One dumb move and we have to concede Parents of the Year to someone else, again. Up 'til Wednesday night two weeks ago, we stood barely half a game behind the Arkansas Duggars, who now have 17 kids.
Well after lights out, as on many nights, the unmistakable rattle of our doorknob preceded the hall light beaming onto our faces. Not seeing the usual dark outline of the interloper, and desperately clawing into the sides of sleep with all his might, my husband growled, "Who's there? Speak up!"
On the floor beside our bed, our oldest folded himself into a fetal position, one hand clutching his abdomen, the fingers of the other gripping the fitted sheet as he tried to pull himself upright. In no mood for drama and games, my bedmate gruffly instructed, "Quit squirreling around down there," which forced our child to scramble to the bathroom where he vomited into the vortex.
A routine stomach virus. We see them come and go like tourists around here. But a bothersome voice in my head kept saying, What if it's something worse? Pressing a cool washcloth to the back of his neck while assessing his symptoms, I quickly concluded he suffered indigestion, stuffed two Rolaids in his hand, and told him to slumber sitting up. By Thursday morning, everything in his stomach had indigested, and still he chunked cheeseburgers well into the evening.
On Friday, when his gut yet gurgled, his father and I had a whole new theory. An empty stomach always aches, so we plied him with dry toast, broth, and ginger ale.
On Friday night, we found ourselves in the emergency room explaining to the doctors how we thought it was a stomach virus. (I kept the indigestion strand to myself.) On Saturday morning our son had his very large, somewhat leaky, appendix removed.
And then, as if we hadn't acceptably displayed all of our parental flaws, when the surgeon, upon announcing a successful operation, asked if we had any questions, we did: "How long will you keep him here, and do you think we might salvage some of our beach vacation?"
During a near endless Saturday night in the sickbay with my eldest, monitors insistently bleeped and bonged. "Press the nurse call button," I eventually told my groggy youngster, through gritted teeth. Even that tonged.
My timbre edgy, I protested to the woman who answered, "These machines keep blipping, blipping, blipping."
"Ma'am, we're keeping an eye on your son from here. I assure you, everything is fine."
"I know everything is fine. Am I the only person even remotely disturbed by alarms going off every minute and a half? Can't you make them stop? I'll stay awake all night and listen to him breathe, like when he was a baby."
"We can't do that." I knew what she was thinking. Over and out bad mother, who, greedy for a few minutes of shut-eye, would take her child off life protecting appliances just to get some.
She didn't understand.
Driven to distraction by the apparently meaningless red flashes and insistent gongs, I sat alone on my sofa/bed quietly contemplating checking myself into the psych ward.
Sunday afternoon, my child's father tagged in. As soon as the man arrived, with seashores and shark fishing fettering his thoughts, he hammered our firstborn with, "What have you eaten today? You've got to eat. Three laps around the nurses' station every hour. We're gonna get you out of this place. Tomorrow."
Tuesday, soothed by the medicinal properties of salt air, the forfeited-Parents-of-the-Year-award wound healed remarkably well, as did our son.