My 7-year old is sick. She’s been sniffly all week, but last night she complained that her arms, legs, head and pinkie finger hurt. I am deeply in denial that the flu can affect my family, but this sounded suspiciously fluish. Especially once I felt her forehead and realized she felt warm. I gave her ibuprofen and hoped for the best.
At 1 a.m. as I was getting ready for bed, she woke up and complained again of pain. I gave her more medicine and put her back to bed.
At 3:30 a.m., she appeared bedside telling me that she hadn’t been able to fall asleep because her room had too much space. She said she kept turning on the light to look because it was just too big. Either she had just taken LSD or she was feverish and ill. She cried when she told me this, clearly upset by the wrongness of the space in her room. She wanted to watch a show because the fluctuating space in her room interrupted her sleep.
So I let her watch television, only the cable wouldn’t work in her room. Instead, I rewound a Winnie-the-Pooh video. I have no idea how long she watched t.v. or if she fell back asleep. In the morning, I gave her more medicine (her head ached) and told her she had to stay home from school. She cried about that, too.
And so the pattern went for the day. The pain relief would wear off and she’d tell me how much her head and body ached. I’d give her medicine and she’d perk right up. At one point, she was busily typing on the computer, fingers clicking at high speed. She was typing a pretend essay on George Washington in multi-colored fonts.
Tonight, she looked terrible when I put her to bed at 10. She was flushed, crying because her fingers felt so small. The whites of her eyes were pink.
I considered the possibility that she might have the dreaded H1N1 flu, the Swine Flu which I mocked mercilessly last spring due to the media hysteria. I imagined finding her unresponsive, worried about rushing her to the hospital, imagined a world without Grace.
My mind tends to travel the road to the Worst Case Scenario. So many things can go so wrong, so fast, without warning. I’ve learned now to say, “Why me?” because the question really is, “Why not me?”
A little while ago I heard the floor creaking above. I went upstairs to investigate and found her standing in the darkness of my room talking to my side of the bed. “Grace,” I said, “Come here.” I felt her bare shoulder with relief. She no longer felt feverish.
“Did you use the potty?”
“No, I don’t have to.”
“Okay, let’s go back to bed.”
She climbed up the ladder to the top bunk, telling me, “Tomorrow when I . . . I want to . . . and then can we . . . will you . . . um . . . I can’t remember what I was saying.”
“Okay. Time to sleep. Nighty-night.”
“Nighty-night. I love you.”
“I love you.”
So I guess tonight I will not have to call 9-1-1 and rush her to the hospital and wonder why I didn’t get her vaccinated against the Swine Flu and why I allowed her out in the world where she could touch undisinfected surfaces and catch deadly germs.