After a pretty casual Saturday filled with Netflix bingeing, spinning tunes, and recording tracks in the studio; and even enjoying a nice stout or two in the evening I heard that phrase that kills a buzz quicker than anything: “I puked.” Yes, my son who I’ve dubbed “my little puker” thoughtfully made it to the bathroom as I was frying up some turkey burgers and threw up. As soon as I heard that I thought the evening was done. All kinds of bizarre bugs are going around these parts and I assumed he caught one. Fortunately the vomiting was an isolated incident, caused by him not eating enough or just eating the wrong things, compounded by the fact we’d sat through Spiderman 3(reason enough to lose your lunch.) After some toast he was good to go and off horsing around like nothing ever projectiled from his mouth.
His throwing up got me thinking about me being a little kid and how I was sick all the time. I must have put my parents through the ringer with all the maladies I dealt with. I can recall spending the week of Christmas in the ICU with pneumonia(I can still recall the view from inside the oxygen tent.) There was a giant stocking the size of me filled with toys and candy that was given to me(either by my parents or the hospital, I’m not sure.) I don’t remember the sick part of it, just the being there. And to this day there are certain smells that take me back to that stay. There’s a certain aroma that puts me in mind of that bottled oxygen they pump into your nostrils when your oxygen-deprived. I imagine it was my time in the weird clear-plastic tent.
I was sick so often as a kid that my doctor(we didn’t have pediatricians back then…just doctors) told my parents he suspected I might have Leukemia. My mom insisted that I get checked for allergies and the doc agreed begrudgingly(this was probably 1975 or 1976.) Well it turns out I was extremely allergic to cats, dust, and mildew so we became a no cats allowed household and neat freaks. My health improved, but I was still sick a lot. I would get allergy shots every week(and continued to from the age of 4 to 17.) I had medicine for breathing, congestion, and coughing. I was home sick so much that I grew a taste for soap operas(my mom was a fan of Days of Our Lives, and I too became one.) And besides the upper respiratory stuff, I had tubes put in my ears six times from the age of 5 to 11. Lots of ear infections(there is no worse pain than a double ear infection…well, maybe getting a limb cut off or being shot in the gut but that’s about it.)
So folks, there’s a reason my mom began coloring her hair in her 30s. Or why she so looked forward to her Thursday night bowling league and the beers that came afterwards.
The one thing I do recall most about being so sick as a kid was the generosity of my parents wanting to make me feel better. They did that with doctor visits and prescription antibiotics, 2 liters of 7-Up, cans of chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, orange sherbert, and usually some little gift. It ranged from coloring books, comics, and action figures; to cassette tapes, an album, or some play set. It was never really big, just something to take my mind off the fact I felt like crap. It’s the small things that mean the most. After a doctor’s appointment my mom and I would stop at Hook’s Drug store and pick up my prescription. While we waited I’d always wander to the toy aisle and find some Star Wars action figure I’d need(or want.) Mom usually would let me grab one(to make me feel better or to just shut me up. Or both. Who knows?) Or my dad would stop at the newsstand on his way home from work and pick me up the latest issue of Mad Magazine. It was just a gesture of love that I’ve never forgotten.
It’s a gesture that continues to this day with me and my kids. My 11-year old was sick a lot when she was young, much like her old man. Asthma, upper respiratory,…you know, all that fun crap that heredity passes down. Anyways, I always had to stop at the store before I came home from work to get her something. A Barbie, a DVD, popsicles,…something to get her mind off feeling lousy. Something to get her through it. The asthma was the worst, though. At three she went into a bronchial spasm(asthma attack) and we had no idea what it was. She spent the day in the hospital on oxygen and taking breathing treatments. Two weeks later she went to an allergist and was tested for allergies. She was highly allergic to cats and other assorted cute, furry creatures that little girls adore. She’d been to a house with a cat the night before that asthma attack. As long as we kept her away from kitties and furry things she would be okay. If she got head/chest colds she usually had problems, so a home Nebulizer was utilized quite a few times during her toddler and preschool years. She has fortunately grown out of all of that(as did I.) But having sick kids is one of those strains you can’t quite get someone who hasn’t dealt with it to truly understand.
So yeah, my son yacking last night got me thinking about all of this. Got me thinking about how grateful I am that in the scheme of things my kids have been pretty healthy and no extended stays in hospital wards have been needed. 2am breathing treatments, a broken arm, and one frantic ER visit over a fever that wouldn’t break(it broke as soon as we got home), and one false diagnosis of the German Measels. That’s pretty much it. It got me thinking about how even the most trivial little thing can make such a huge difference in making someone feel just a little bit better. If it’s not a comic or action figure, then maybe it’s a phone call, pat on the back, or just a reassuring smile.
Whatever gets you through the night.