Thud. Thud. Thud.
Usually I love waking in predawn darkness to the sound of rain. Most of the time, in this area, our rain comes in the form of drizzle, so on the occasion that it really, truly rains, I revel in the drumming sound of a steady shower. This morning, however, I found myself tensely focusing on another noise.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
I looked around my son’s bedroom from my pretzel position in his car bed. He was nowhere to be found, of course; as per usual, he had made his way into “the big bed” in the middle of the night—this time I think he was on the move around 2:30-ish—and proceeded to crowd me right off the queen-size mattress. And, as per usual, instead of being all tough and parental and kicking his 5-year-old butt back to his bedroom, I took the (admittedly well-traveled) path of least resistance—the one that leads up the hall to his unoccupied bed.
Good thing I did retreat instead of standing my ground this time, though; if I hadn’t slept in his room, I wouldn’t have heard that persistent noise, which sounded alarmingly like…
“…a leaky roof?”
Hubband looked at me with disgust (inspired by our 143-year-old house, not me), dressed, and fetched the ladder and a flashlight. Sure enough, he discovered another one of the myriad “fixes” or “improvements” the previous owner had attempted that had (predictably) failed; apparently he had tried to install a vent stack, but mid-job he gave up/became distracted by a shiny object/experienced another episode of double-clutched brain. Yet he didn’t replace the board that he had knocked out—just put roof shingles over it. Niiiice. (And typical.) At least he didn’t try to just caulk it. He caulked everything. (Come to think of it, some caulk would have come in handy for this. Figures that the one time it would have worked, he didn’t use it.)
Then Hubband, who has been having trouble with the security system in his car, went outside to get his travel mug and found that the Saab (or is it HAL?) decided to open all the windows and the sunroof in the middle of the night. I dug out the towels. This means another expensive car repair, I can smell it.
Then I turned on my MacBook, and the startup process stopped at a screen I had never seen before: It showed my hard drive icon, and I had to click on an arrow to choose it to continue the startup. The ‘puter seemed to act normally after that, but I made backing up my document folder and my iTunes purchases a priority.
Oh—and as a capper, our neurotic pisspot runt of a feline outdid herself in determining a location for a stealth poop—on two of the steps on the back staircase. Ew. (She has a hairball and is upset that she can’t hork it up, so she poops out of spite. Doesn’t make sense, but then again, she never makes sense.)
What. The. Hell. All of this before 8:00 a.m., and all while trying to get a foot-dragging kid suited up for the rain and off to school. All of this before I had my coffee. O the humanity. It was like Mercury retrograde without Mercury being retrograde. Perhaps a mischievous pwka had blown in on the winds of the thinning of the veil before All Hallows Eve. I decided to dig out my sage bundle and start smudging before it got any worse. Forget the Boomtown Rats’ ditty about not liking Mondays; I suddenly hated Wednesdays.
And yet…I’d still take this Wednesday over last week’s.
It started just after midnight on Tuesday night, with one “cough.” It always starts with one “cough.” Yep, after acting perfectly normal all evening, going through his usual pre-bedtime routine of playing, watching some TV, and snacking nonstop, the kidlet went “cough.” And that meant only one thing.
“Are you going to throw up?”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not!” (He hates vomiting and will deny it even when he’s headfirst in the wastebasket, making involuntary monster noises.)
“I’m getting the bucket.”
“Okay, I’ve got the bucket. Go ahead.”
“Noooooooooo—!” Which, of course, was quickly followed by a nice, powerful “Blarghhh.”
My poor little kid spent the rest of the night throwing up every twenty minutes. Then passing out for ten minutes. Then writhing in pain for thirty. And repeat. We went through three wastebasket liners, two pajama tops, and my entire collection of old towels.
In the morning, when he lay, wan and pale, on the sofa and continued to throw up the few small ice chips he had managed to swallow, I was on the phone with the pediatrician’s office as soon as they opened, my own stomach in knots, my hands cold and clammy. And I was the healthy one. But a night of kidsick makes me panicky.
Was it the seasonal flu? Was it H1N1/swine flu? It made no difference what it was called; sick was sick, and my son doesn’t do sick very well. Over the years, I’ve learned that my son is a little…sensitive when it comes to viruses. My mom says “wimpy.”
Like…about a year and a half ago, my mom came down with a humdinger of a 24-hour bug. She was incapacitated for Memorial Day; I left the kidlet at my aunt’s picnic and tended her. For my trouble, I nursed the same bug two days later. (Why did I have to eat tacos that night…?) And, sure enough, two days after that, the kidlet ate a bowlful of strawberries, watched some TV, then announced, “I’m gonna barsh.”
I wasn’t too worried; after all, a 24-hour bug’s time limit is dealable. Trouble was, the kidlet’s 24-hour bug lasted five days, and he ended up in the pediatric emergency department to be rehydrated intravenously. When the kid gets sick, he goes all the way.
Of course, that’s made me a permanent wreck. It wasn’t his five-day, emergency-room brand of 24-hour bug that did it, though; no, that’s thanks to what happened just last spring.
The kidlet had strep. Not uncommon in 5-year-olds, I know. But after he finished his course in antibiotics, he still had a fever. And the fever persisted. When all was said and done, he had had a fever for more than three weeks running. I took him back to the doctor’s office. It was late; we were the last appointment of the day. We saw the elder statesman of the group, a grizzled veteran who obviously had doctored plenty of sick kids over the course of his career.
He peered at my son. He looked in his throat, in his ears. He palpated his abdomen. He checked his lungs. The strep test came back negative this time. Quietly, the pediatrician wrote out a blood order.
“Take this to the lab right around the corner. They’re open for another 15 minutes. Have it done right now.”
And in the hallway of the now silent, empty offices, he stamped the order “Rush” and wrote his pager number on the form. He said he would call with the test results later that evening.
And I knew what he wasn’t saying.
I fought back tears as we sat in the blood draw lab and waited our turn. I pushed negative thoughts out of my head on the drive home. I tried desperately to stop my hands from shaking as I prepared a late dinner. And when I couldn’t take it anymore, I retreated to a far corner of the house to sob, so my son wouldn’t see me crying.
Hubband dealt with the situation aggressively—insisting that everything was fine, and demanding that I pull myself together before the kidlet saw me. Still, he knew what the news might be; a prolonged fever can be a symptom of leukemia.
I gave my son more chewable Motrin and bundled him into the big bed early. I read him one of the Harry Potter books but couldn’t follow the story myself. My voice read the words, but my mind leapt ahead, speculating about how our lives would change if we had to tackle this kind of illness. What would happen if he became gravely ill. What would happen if my son, the only person in this world who carries a piece of my soul, died.
The phone rang at 8:40. Hubband and I both leapt for a handset. He got there first; I listened in from the bedroom phone, trying to hear, over the pounding of my heart, what the doctor was saying.
And, as if from thousands of miles away via a transatlantic cable from a century ago, I heard the muffled words, “Everything’s fine.”
When my son fell asleep, I stood in the hallway and sobbed uncontrollably, this time with relief. Then I put on my pajamas and climbed into bed, holding my little kid tight, tight, tight.
So yeah. I don’t like Wednesdays. But I’ll take a leaky roof and other random bits of chaos over the alternative, because I know what the alternative could be.