Friday, February 12, 2016

Sick Days

The dreaded stomach bug made an uninvited visit to our house this week. It’s moved through the family like a slow-burning forest fire, isolated at first to one person, then hitting the rest of us in quick succession and leaving behind a messy wake of exhaustion and household chaos.  

My son was the first one down, complaining of a sore tummy as soon as he came out of school Tuesday afternoon. He spent the next four days mostly on the couch, nibbling saltine crackers and sipping Gatorade and ginger ale, occasionally rallying to sit up or walk to the other room or eat a few bites of a sandwich.

By Saturday the boy was showing signs of recovery, and everyone else felt mostly fine. I thought perhaps we’d foiled the bug, contained it somehow, miraculously, to one person. From past experience of shared ear infections and colds and conjunctivitis and the flu, I knew this was unlikely, but still I held on to hope.

Alas, kid number two woke up sick late that night. Kid number three followed early Sunday morning. As Mom, I am not supposed to get sick, and I did my best for days to ignore a creeping sense of malaise, absconding Saturday and Sunday to the mountain and my weekend job and leaving my husband to manage the sick bay.

I had hoped the healing tonic of fresh air would save me. But Monday morning even I was waylaid by the bug, and I took to the couch with my two sick girls. I am not much of a couch-sitter and strongly dislike the feeling of being stuck, which is what happens when you are sick.

Being home with sick kids, and being sick myself, is always a lesson in patience. In the past week I have had to let go of some things and rearrange many others. Appointments have been missed and rebooked. Work and laundry and the dishes have piled up. Exercise, even a walk through the woods, seems like a memory from the distant past. We have all spent more time than we’d like lying around, too sick and tired to do much. On my worst day, I finished a book I’d started a couple days earlier, took a nap, read two substantial magazines cover to cover, and then wondered what else I could do from my prone position on the couch.

The outside world sort of fades away during sickness, as you try to survive the next wave of nausea, tend to the child crying in the night, focus only on what needs to happen in the immediate future. When the children were up for it, I read to them, whole stories, several in a row. We played rounds of hangman. They watched T.V. while I tried to work in half-hour bursts, interrupted regularly by requests for a drink or a blanket or a complaint of a sore tummy.

This bug has been a lesson in patience for the kids, too. “It’s so boring being sick,” lamented my elder daughter on day two of the plague, just before she fell into a feverish nap. On day four, still on the couch, she implored, “What can I do?”

When you’re sick, you feel like you’ll never feel normal again. Hunger pangs and belly aches gradually mingle so that you can’t tell one from the other and don’t know whether eating will make things better or worse. Things so simple when you’re healthy – cooking dinner, walking up the stairs, running to the post office – become arduous tasks.

I have realized with this sickness, and others before this one, how much I take for granted being healthy most of the time. The hindrance of illness is humbling. But just as past experience revealed that if one kid was sick, the other two likely would be before long, it also says this sickness, too, will pass. Eventually. Hopefully soon.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her Blog: Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the February 12, 2016 edition of the Littleton Record.

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