Utterly ridiculous, that’s what this is. It’s 11:22 p.m. and I’m wrapped in a somewhat hideous purple bathrobe that my in-laws sent one Christmas (what? now we send sleepwear to people we never even visit?) and the old navy blue velour Lands End pajamas I bought the year my son was born (1998) and I have work to do, actual important work with deadlines and everything and what am I doing? What? I’ll tell you!
I’m procrastinating and reading your blogs and listening to the local late-night news and occasionally hollering to my almost-teen boys, “BE QUIET! GO TO SLEEP!” My husband woke up early with the stomach virus I suffered through on Friday and now he’s exhausted from the rigors of trudging to the bathroom ten thousand times today. I said with barely restrained glee, “And now, do you feel sorry for me?!” because last Friday when I had the same virus, my daughter never left my side and for half the day, I was babysitting the 15-month old. Never mind the fact that my boys were entirely on their own and that my now-8-year old invited two friends over to play in the backyard without even telling me or the fact that I was up and at a birthday party the next morning by 10 a.m. Never mind that because having the stomach virus is not a time for healthy competition. Sick competition, perhaps.
For the record, he does feel sorry for me. And then he said, “Yes, I was neglecting you while visiting the dying in the hospital.” Which is entirely true and spotlights the life we lead. The dying in the hospital trump a stomach virus at home, unless of course, the roiling stomach belongs to the pastor, in which case, the youth pastor will have to do (as he did today when a church woman called for a pastor today–she was having an MRI on her head to see if she had a stroke). (And, wouldn’t you know it, a different woman, the one my husband has been visiting frequently the past weeks–she died last night at 1 a.m. And he couldn’t go and do his pastor-thing and sit with the family today. It’s such a tough time and he normally makes a point of being with the grieving family.)
Before my 8-year old left for school, I looked into his green-gray eyes and said, “Now, listen. If you get a stomach ache and if you have diarrhea, tell your teacher and I’ll come get you.” I wrote his teacher a note to inform her that we have a stomach virus here which is highly contagious and that if he showed signs, I’d come pick him up.
At 9:30 a.m., the call from his teacher came. My husband threw off the covers of his sick bed and came downstairs to sit with my daughter and the toddler while I drove three minutes away to the school. My son looked fine and I confess I didn’t believe he was sick. I confined him to his room, relegated him to playing the old Nintendo 64 system and for a long time, every time I checked, he seemed bored, but healthy. He insisted he’d had diarrhea and I gave him a little speech about being truthful, yada, yada, yada.
At 3:00 p.m., he threw up all over his bedroom carpet.
At 3:01 p.m., the doorbell rang.
At 3:02 p.m., the telephone rang.
At 3:03 p.m., the nice church couple who rang the doorbell sat at my kitchen table while I pretended not to be mortified by 1) my messy kitchen counter; 2) the toys scattered all over the family room; 3) the stacks of laundry, folded, but still; 4) my unmade-up face and humidity-induced crazy hair; and 5) my daughter’s nutty outfit (sundress and too-short wildly unmatched purple stretch pants).
And with great hilarity, I must tell you that we are replacing our van (aka, “The Deathtrap,” the 1991 Chevy Astro van which was given to us a couple of years back) with another van, a pretty, powder-blue Chevy Astro van which was manufactured the very same year we were married. That’s right! Bonus points for those of you who shouted out the correct answer. Nineteen eighty-seven!! Yes, people, that means our “new” van is four years older than our “old” van and; not only that, but it’s guaranteed not to break down within a twenty-mile radius.
No, really. We are so grateful for this donation to our sad, pitiful cause. Our old van quit running and the brakes were deemed unsafe by our mechanic friend. Our regular car, the 1993 Mercury Sable randomly stops running, despite the assurances by the mechanic (twice, now) that they’ve fixed it. (The last time, it cost $300.) So, driving that car very far feels unsafe.
Hopefully, next year, we’ll buy an actual vehicle manufactured in this century. Or decade, even.
So, they signed over the van. I cleaned up the vomit as best as I could. The telephone call was for my husband–his aunt died. As I knelt over the vomitous carpet, the toddler woke from his nap, screaming his little blond head off.
I did scurry around this afternoon, then, fueled by my mortification. Of course, now that it’s tidy, no one will stop by. That’s always how it works around here.
I expect my twins to be clutching their bellies and pushing their way to the toilet tomorrow. In a way, that would be great because then I could work on my work, the work with deadlines. Because, otherwise, it will interfere with “American Idol” and honestly, a girl has to have her priorities.
I said to my husband tonight, “Don’t you just love our life?” as I thought about the vomit and the old vans and the singing preschooler in the tub who wouldn’t stop calling out, “MOMMY! MOMMY!”
He said in a very serious voice, “Yes. I do, actually.”
The next time I came into the room (putting away laundry), he said, “Seriously, think of all the things we’ve been through. We’ve been poor. We were infertile. The unemployment. Your dad’s death. Our families’ divorces.”
Getting into the spirit of things, I said, “Don’t forget your cancer!”
His point, though, was not to dwell on the difficult stretches of our life together, but to remember that our pain helps us help others. Our pain has made us stronger. Our marriage has endured–and now we have a concrete reminder of just how long we’ve been together. What cracks me up is that the reminder isn’t a giant sparkly anniversary diamond ring, but has flaky powder-blue paint and is parked in the driveway.