Luckily my body knows it can't be sick for long. The last time I was sick was about 6 years ago. A coworker took me aside and gently told me, "You look like shit. Go to the doctor." Turns out I had pneumonia and I missed three days of work. My only lucid memory of that time is me staggering to the front door to acknowledge Big Daddy, who stood a safe distance away from Plague House and shouted to me, "You look like shit. If you need anything lsjsfafjeio;gj;h........" I didn't hear the end of the sentence because he was driving down the street. Did I mention he didn't take the kids with him? Pneumonia was fun.
I started feeling not-quite-right a few days ago. My head had that swollen, stuffed feeling. My muscles were sore, which I know wasn't the result of anything exercise related. A couple of the kids had been down for a few days with low fevers and coughs, but nothing too bad. I work with hundreds of kids every week...I shudder to think of what sort of germs and microbes or virulent strains of Black Death you'd find on me at any given moment. So I figured I had just picked up some random cold.
Bitch, please. The swollen stuffed head started pounding. The sore muscles and joints forced my limbs into fetal-like positions and even doing something simple like giving my 18 year old the finger became excruciating. My eyeballs felt like someone had removed them from my skull, dipped them in kerosene and then stuck them back in. Even my hair hurt.
That night I fell asleep on the floor, like a dog. In fact, Walter sprawled down next to me, grateful to have a canine companion for the evening. Just for giggles, the kids decided to watch "Contagion" and as I drifted in and out of a feverish coma I heard one of them ask the other, "She didn't touch the remote, did she?". They're sweet angels.
But, as those of you who parent solo know, we aren't allowed to be down for long. The next morning, I jumped up off the floor and felt almost human again. I went grocery shopping, gave kids rides to work and hockey and to friend's houses. Cleaned up the rest of the Christmas mess (except the tree. Right now I'm ignoring the tree). It was New Year's Eve, and the two younger boys and I had planned on having a pizza/movie night at home. I loathe driving on that night, and will very rarely venture out even if it means missing kick ass parties thrown by fabulous hens. I'm weird like that.
So New Year's Eve was mellow and nice and not sickly at all.
New Year's Day, though? Holy crap. One minute I was fine, rolling my eyes at all of the New Year's resolutions people were posting on facebook, the next minute I was doing the army crawl to my bedroom, shivering like a mofo and trying to see through kerosene-soaked eyeballs again. I pushed aside the four baskets of clean laundry and the scattering of sexually ambiguous, comfortable shoes littering my floor and heaved my bad self into bed. Where I stayed for the remainder of the day, aside from the times I had to pick kids up and drop kids off and the time one of the kids started crying because he wanted scalloped potatoes at 9:00 p.m. and couldn't figure out how to do it. Oh, and the times I had to yell at the 7th grader, who decided to come into my room at half hour intervals and ask me to a: drive him and his friends to Super America so they could get Flaming Hot Cheetos and Icees or b: please let him have a few more friends sleep over. I think I might have let it slip that he was no longer my favorite child. The scalloped potato kid took that spot because after I made him the bowl of cheesy dried tater slices he came into my room with a "thank you" glass of water. That's all it takes, kids. Hope you're making some mental notes.
Sleep didn't come easy that night, I found myself in the vice-like grip of a horrifying cough. Not just your standard two-pack-a-day cough that usually accompanies this kind of illness..no, my lungs decided to go big. I coughed the kind of cough that I'm sure has only been heard before as echoes down the long sterile hallways of typhoid sanitariums. The fart-inducing, uterus-expelling kind of cough. Thankfully, the kids slept through it.
In between coughing fits I alternated between stripping down to a 3/4 length sleeve knit shirt in a desperate attempt to stave off the fever sweats, and stealing blankets from other rooms along with putting on my long down coat and a scarf when the chills kicked in. It wasn't a peaceful night.
But, like a dutiful single mom does, I got up today, feeling better. I smell like an old sick lady, my ribs hurt and I'm not sure if I still have a uterus or not but I feel better. And that's a good thing, because apparently while I slept someone moved me into a crack house.
There are chip bags on the living room floor, the kitchen is filled with food and dishes and empty ice cube trays, the garbage is overflowing, the dog has no water or food, and at some point during the evening somebody made both a frozen lasagna and a pizza. The only thing I haven't found are sleeping hookers and used needles. But I haven't gone down to the mancave yet, so I'm not going to start feeling all proud and optimistic just yet.
The thing about being a single parent is this: most of the time, I'd go as far as to say maybe 90% of the time, it's okay. It's not only doable, it's enjoyable. Most of the time I'm able to pull it off and at the end of the day feel like I've done a decent job at it.
But..during that 10% when it's not okay? It sucks. I remember at one point last night, when I was crying a little because I didn't feel good and wanted someone to sit by my side and put cold washcloths on my forehead and make me a bowl of soup, I remember wishing I had someone here to help me. Someone who could have made the effing scalloped potatoes, someone who could have helped pick up their kids, someone who could have maintained a bit of order and calm while I did what a sick person needs to do: be sick.
I can deal with having to do everything. Not only deal with it, but do it with a smile. I'm okay with managing a household, four other people's schedules and school stuff and appointments while simultaneously working three part time jobs and trying to stay somewhat sane. I'm okay with it because I have no other choice. And usually, I don't dwell on the "why" and the "what if" aspects of it.
But every once in a while, like last night when I really and truly felt awful, it made me wish for just a few seconds that I was still married. The only other times I feel this way are when there are mousetraps to be taken care of and very high lightbulbs to be changed. Luckily, two of my boys are now over 6 feet tall and the 12 year old will do the mouse traps if I promise him some Flaming Hot Cheetos. But the sick thing..that's different. That's not something tangible like a lightbulb or a mousetrap.
Luckily for me, it only happens every six years or so. The next time it hits, three of my kids will be in their twenties and the other one should be able to procure his own Cheetos.
In the meantime, I will be over here taking Vitamin C and washing my hands repeatedly.
Be well, friends!