddaughter was starting to cough.

I began to feel like we were in a 19th-Century novel -- it begins with a cough and sweeps over the town, taking all inhabitants in its path. There is no medicine, no cure for this dread disease. At this point my daughter-in-law had a headache, but she pretended she was just tired. She's not a complainer.

Our biggest concern was keeping everyone away from the baby. No, you can't touch your sister with those hands that just wiped your nose. No kissing, no hugging. We were reduced to telling my granddaughter that she could only touch her sister's feet.

Meanwhile, I was not going to be deprived of closeness to my grandkids. I kissed and hugged and held them close, washing my hands ferociously between babies so I wouldn't carry the germs. I dared that cold to get me.

I had to go back home. I left my daughter and grandson still sick but recovering and my granddaughter and daughter-in-law on their way downhill. Luckily, her mother and sister were expected in a couple of days, and my husband was on his way down at the end of the week. I hoped that all would be well by then, but it only got worse.

The cold led to ear infections, and the California family had to go to the pediatrician for antibiotics, which led to stomach upset. No one felt good for the rest of my poor daughter-in-law's trip.

I spoke with them several times a day, sympathizing with the stricken, feeling guilty that I had encouraged the spread of disease, feeling awfully lucky that I was still healthy. I was home for four days without a sign of a sniffle.

I didn't even have the excuse of illness to put off the oral surgery I had planned. I had the tooth work done -- and woke up coughing the next day. This cold was lurking, waiting until I was in a weakened condition to strike.

My daughter-in-law is home now, and they're all still recovering. She said her sister isn't feeling so well. I just spoke to my younger son and he told me he was sick.

It's THE COLD, I said. He didn't think it could be the same illness after all these days, but I knew. It's going to get us all. And now my daughter-in-law has brought it back to California. They probably shouldn't have let her on the plane.

Carol Randel's "Random Toughts" appears on Fridays twice a month in the Westport News.