Sunday morning. Semi-asleep, reveling in it all: We’d just completed a wonderful Thanksgiving and birthday event with our two grown children, who had stayed at a nearby hotel. (Family unity tip: Space, privacy and a sufficient number of bathrooms can contribute to a good time for all.)
Both kids were flying back to their respective residences in California and Texas that morning and we’d already said our good-byes. I turned over to sleep some more.
Not so fast, cowgirl. My husband tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear. Our daughter, it turned out, had been up, sick, the entire night and had missed her early-morning flight. She was in the hotel room, still weak and nauseated.
(Funny how these things happen, when your kids are grown and self-sufficient and you think you’ve completed the daily responsibilities of parenting. I should have known better. Having children changes your life forever. Otherwise, why do I still spin around when a high voice pipes “Mommy!” in the grocery store? I’m pretty sure I’ll still be doing it in the nursing home.)
So, my husband and I spent the day shuttling between our apartment and the nearby hotel. Our son had already left for the airport. “Get out of here quick,” I’d told him. “We don’t need two sick kids right now.”
We cleaned up the hotel room. We brought orange juice and crackers to the invalid. We took her temperature. We let her sleep and sleep.
We also kept a little physical distance, believe me. We might be doting parents, but we’re not idiots. We still had stark memories of our Pink Eye Experience, which was even worse than our Lice Experience: Both kids had quickly rebounded from the illness, with the resilience of extreme youth. My husband and I, far less youthful and resilient, had spent two weeks looking like Mr. Magoo, with dark glasses to camouflage our crusty, oozing, tortured eyes, which often fused shut overnight. So, we didn’t want to court a stomach virus if we could avoid it.
Our daughter progressed from looking near-dead to passable to almost normal over the course of the day. I’d forgotten how primal it is to take care of a sick child, though — how it brings you back to those powerful urges to hover and protect and banish any threats. It resurges, in full force, then, if you’re lucky, it’s time to let it go once again.
I know how to let go, since I’ve practiced it so frequently over the past decade. You shut your eyes and trust in a cruel and indifferent universe. You don’t have a choice. You just let go once again.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about they also serve who only stand and criticize