I write this, lying here in the dark of our room. The red digital numbers on the clock reading 11:13. Meg is asleep next to me, while one of our cats, Jasper nudges his way between us to curl in for a night’s sleep.
At the foot of the bed sits the cradle that’s been in Meg’s family for generations, and seen all three of our little ones rest their heads in it.
In there tonight sits our youngest, just shy of six months old, alternating between sleep and rapid bouts of coughing, worse now than when I took her to the doctor’s earlier today out of fear of an ear infection. The ears were clear and the best diagnosis for her recent and regular bouts of misery and blood curdling screaming were chalked up to the perfect storm of teething, gas, and bad eczema all over her body. The doctors offered some dietary change suggestions for Meg, cutting out things like dairy and peanut butter among others to narrow down what it is in the breast milk that could possibly be leading to such widespread redness.
And as our nearly six month old coughs her way through the night, our two year old has already thrown up twice in bed, leading to impromptu washings of her, her clothes and sheets. Upset stomach? Another virus? The second round of flu that’s been in the headlines? Or just a bug? I don’t know.
*Post-script note: Since writing this, there were two more incidents of vomiting throughout the night, with more washings, sheet strippings, and washes to the point that we started running out of sheets and pillows. And by this point, I had taken position on the floor next to her for the rest of the night.
And as they slumber, here I lay, feeling utterly helpless. There’s few feelings worse than watching your children sick, looking to you for aid and only being able to do so much for them before having you put them back to bed and tell them it will be alright, even if you’re not quite sure when it’ll be…hoping that if we are convincing to them that perhaps we might be able to convince ourselves too.
A castle turned restaurant. Candlelight. Fine wine and amazing food late into the night.
This was a Valentine’s Day for my wife and I several years ago in the days before parenthood.
As I write this in the present, two kids later, it is again Valentine’s Day. There is no wine. Just a large supply of juice, water and hot tea. Amazing gourmet food replaced with bowls of hot soup. And I am the only person awake in our house – a rare sight on any given day, but particularly lately.
We’ve been sick. All of us.
Our son led the charge in this battle that he’s been fighting for over four weeks now. We’ve been to the doctor’s multiple times, the latest diagnosis being that whatever virus he’s been battling has turned into an ear infection.
I came down with it this past week and have been struggling to stay coherent for days.
Yesterday, my wife and our 3 month old began their path down the road to the sickness.
High fevers, constant hacking, headaches, noses that don’t stop running teamed with heads that won’t stop stuffing up, achiness in the bones.
It’s been a ride. I keep thinking back to sick days when I was single. Or even when it was just the two of us. The sick days usually consisted of tea, soup, TV, reading, and general lounging or sleeping as much as possible. The lounging/sleeping part being virtually impossible as a parent.
Being sick can cause irritability in anyone, but in the body of an already energetic three year old, that crankiness and obstinance gets knocked up to 11. That means any energy we adults have managed to muster or conserve amid the late night wake ups, comforting, medicine administration, feedings, diaper changes, etc quickly goes out the window in trying to negotiate with this little version of yourself who seems to want to thwart your every attempt at making him feel better at every turn.
Seriously. When I was sick as a kid, I loved being curled up with a blanket watching cartoons or looking at comics. Not our three year old. Sickness be damned, he is running, shouting, playing, dancing with as much boisterous energy as a Broadway show.
So it’s been trying. On all of us.
We exchanged Valentine’s Day cards in the morning amid coughing up our lungs into our tea (and the little guy’s juice), my wife surprising me with a DVD of one of my childhood favorites – Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Lansbury and I her with a copy of the recently published The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney.
Other than that, we have done nothing all day with little regret. Between subzero temperatures outside and the virus that won’t quit, I can’t see any reason to even want to exit our warm home.
And on top of all the human sickness, one of our beloved cats is also ailing. He’s had a history of health issues since we found him, but it doesn’t make us worry any less. The veterinarian just prescribed some new medication to try a new approach to one of those ongoing health issues – his ear, which constantly gets filled with gunk no matter how much it’s cleaned out. While he’s still eating and drinking, he has suddenly become incredibly lethargic, and won’t/can’t open one eye. That same eye has been draining clear liquid as well, leaving a household already juggling sickness among four, adding a fifth to the roster.
Hacking and sniffling all the way, I got him to the vet where we learned he’s suffering from a form of conjunctivitis, also known as Pink Eye. Luckily for us that just means eye drops for the next several days and a return to the vet next week. As well as keeping the little man from getting too close to the all too catchy Pink Eye – a feat for Hercules, asking a three year old to keep away from the kitty while he’s sick and said three year old not seeing it as an invitation to do just that.
So yes, sick days have changed. Yes, Valentine’s Day has changed. But also, so what?
With parenthood comes responsibility. Sure, it may have been easier to rest up when you only had yourself to worry about, but who said parenting was easy? And Valentine’s Day? Let those who can’t help try to out-post each other on social media about how great their evenings are keep on clicking away during their evenings. Tis okay. Enjoy yourselves. Sincerely. Go ahead. Though I don’t know how much enjoying you’re doing if you have to take the time to convince the online world about it, but I digress, a post for another time, I suppose.
This Valentine’s Day, I was right where I wanted to be – with my loved ones. The sniffly noses, the coughs, the sleepless nights, I’ll take it. Cuz you know what? We’re in it together – war buddies in this battle against a virus so stubborn it wanted to take all four (five with the kitty) down together. But it won’t. It may win a few battles, sure. We may retreat to our cold mists and our hot teas here and there, but in the end, we will win, because we’ve got each other to care for. It’s where our hearts are.
And really, isn’t Valentine’s Day about love? Which is really about having your heart in the right place?
Although I have a lifetime of parenting to regret this statement, at this stage of the game, one of the most frustrating parts of parenthood is when your kid is sick and there’s nothing you can really do about it other than let it run its course.
The little guy is currently under the weather (an appropriate phrase, I guess, as it’s been cool and rainy the past few days). At first we thought it was allergies, but a few days in and suddenly it was more than red, itchy eye. The eye is not longer red, but there’s trouble sleeping, coughing, a runny and sniffly nose, and a fever (which, based on the past, always puts us a bit on edge).
The past two nights he hasn’t slept that great, either coughing throughout the hours or just plain crying. This morning, his fever was gone when he woke, but as the morning progressed has gone back up again. He’s coughing, but not as ‘croupy’ as he was last night, and he’s in good spirits, playing (albeit a little slower than normal) with mama (who, also isn’t feeling all that great as of today).
Per past experience with his fever/seizure episode, we’ve been using Little Remedies Fever Reducer to try and keep the fever down, and make sure he has plenty of fluids, starting out his day with some orange juice and apple juice, per his own request. When he’s in his room and/or sleeping, we run a cold mist humidifier to hopefully break up the stuffiness in his head.
The dreary weather, I think, is actually a blessing in disguise, as the last thing I think either of us would want to do is argue with him that he wants to go run around outside because it’s sunny out. So it’s the perfect weather to let him play, relax, watch some cartoons and just try to take it easy. Although that’s a relative term. Telling him to relax and rest often leads to a whirlwind run about the entire house.
Still, it’s frustrating, knowing there’s only so much you can do. But I suppose that’s what a lot of parenthood is about – doing your best for your kid, but knowing when you have to just support and let him (or in this case, his body and immune system) do his thing.
I don’t think Meg or I have ever had moments as terrifying as the ones we experienced last week. I don’t know how more bluntly I could put it other than, we thought our little man had left us.
For me, it was Friday night and I had left work. Meg was picking up the little guy that day so that I could head roughly 40 minutes out of town to a convention where I was set to spend most of the weekend promoting my comic book series. I got about halfway to my destination when I got a phone call from my mom.
“Get to the ER now,” she said.
My son had a seizure when Meg was picking him up.
I turned the car around and raced to the ER as fast as I could, behind every slow vehicle you could imagine, turning seconds into agonizing hours. When I arrived, I raced through the ER, the sense of fear eating away at me in those moments being absolutely inexplicable.
I was crippled the moment I walked into the ER and saw Meg holding our little man in her arms, unresponsive, his eyes rolled back, IVs and breathing tubes hooked up to him. Things seemed utterly bleak.
I looked into Meg’s red, crying eyes and knew we both were thinking the same thing – we thought we had lost him.
Before I had arrived but while in the hospital, he had a second seizure. The first time, he had a fever, they determined, the second time he had not, thus causing some questions and confusion amid the doctors. All sorts of tests were performed – bloodwork, urine, spinal tap (for meningitis) and a cat-scan.
Fortunately, all came back clear.
Then, at some point in the night, after test and test, tears and tears, and every terrible thought running through my head, it happened. When he came to and started responding, looking at us and for the first time he smiled again, well, you could’ve cut off all my limbs and I would have still been smiling to the heavens. He was awake.
The doctor decided to admit him and Meg and I spent the night alongside our little man in the hospital. Late into the night, he started showing signs of eye contact again, causing us to finally breathe once more. When he was spunky enough to start pulling the oxygen tube out of his nose because it obviously annoyed him, we were hopeful that our little monkey was coming back to us.
Throughout the night, the hospital staff checked in, even as he slept, monitoring his temperature, making sure he was getting what he needed in the IV, etc. The next morning, he was up and after a little bit of breakfast, was playing and giggling again, even if his fever was still bouncing up and down a bit and providing some concern.
What the doctors think happened is that he caught a virus. The virus caused the fever to hit quickly and to suddenly spike that afternoon, causing the first seizure.
I made a trip home in the night and returned with some familiar friends for our guy – Gerald the Elephant, and Pigeon, hoping that having a familiar face might help him feel more comfortable. In the morning, Gerald and Pigeon made a new friend – Grover, who joined us from the hospital gift shop on my trip down there for something of comfort, and to find Meg a magazine to read. My parents showed up at one point, bringing with them a talking Daniel Tiger doll that once he was awake, the little guy played with again and again in the cage-like crib set up in the hospital room. It’s set up so that they can’t get out in the night, but looks as though they’re an animal in the zoo.
We’ve always called him our little Superboy, and when he started feeling like himself again, that super-strength was in full force. They had that IV strapped into his arm but good, with an almost cast-like casing on his arm to keep it in. That didn’t stop him, though. When he was uncomfortable, he just reached and ripped that thing clear out of his arm the next day, causing a few nurses and attendants to come running to stop the bleeding he caused. Him? He was just so darn proud of himself. Me? I had to laugh. Our guy was on the mend, that much was clear.
When the hospital pediatrician came around the following morning, he said that we could go home. However, as I’m sure anyone who’s been in a hospital knows, discharge never happens right away. So in the hours between when the doctor said we could go home and when it came time to actually go, the fever had gone back up again. This then led to a myriad of paranoid thoughts about what to do. The doctor had already signed off on the discharge, so while we were told we could stay if we want, the insurance company may not cover it because he signed off on the discharge earlier in the day. The hospital said to call the insurance company, which, wouldn’t you know, was not open on weekends and said to leave a message for them to get back to us on the next business day.
After a lot of back and forth, we decided we would just go home. We felt that if he was acting normal again, we could at least be there with him 24/7, be able to administer his medicine without the need of waiting for a nurse or attendant or doctor to come in amid other rounds they need to make. And he just might feel more comfortable back at home.
Environment may very well play a role in how our minds work when it comes to health, because it seemed as though he perked right up when he got around his familiar environment, his kitties, and his toys again. The fever was still there, but they prescribed medicine for that. Ah, there was the rub, though. A quick trip by me to get the medications led to me going to three pharmacies, all closed by 7:30 on a Saturday night. Hannaford, closed. Rite Aid, closed. Even Wal-Mart (despite my not liking Wal-Mart…I was desperate at that point), all closed. I was at my wits’ end. I called Walgreens. There was one 20-25 minutes away, but I’d make the drive. Closed. I told them we had just gotten out of the hospital and I needed this medicine for my child, asking if they could please recommend SOMEPLACE to get it.
Fortunately, there was a local pharmacy that was open, and open until 10 p.m. I put my foot to the pedal and drove 25 minutes to that pharmacy and got it filled, along with some other items needed – including A+D Cream for the poor little guy’s heiney. All that temperature taking left him very, very sore. I also bought an ear thermometer so we could hopefully give his little bum a rest.
Luckily for us, Meg’s sister came by and lent a hand while I was out on this hour and a half long journey for medicine.
In the end, it turned out I ran myself ragged for nothing. That prescription the hospital pediatrician gave us? Turned out if was for child’s ibuprofen to treat the fever. All that time, I could have just picked it up over the counter.
My mind was in an utter fog, so I’m not surprised that these little things alluded me in the midst of panic.
That night, we slept in the little guy’s room, alongside his crib. We broke out a sleeping bag and laid it out, threw a few blankets down and set the alarm so we would make sure to get up at the right times and give him his medicine for the fever and monitor his temperature (something made a lot easier in the middle of the night with that ear thermometer). We did this two nights in a row, and saw his pediatrician the following Monday, who said it all appeared to be viral.
After the first few days home from work to monitor the little guy, my wife has now caught the virus and is fighting it off herself. We’re pounding the vitamin C (orange juice as well as powdered C inside water), and some Elderberry (great for the immune system) on top of the usual soup and tea.
It’s hard to be a week out and not think back to the horrors of seven days ago. I could sit here and worry about a million and one things. Yes, I know that I’ve always been slightly paranoid and a worry-wart before this. I know that I’m going to be very much airing on the side of caution even more than normal because of this. And yes, my mind keeps bouncing back to the words of the doctor telling us that now that this has happened once, he’s at high-risk for it happening again until he’s about five years old.
But I’ll try very hard not to. I know we all will. His fever has since subsided, and with the exception of a croupy-like bark that we’re working on, similar to what he had last February, he is playing and laughing and smiling and just being our little guy again.
And it’s absolutely wonderful.
I don’t care what superstitions anyone has about Friday the 13th. It was the day he was born and as of last week, it was the day he came back to us. It’s the luckiest day in the world to us.
I recently mentioned how, while home with the baby being sick, I spent some time watching cartoons on Netflix.
The two animated films I watched while the baby napped were Justice League: Doom and Superman vs the Elite, both part of the ongoing releases of animated movies across the DC Comic Universe from Bruce Timm and company.
They were both enjoyable, but for completely different reasons.
Justice League: Doom was standard superhero fare. A group of villains team up to best their foes and destroy the world. Always fun to see more obscure comic villains get animated, like Vandal Savage, Mirror Master, etc. On top of that, any time Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly (or George Newbern) voice Batman and Superman, respectively, just as they did since I was watching their respective animated series 20 years ago, it’s a good time.
However, the entire reason I’m writing this post is because of the second film of the two – Superman vs the Elite. In it, Superman meets a group of anti-heroes out of England who have tremendous powers, but not much of a moral compass. They like the hero gig, but find Superman outdated, and go from looking up to him to feeling that heroes need to take things where he won’t – namely to kill those criminals, villains, warlords, etc, instead of leaving them for justice departments to decide.
Initially, the public loves it. They eat it up, and agree that Superman just isn’t the hero for modern society. This new group, the Elite, become the idols of children, while the kid playing Superman on the playground is suddenly an outcast.
What happens very quickly, however, is that the Elite become more than just anti-heroes, more than just vigilantes, even. They become the watchers of society, telling them to be good, or be dead. Their choice. The choice isn’t just limited to super-villains and despots, though. Even the average pickpocket faces an executioner for their sinful deeds, no matter how misguided.
Naturally none of this sits well with Clark Kent, leading to an all out showdown with these young turks, and a display of what would happen if Superman really were to become the darker version society is clamoring for.
When the dust settles, it’s not the animation, not the action that makes this the draw that it was for me. It was the message.
This is why Superman is important; this is why his character remains relevant, even today.
Superman is the embodiment of all the good that we, as the human race, have contained within us. A man with unlimited power, who uses that power to not only help others, but to show others much needed compassion.
Clark Kent never takes it upon himself to tell us how to live our lives. No. Instead, he sets an example for us. He shows us that great power does not have to mean oppression, corruption, or rule. No wonder Lex Luthor can’t stand him. Lex feels power should be all those things.
No, Superman shows us that the world can be better; that we are the ones who have the ability to make it so. Instead of looking for the bad in others, he looks for the best in other people, believing all to be generally good people on some level.
He may be a captor, he may be a jailer, he may be an enforcer, but he is never a judge, a jury or an executioner. He is a symbol, of all we could be, of all the good we could do. If a man with all that power can avoid finding the worst, avoid being corrupt, avoid abusing that power, why can’t we, as mere mortals?
“They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”
Funny that it takes an alien from the planet Krypton to make us realize that.
If we all tried to be a little more like Superman, just think of what a world we could live in.
The non-intrusive answer is “spent time with the family,” but the real answer is – I got sick. And so did Meg. And so was the baby.
It’s oddly becoming a bit of a yearly tradition for the household to get sick when my birthday rolls around. If it hasn’t been me one year, it’s been Meg. If not her, me. It goes back and forth. Only this time, we had an entire household hacking and wheezing and blowing our nose. For the record, the baby hates it when you wipe boogies from his nose and face.
We made the best of it, even though the baby was pretty cranky. I can’t say I blame him. When I get sick, I get miserable. I hate feeling that way, so for someone so small and new to the world, I can’t imagine what it must be like to deal with a sore throat, a cough, mucus, etc, ESPECIALLY when you can’t tell people how awful you feel other than with a cry or scream.
I got some nice shirts and a tie for work from Meg and the little guy, as well as two graphic novels I’m really looking to delve into (Madame Xanadu by Matt Wagner, and a volume of the Starman Omnibus by James Robinson).
So, while birthday dinner consisted of some beef vegetable soup and tea, with birthday cake Meg made for dessert (although she made some delicious steak the following night), we spent it together. We watched some TV, we did some laundry, we relaxed with the baby (when he’d allow it of course), but the important thing is, we did it all as a family.
I guess The family that’s sick together stays together.
The next day I was committed to a meet and a greet at a Home Show in casino event center about 45 minutes or so away. So, with cups of tea firmly in my hand, I plowed through, said hello to some folks, took a good ribbing from others who wondered why the heck I was there promoting myself and the news station I work for, but generally had a nice time.
After that, I caught up with some good friends I hadn’t seen in a while for a lunch (mine consisting of soup and water, of course, with the current state of things). This is the same crew who I occasionally hit up a comic show with. These days, schedules as a parent have just not been conducive to really catching up with folks the way I used to, so it was nice to see them for a little bit, and geek out over what comic titles we were reading that had been cancelled, who was working on what projects, and just what they were each up to in their lives. They’re good people, and I’m glad that we still find time, even if it’s only occasionally, to catch up.
Today, I was off from work and took advantage of the time to go to a nearby Urgent Care Center where they determined I have Bronchitis.
I’m not the type to really take medicine if I don’t have to, but this thing has been knocking me on my butt for days now. In fact, last night, I found myself unable to even take full breaths, and felt like I had a weight sitting on my chest. So I submitted to the prescription and will be heading back to work in the morning, hopefully on somewhat of a road to recovery.