We're All Damaged

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I See Your Stomach Flu, and I Raise You a Stomach Flu.

Very early Sunday morning, I woke up suddenly to the sound of someone violently throwing up in the bathroom. It took me a moment to realize where I was and that the person throwing up was my wife. 

My first thought was that the wrenching sound echoing off of porcelain represented the end of an era.  My wife has claimed on many occasions that she doesn’t throw up.  She threw up once, sometime in the early 2000s, but that was just a technicality, and it was on the Jersey Shore, so it shouldn’t count against her. My second thought, much less of a landmark, was that I was about to throw up, too.

Yeah, that’s right, America: we both had the stomach flu. 

I have been sick more times in the last 16 months than every other time in my life combined.  Same goes for my wife.  That’s because we are now the proud parents of a 20-pound germ machine in pink sweatpants named Caroline.  But, until this weekend, we’d never been sick at the same time.

Several hours later, both of us delirious, feverish, and shaking, we heard our daughter begin waking up.   It’s a slow process, like a hurricane gathering over the Gulf of Mexico.  First she babbles to herself for a while.  Then she starts making one of five animal noises.  Then she sings the first two bars of Row Row Row Your Boat.  And then she starts screaming.

“Maybe the dog can take care of her,” I said. 

“What?” asked my wife.

And then we were both quiet for a while.  Those two sentences had taken a lot out of us. 

“How many times have you thrown up?” I asked.

“Four.  What about you?”

“Three,” I said.

As the least violently ill member of the family, it was determined that I was in charge.  So I sat up.  And then I laid back down.  And then I sat up again.  And then I started walking.  I made it halfway to Caroline’s room before stopping to lean against the wall for a while.  I had a brief hallucination that my mother was there and that she was happy to babysit.  And then my old gym was laughing at me because I couldn’t do a single pull-up when I was 12. 

As I stood outside of her door, I could hear that Caroline was now throwing her stuffed animals.  They were landing quietly in soft little thuds on the floor.  When I set my hand on the doorknob, there was quiet stillness as the singing and chattering and throwing stopped.  Her day was about to begin. 

Maybe if I stood there quietly for a while, she’d fall back to sleep for three or four hours.  Babies do that sometimes, right?

And then my daughter, not even two whole years old yet, said her first full sentence.  Two sentences, in fact.  “Come on in, Daddy.  I’m feeling extra screamy this morning.”   

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