There’s nothing like a stomach bug to put you in your place. It levels the playing field. Ego has no leg with which to stand on the bathroom floor, we are all equal and humble when felled by digestive upset. I will spare you the gory details because this is, after all, a food blog; suffice it to say I got my due last night.
Why am I even talking about this?
Because I guess when throwing up and throwing down, my mind continues to make funny little observations about life, love and parenthood. To start with, I take my hat off to single parents everywhere. I lay down at their feet and worship them. I am a worm next to their daily endeavors. Why? Because when you are young and single and childless, you can wallow in the existential misery of a stomach bug because nobody else in the world matters. When you are a parent, even in the midst of the action, you are keenly aware that your children are in the house, and part of your spouse’s job is keeping them from witnessing the carnage. There is help at hand.
In my case, I was aware of Redman being in my bed, not five feet away from the bathroom door, blithely reading and oblivious, while my spouse was down in his office and out of earshot. It was that real paralyzing kind of nausea so it took me about ten minutes of focused mind-control (breathe through it, come out the other side, breathe through it, come out the other side, you’re doing great, ride it out, go right out the other side, this too shall pass, breathe, just breathe) to muster up the strength to speak.
“Red,” I called quietly. (Breathe)
“Please go get Dad.” (Wow your voice sounds good, that theatre degree came in handy)
(Breathe) “Please go get Dad, tell him Mom is sick and needs him.”
“Are you throwing up?”
“Yes, please go get Dad.” (do not come in do not come in do not come in do not–)
“Can I come in?”
(Breathe, don’t panic) “No. Please go get Dad. Thank you.” Pitter patter of helpful little feet and all I can think about are my friends who are single parents and how do they do it, how, how, how, what would I do, how would I manage…(breathe, this is not the time for dire scenarios, it is time to breathe)…
So Jeeps came to the rescue, shooed Redman and Panda – both now loitering anxiously outside the bathroom – back to their beds, and brought comfort and help. Which brings me to my next funny little observation, which I discussed a little bit with Panda this morning as I negotiated a cup of peppermint tea: giving relationships the Stomach Bug Test. I think I started doing this in college. Could a guy pass the Stomach Bug Test? Meaning, if I were laid low in these most fragile, vulnerable, and, face it, gross circumstances, could I imagine him there? Would he indeed be there? Would he be helpful? Would I rather he went away? These are important things to consider when considering someone in the long-term. “Because you don’t marry the guy who just looks good,” I said to Panda. “You marry the guy who looks good holding your head while you throw up.”
Panda had brought me a stick of gum and a cold washcloth after I was back in bed. This reminded me so much of my dad, who was never without a pack of Lifesavers or Wrigley’s Doublemint gum when I was a kid, and always had either at the ready if my brother or I were sick. “Poor Mommy,” she mourned, this child of mine who feels everything to her very bones. “Feel better. I hope you sleep okay. If you can’t fix my hair in the morning, that’s fine, I’ll manage. Don’t worry.”
I guess that we strive so hard to shield our children from life’s upsets, when sometimes there’s something to be learned by letting them see you at your worst. They often surprise you.
Meanwhile, all Redman wants to know is how much, how far, and what color.