The Third Anniversary, Part 2

It’s never simple, is it? Just when I decide there was nothing dramatic associated with the third anniversary of my husband’s death, Short Stack gets a high fever in a strange town and I have a full blown, true, fantastic spastic panic attack.

My foundation had slid away in a tenth of a second. In the depths of the attack I said to myself, “I’ve never felt this before.” But after all I’ve been through, I’ve always been able to cope. How many times have I called 911? How much bad news have I taken in? I’ve had trouble sleeping, trouble eating, but never lost my moorings. Lately I tell people that I got close to falling a few times in the past 5 years, but this felt worse than a fall.

Even at my lowest, I’ve always been able to take care of my child. Her needs always revived me.

Not tonight. Whining that her back hurt, her fragile arms radiated heat before I even touched her. I woke Mr. Fresh up and said, “Shortie has a fever and I’m totally freaking out. I don’t know what’s going on.” I lay down in this new agony, without any anchor.

No, not falling; fallen. LOW, paralyzed, airless.

My therapist always says, what does it remind you of? I remembered the moment I learned Gavin was going to die. “Oh honey. It’s cancer.” (Did you know I was a writer/editor specializing in cancer research in September 2004?) I knew it was the end because it was in a lymph node. Part two of many cancer stories starts there. I felt it was the end, and look, I was fucking right. I looked back with magical thinking: I’m so powerful. Maybe I can predict shit. It happened once.

Her back hurts. Shit. What if it’s meningitis!?

Even as I thought about moving, taking action, I felt completely helpless. And I really sort of was: I had no thermometer or kid medicine with me. I didn’t know the area. My girl needed my arms for comfort and I had to think and act, too. Task #1: Breathe. Task FAIL.

I felt alone. Where were the in-laws? Sleeping with old ears. I was alone. Almost.

I heard Mr. Fresh say something about medicine. Slowly I started to feel the floor under my back. I proposed smashing up a grown-up Advil and mixing it with a spoonful of honey. He played along with a groan. She looked at the lumpy concoction with disgust but tried, throwing it right up. He put on his pants and shoes and drove off. She screamed at me to snuggle her and I said, over and over, that everything would be okay once the medicine got here. My freakout subsided as we listened to 1:30 a.m. birds, an owl hoo'ing gently. I recalled the comfort I took nursing her for the 6 months after our loss. Flesh works, this body is all we have.

Mr. Fresh strode back into the nightlit bedroom and cheerfully tossed a little white bag at me. “The clerk said, ‘Huh, you’re the tenth parent in here tonight, there must be something going around.’”

“Mmmmmm! Deee-licious cherry syrup!”, she oozed, licking every last bit from the see-through graduated cuplet. She was already cooling off.

Poor Mr. Fresh was the only one who wasn’t back firmly asleep an hour later.

* * * Comments * * *


Snickollet said...

I hope you all feel better.

Suddenwidow said...

I can relate to the paralyzing fear when a child is sick and I'm dreading the first one without my husband. He was the one who brought calmness to the scary, usually late night, situations. I am the one who always worries about meningitis or appendicitis. Guess that's one more thing I'll need to learn to cope with on my own. Add it to the list! Glad Short Stack is feeling better.

Split-Second Single Father said...

Illess is still the one parenting thing that completely freaks me out. (Well, that and presumably surgery, which I will find out for certain in about 10 hours). My daughter ran a high fever one night not quite a year after my wife passed away. I finally gave in and called my mom in another state at 1:00 in the morning just for some reassurance. Her fever broke the next day and she was fine by the second day, but it was still a frightening time.

All that to say, I understand.

Hope SS is feeling much better now, and that you are as well.

Mel said...

Whenever R is sick, and especially when he's crying, I feel paralyzed. I scamper around in a state of restless chaos.

At work, I make dozens of decisions each day with relative calm and total logic, analyzing risks and options.

But in these moments, I am always at a loss.

This is also when I feel the most alone, the most singularly responsible.

Fortunately, I can usually wake my sister who identifies the correct treatment.

I'm so glad you got back to sleep :)

Abigail said...

Funny how kids always seem sicker at 1:00am isn't it? There is something about a sleepy mind that is so grave.
Hooray for Mr. Fresh! A knight in shining Children's cherry Advil!


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