It’s tiresome, how unprepared I am for the things that inevitably happen. Jaden was running a fever of 102, 104, even briefly 105 over the weekend, and was snuggling with me, and coughing in my face, during the night. The advice nurse said we were doing the right things: fluids, rest, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Compared to when I was a kid and you might get tossed in an icy bath if your body temperature went too high, the medical experts do not now worry until fevers hit 106.
I’d tuck him under my chin, hoping not to breathe in the germs, but come on. Who thinks, “3 days, I’ve dodged this one!” on the Monday when his fever was breaking. I do, and I’m an idiot.
Of course my 102 arrived at the same time as Shayla’s, on Monday afternoon. No sooner had I noticed how weirdly freezing it was than Jay came in the door with a very sick girl. 2 more down!
In many ways I’m a good one to have around in an emergency. I usually keep my head. But not with mind altering colds or flus. I think it’s fair to say I freak out, though I manage to keep most of it to myself.
Years ago, a boyfriend told me that I always thought I was dying when I had a fever. I remember shivering and sweating while I made a list for a work friend of clients I’d like her to help in the event of my demise. And that was before kids! Fortunately I never sent it, but I go through some version of the drill every time I feel out-of-my-body sick. Imagine my demented reviews of custody setups and emergency plans. No, come to think of it, spare yourself that.
The crazy bit is that it feels absolutely rational and called for. I mean, people do die of flu! My mom died when she was 54 and I was 23. She didn’t have the flu, and today given the better breast cancer drugs and regimens she might well have survived. But there’s something about the shaking, out of control feeling of this kind of being sick that pushes me against my worst fears. None of us know the date of our death.
Fortunately I manage not to blurt “I’m dying!” I have that much sense. Strangely the kids don’t seem to notice when I’m laying on a cool part of the window, or piled under the covers. You’d think they might worry, but no. I guess that’s good, they know I’ve got it, even if my interior monologue thinks I do not.
There are other benefits to this out-of-body state. Suddenly priorities are clear. The kids need some soup, and everything else can wait. The PTA board meeting, the work project, the lesser worries. They’re really not as urgent as they seem. And there’s something sweet about coming to face with one’s deep and irrational fears, like stumbling across a child having a tantrum, and you try to help even as you appreciate the sincerity and rigor of the primal feelings.
I give it one more day, and we’ll all come back to reality. Maybe two. I hope some of the priorities come with me back into my life.
Stay safe this flu season!