Guest post by Dianna Overholt
I’ve just spent half a day in bed with a don’t-move headache. A no-lights, stomach-churning, over-the-eyes migraine.
And I haven’t had such a heart-warming time in months.
My husband served crackers and tea on the nightstand before leaving for work. “My head makes my stomach hurt,” I groaned, nibbling the saltines. “But I have to eat before taking the migraine pills! Please tell the children that I need to sleep for several hours.”
With my youngest at age four, resting should be simple, nothing like past experiences of nursing a baby while throwing up.
Through the dark and quiet walls come the rattle of cereal bowls and the clink of ice cubes. Grateful for my capable twelve-year-old, Angela, I find a position that creates the least pressure on my head.
Screeech! Bang! The bedroom door lurches open, then shut. I wince.
Angela approaches the bed with two drinking glasses: one of ice water, one of mango drink. “I’m sorry you’re sick, Mom,” she sympathizes. “Should I make coffee?”
Screeech! Bang! Nine-year-old Lindsay arrives with a plate of delicacies: a brownie, four frozen blueberries, three frozen raspberries, and a tic tac.
“Thank you, girls,” I smile weakly. They are wearing matching blue-flowered aprons. “Just leave them on the stand. I’m sorry, but I can’t eat right now.”
They hover, anxious to serve. “Can we get you anything else? Do you want the fan on?”
“That would be nice,” I reply, closing my eyes. “I really just need to sleep.”
Ten quiet minutes elapse. My stomach is riding a stormy sea.
Screeech! Bang! We really need to oil the door. Bare feet bound in, and two pairs of shining eyes beam over my bed. My little boys.
“Mommy, I made a card for you!” Four-year-old Rodney bounces up. “Here, open it, Angela helped me make it.” He jumps up and down, up and down.
Ooh, my head. “Rodney, please get off the bed.”
The ancient card, picked from a garage-sale bundle, proclaims “With Sympathy”. With one eye open, I read the inside death-in-the-family sentiments framed with alphabet stickers. Suddenly Rodney yanks back the card. “This green sticker isn’t straight!” he cries. He peels it, and the card tears. “Now I need to make you another one,” he pouts, crumpling it.
Richard’s is on lined notebook paper. In six-year-old wisdom he carefully penned, “Deer Mom, Plez get better soon. You are the best mom in the hole wurld. Can I have a cookie?”
Screeech! Bang! We really, really need to oil the door. More get-well cards delivered. Lacy, flowered, purple ones with “Get well wishes especially for you!” (Those garage-sale cards were a wise investment.)
“Dear Mom,” wrote Angela. “I hope you feel lots better quickly. You are a very nice mom and person to be around. I love you!”
“To the most wonderful mother,” Lindsay’s begins. “I hope you feel better soon! Is there anything I can get you? I will be glad to get it if there is! You are the best mom I could ever wish to have. Thank you for being a great mom.” The corner exclaims, “You are the best mom in the world. You are a great mom.”
I love redundancy.
But I am experiencing an over-abundancy of noise and movement and little bodies. I try nicely thanking them for their cards while firmly stressing that no one should come into the room for one hour. They cheerfully troop out.
I curl around a pillow, recalling my latest episode of caring for my two youngest energists…
Christmas Eve, 10:20 p.m. One last check on the boys as they drifted off to sleep. Then I heard it. A groaning cry. “My tummy hurts!” Quickly guiding Richard into the bathroom, I ran for a bucket.
In disbelief, I heard Rodney crying out. Just in time, I stuck the bucket under him. Within a minute, they’d both vomited. The stomach flu, no doubt.
My husband’s face registered complete disbelief. I couldn’t help laughing. “If I’m going to stay up with one, I may as well stay up with two!”
What a night: two boys and two buckets. Every 15-20 minutes I leaped up and grabbed one or both buckets. A well-synchronized pair, they always vomited within a minute or two of each other. Once I had a bucket held out in each hand.
Poor little boys with faces white and tummies twisted. I lovingly patted their backs. I wiped faces, and offered sips of Sprite. My own stomach never once churned. With a book and a Bible beside me, I read, slept, jumped up, prayed, snoozed, jumped up, and repeated.
My husband and two oldest children, squeamish and wide-awake, retreated to the farthest end of the house where they tried drowning out the acoustics.
Occasionally my husband emerged to peak in. “I wish I could help,” he’d say, “But my own stomach is hurting.” His face would twist into a something-smells-awful look and he’d breathe, “You’re beautiful. You are so beautiful!” before quickly retreating.
Activity finally ceased at 2:00 a.m.
In the kitchen, dishes rattled and banged. The door remained closed. I felt myself drifting away.
Then right outside my door:
It’s Lindsay. With loud and great expression she reads the entire psalm. “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:… for my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am as a man that hath no strength:… Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me;… thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.”
My eye was not only mourning by reason of affliction, it was weeping from laughter, and the love-warmth of children.
(Later I discovered that Angela, knowing her sister greatly dislikes dishwashing, suggested that she’d wash while Lindsay read a Psalm. Lindsay had picked the Psalm at random.)
Eventually I slept, eventually the pills worked, and I awoke with pain abated and a warm realization.
The realization was that in the “normal” sicknesses of family life we’ve formed some one-of-a-kind memories that cannot be created any other way. Difficult memories, tiring ones. But memories of support and care. Memories of being there for each other when we most need a loving touch.
So I stand with a bucket outstretched in each hand and I say that almost I enjoy ill health.
~ Guest post by Dianna Overholt who is a Mennonite mother of five and author of Guiding the House, which is a delightful Home Organizer. See our last giveaway for details.
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