Since Lily felt fine the day after our late-night ER visit, and Joe and I did too – trading off time watching her while the other did some work – we decided to go ahead and go to the family dinner Joe’s parents were having while Joe’s brother Josh and his family were in town from Bloomington, Indiana.
Though we were symptom-free, in retrospect, of course, this was a horrible decision. Our only defense is that Joe’s quite close to Josh, and they almost never get to see each other – it’d been well over a year already – so we went, hoping for the best.
And the dinner went fine. I left early to see a show I was reviewing in Northville, and then we went to bed. But a few hours later, I wake to rustling and see Joe, fully dressed, skulking around at four in the morning.
“What’s the matter?”
“I feel terrible.” He’s suffering from stomach pain, diarrhea, and he’s been working in the basement, going through junk we can get rid of just in order to stay vertical.
“Oh, no,” I said, realizing that we weren’t in the clear, like we’d hoped.
So while he feels like he’s going to die, I seize upon the fact that we’re scheduled to go with Joe’s sister, her husband, and Lily’s cousin Abby to see Elmo live on stage at the Fox Theatre. I tell Joe I’ll take Lily myself, and this will buy him a few hours alone to rest and get over the bug.
It’s just dawning on me in this moment that we no longer have the luxury of taking care of each other when we’re sick. The most we can do is take care of Lily while the other person is left to lick his/her own wounds as best they can. And this makes me a bit sad. We used to, of course, spoil each other when sick, being extra attentive, making trips to get medicine or favorite comfort foods, etc. Sadly, that’s no longer possible, and I mourn that a little while Joe’s voicing his regret at not getting to see Lily respond to Elmo on stage.
“There will be other times,” I tell him, but I understand why he’s sad, too.
I take Lily (after getting a little screwed up about getting there and having to call poor Joe) and after bringing her home, we get her down for a nap. She sleeps a good while – she’s still recovering from her illness – and both Joe and I nap, too. But shortly after I wake up, a feeling of full-on awful washes over me, and I said, “Um, Joe? I hate to tell you this, but, um, I’m not feeling so well.” With that, while Joe was changing Lily’s diaper, I nearly crawled to the nearby couch and pulled the afghan over me.
Fortunately, Joe, though still not great, was on the upswing a little bit, so he could take our girl while the worst of this norovirus had its way with me. He took Lily to the kitchen, where she happily climbed up in her high chair and colored with him while eating a snack. “Mommy tired,” she kept saying, as a declaration, and Joe said, “Yes, Mommy’s tired.”
Poor girl. She was so energetic and feeling so good – one of those times when it’s an absolute pleasure to spend time with her and take care of her, and I was unable to do it.
Joe took her to Dagwood’s nearby, where she loves the fruit salad and is known by the staff (everyone in this town knows Lily, it seems). They stayed out for nearly two hours, which was good, since I retched once in the interim (again, WOW, I hate puking more than anything else). This is how we made it to Lily’s bedtime, then both Joe and I slumped into our own beds by 9 p.m. Fortunately, in the morning, we felt just fine – though I learned that nearly EVERYONE at the family get-together on Friday night was currently, or had already, suffered the same fate (my mother- and father-in-law, Joe’s brother and sister-in-law, Joe’s sister and brother-in-law and little Abby, and Joe’s great grandmother). So THAT makes you feel a little guilty.
And while I really bounced back initially, my stomach felt really bad the whole rest of the week. Partly, I think this is due to not being able to rest more after feeling so awful – work started on Monday, as usual, so we went right back to our routines – but I could eat little to nothing, and I wasn’t hungry once throughout the week. On most days, I ate a little cereal, a small half-sandwich, and some hummus and crackers or something. Maybe some rice. I had that feeling you get when you’ve eaten too much popcorn, where the pit of your stomach just sinks, and I had these terrible burps and accompanying pain. This lingered for so long that you start to wonder if you’ll ever feel right and normal again.
But this is where the nature of my job comes in handy sometimes. I was scheduled to review a show Thursday night, so after dropping off Lily at daycare that morning, I ordered myself to bed all day. And sure enough, the next day, at lunchtime, I found myself a little hungry, and my return to the world was underway. Thank goodness.
Strangely, at the height of it on that previous Saturday night, I cried a little because I felt so awful, but also, as I told Joe, because I feared not being able to take care of Lily. “She needs her mommy, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to take care of her.” Joe, being a bit more rational just then, told me that Lily needed me to be well more than anything else, and that this wasn’t something to worry about until it became a problem.
It did get me thinking, though, about those with those who suffer from long-term or terminal illness. Add onto all the other stress involved the inability to take care of your own child, and it’s just one more huge blow.