For months I have been working with colleagues who are mothers of young children, newly entered into childcare situations and suffering the germs and illnesses that come with that. These young moms come to work tired, sharing stories of how little sleep they got the night before because their child was sick.
Today is my turn. Except my son is 18, well above the acceptable age for daycare. His “babysitters” are his 30-hour-a-week job at a pizza parlor and his college classes, but despite his 6’4″ stature and his apparent maturity, he needed his mama last night.
Yesterday, I had the joy of my sister’s company at a college football game. I had purchased tickets from a colleague — way up in the 87th row in the south end zone of the stadium.
“I love the seats. I can see everything,” she had told me. “I just bring my little binoculars…”
You get the idea. I was happy to have tickets for this last home game, just because it meant time with my sister, who lives too far away. When I arrived home from work on Friday, my son told me he had gotten his friend’s two tickets to the game — west side, 17th row, 35 yard line, chairbacks. And when my sister arrived after a three and a half hour drive straight from work late Friday night, he approached her and told her he had upgraded our tickets. This extreme college football fan had willingly shared his prime tickets to the game and taken our nosebleed section tickets.
We wanted to reward him — I bought him a team T-shirt — but in addition he was rewarded with illness. Cough, which I rewarded with the only cough medicine in the house, which lasted 12 hours and did not affect the cough but gave him side effects: insomnia, for one. He also had fever. Vomiting. Dizziness. Headache. Severe headache.
My 18-year-old baby was miserable, and I could do little to help him.
I provided him with tissues and a trash can, in case he couldn’t make it to the toilet to vomit.
I tucked him tightly with three blankets to ease his chills.
I left his door open so I could hear him through the night — and I heard a lot. Episodes of vomiting. I dumped the trash can, washed it, and returned it to his side. Moans and groans. I returned to his side time and time again, to aid as I could, to talk as he would, to offer comfort.
The cat seemed to sense his illness and refused to leave his side.
“She’s just using my warmth,” said my feverish lad. I thought she was being a faithful, comforting companion. At some point between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. while I slept, a wooden chair appeared beside his bed, and when Adam’s groans awakened me again, I went to his side and took the chair — and realized my husband had held vigil in my absence.
A combination of vomiting and headache didn’t leave a lot of options for treating the headache. Meds for his head could negatively trigger his stomach issues. And so I tried pressure points in his hands to relieve his headache. I tried ice packs wrapped in towels to cool his fever and ease his pain. When I removed my pressure from his hands, he asked me to continue, and when my thumbs ached from the effort, I tried pressing my hand on his forehead or touching his arm or hand through the blanket. This miserable, groaning and moaning young man seemed to settle at my touch, and he managed a few moments of rest.
As if I were trying to settle a toddler after a bad dream, I stayed by his side, letting him talk, speaking gently in return, waiting until his breathing deepened into sleep, and then slowly released the pressure of my hand from his arm and then the mattress and eased myself to a standing position. As if on cue, my husband appeared at my side, told me Adam was OK, and suggested I return to bed.
At 4 a.m., this youngest child of mine finally drifted into a full sleep and at my husband’s beckoning, I followed suit, exhausted by this return to mothering, thankful this precious young man was seemingly improved and resting, and grateful these moments of motherhood are mostly memories.
And, yet, so thankful I am his mama still.