Friday night at eleven P.M. we went to wrangle J up to bed. We had seen him half an hour earlier, waltzing into the dining area looking and acting like his usual self. What we found when we came into the TV room was J bundled up under a blanket, looking red and trembling.
He was burning up. From totally normal to nearly 103 degrees in one fell swoop. A controlled panic settled in immediately, and we moved like a very rational, well-coordinated band of Keystone Kops impersonators up the stairs and to J’s bedroom.
The Bolshoi Ballet had nothing on us in terms of timing, precision and grace…we stripped him down, got the thermometer, the acetaminophen, and the bowl we keep in the closet for medical emergencies.
After we settled him in, I sent everyone to bed so they could take over in the morning if needed. Every fifteen minutes or so, I checked J’s temp and changed the cooling rags I’d put under his armpits, around his head, on his groin, behind his knees and behind his neck. We didn’t sleep a wink, and J kept insisting on the word COFFEE over and over again.
With Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance on a loop in the background, J started relaxing, and -even though sleep didn’t happen- he was calm as the night progressed into morning. At around 3:45 a.m., J’s fever broke. Once the sun came out and I knew he’d not had a fever for a while, I went back to my bed and rested until it was time to take him to Urgent Care.
It isn’t the flu. It isn’t strep throat. It’s just a viral upper respiratory “thing” that got a hold of him suddenly, and then petered out slowly. The highest temperature he’s had since then is 100, and the doctor said that we were to expect that. Let him rest, give him plenty of fluids, and wait…
Mind you, on Saturday morning I was basically useless and non-functional. I swam in a rather large cup of coffee, and I managed to sort of wake up. After a long, sleepless, and definitely uncomfortable and unpleasant night, J was as fresh as a daisy…bright-eyed (NOT because of the fever,) bushy-tailed, hungry and enthusiastic. All this is, of course, the result of the difference in our ages…thirty years are nothing to scoff at, and J took his sleepless, feverish night in stride while his mother turned into a babbling, caffeine-fueled fool who was ever so glad she doesn’t make a living defusing bombs…
The rest of the day on Saturday, all of yesterday and today we’ve kept him at home, and tomorrow he will return to school fully recovered from whatever ailment caused this night of stress.
As I sat on J’s bed on Friday/Saturday, I checked lists of symptoms for all sorts of things: meningitis, scarlet fever, tropical diseases he couldn’t possibly have contracted given he hasn’t been to the tropics since 1999… I texted his teacher and asked if anyone had traveled outside of the country or state, if anyone had been sent home sick, if anyone had stayed at school sick…aside from a run-of-the-mill cold, everyone was fine and attending as usual.
I didn’t ask these questions because I feared he’d been exposed to Ebola, but rather because I wanted to answer the questions truthfully and in an informed manner when we got to the doctor’s office. I’m glad I asked; there was an almost-obvious sigh of relief when they heard that J hadn’t been exposed to anything that might trigger a mobilization like the ones seen in Outbreak. I explained he’d been eating as if nothing (and I went through the list of things he’d consumed the day before, and included the school lunch menu,) and -in spite of the obvious anxiety caused by us hovering over him with rags, meds and thermometer- he’d been in a good mood.
One thing I am now one-hundred percent sure of? I’m too old for this shit. And by that I don’t mean I won’t do it when the situation arises, but rather that it takes its toll a lot faster than it did when I was in my twenties, thirties and early forties… I sometimes wonder how some women manage when they have children in their mid-forties.
When I was 26 and a newly-minted mom of one, I could get up every two hours and the repercussions this had on my body and brain were not catastrophic. Yes, I once went to work having shaved one leg and not the other (and, yes, it was quite obvious,) but that is part and parcel of the whole “it’s not all about me anymore” gig. I remember the few times one or both kids were hospitalized (pneumonia was a recurring theme there) I managed to survive the long nights sitting on the uncomfortable chairs in their hospital rooms. When J was a baby, I breastfed him with one eye closed, and one hand tied behind my back, and wasn’t really that much worse for wear in the mornings. During J’s behavioral crisis a few years ago, we lost a lot of sleep, and we started feeling the effects of our age and the lack of rest. These days? Well…there’s a reason most women have their children when they’re younger than I am now…
J’s fine. I’m still recovering. I don’t have any fever or other symptoms of anything remotely resembling what he had the other night. I am, however, tired…I didn’t stop being a mom, a wife, a home-maker (I know some will scoff at that word) for one second over the weekend. With weather coming I didn’t have time to sit back and say “oh, it’ll get taken care of when it gets taken care of,” and I’m glad I didn’t because now we’re ready for the temperature to drop.
I am older, though…and I don’t bounce back like I used to; it’s not just the lack of elastin in my flesh…it’s everything.