Friday, January 17, 2014

A Stomach Bug

I have a stomach bug. We all have it.

See, right there we have a problem with too much information. You are picturing me praying to the porcelain god or worse.

Yet, the best scenes in movies show that shit. Remember 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist,' when the drunk girl pukes into the toilet and then picks her gum out and begins to chew it again? What about the pie eating contest in 'Stand By Me?' Or the guy's first win in 'Here Comes the Boom?'

Do I really want to think about this right now?

No. I don't. It's a bad day for me to even burp. Lets just say I brushed my teeth a lot today. The bad news is that all three of us have it. The good news is that it's a mild case.

When Nick was about three years old, we got him a new bed, a double in case we were tired as we tried to get him to sleep. Oh, the official reason was for those eventual sleepovers, the early ones where you could tuck two small boys into the same bed. But the real reason was that we were sick of cajoling him to fall asleep on his own and it was easier to lie down and fall asleep next to him because we were inevitably more tired than Nick was.

Yes, I know we were supposed to teach him to stay in his room alone at night. Yes, I've been told that they cry for three or four nights and then stop. We couldn't bear hearing him wail. We really couldn't.

About when Nick was four, when that bed was still new, he came down with a stomach flu. Oh, this was a doozy. That night, both Mike and I stayed up with him, taking turns changing sheets and pajamas and doing laundry. We quickly learned that it's easier to let a small child puke in position than to run through the house with him puking on the walls and floor in a trail to the bathroom. The bathroom was not all that far from his room, but it was still easier to pat him on the back, try to aim him in an already nasty direction and tell him to let it all out, that he'd feel better when he let it all out. He was young enough that he resisted putting his face into the clean little plastic bucket we put in front of him. My dog Teddy is still that way. Of course, Teddy crawls under the deepest table in the room with the nicest carpet and then moves along to another corner as he goes. Another story. Sorry.

So, Nick was so very sick that night that we were worried he was getting dehydrated. In between bouts of vomiting, he was barely getting to the toilet in time. And forget vomiting in there. He had absolutely no desire to vomit where his butt had been. I get that. I really do. Nick would get going all over again any time we gave him a sip of water. How do you explain to a thirsty toddler to sip the water? Many trips to fill a tiny glass, we learned. We quickly became exhausted.

At about 3:00am, after three or four light loads of laundry, Nick began to slow up.

And then I started in. At least Mike could handle Nick by then and let me be on my own. The only problem was that I found very quickly that Nick had a favorite bathroom. How can you have a favorite bathroom? Well, he did and I was in it. I had never realized that I had a favorite bathroom too.  I was pushed downstairs into the cold bathroom. I shivered as I alternated between sitting and praying. You get my drift. All the while, Mike was upstairs with Nick on his own. After an hour or two more, I settled into a quiet moment and wandered upstairs as dawn broke. It was a beautiful morning. Why is it always beautiful outside when you're really sick?

Nick and Mike were both asleep in their underwear on top of layers, garbage bags under putrid towels. A blanket was thrown over both of them, though it too was gross. The whole upstairs smelled of vomit and shit. I went out to the living room to the wet couch, the first catastrophe. I turned to the linen closet to get a towel or something to put down over the wet spot. Nothing. Even the larger hand towels were gone. I grabbed a couple of wash cloths, put them over the spot and sat down. Just as I was getting comfortable, beginning to doze in front of a stupid movie, Mike came running out of Nick's room with that look on his face and Nick began to cry.

"Can you?" he said as he closed the door to the favored bathroom.

"Sure," I said getting up again, though I was weak with fatigue.

I'm telling you that you never forget the moment you crawled into a bed wet with puke and a little shit to snuggle up with a very sick toddler on top of a layer of garbage bags and towels. Never. It's amazing that sleep comes, even with the awful smell, the sticky blanket, the wet towels, the garbage bag stuck to your ankle, and the glorious morning light shining through the window.

Thank you for listening, jules

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