Journalist’s note: Due to the graphic nature and the family nature of the following story, please note that throughout the article, the word “laugh” and its uses will be used to represent the word “vomit.”
Ever had a stomach virus? For those who have, you may skip this next paragraph, as I would hate to conjure painful flashbacks. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, let me describe a bout with a stomach virus. Imagine the worst forty-eight hours of your life. There. That’s pretty much it. Imagine dying of thirst, but not being able to drink even water because you can’t hold any liquids down. Imagine setting up a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor tile because there’s no real point in leaving the room where you’ll be spending most of the night; plus, you can’t waste precious seconds running all the way from your bedroom. Imagine involuntary chills, but a temperature of 102. Imagine if a genie appeared to you and said, “What is your wish, master?” and you, without hesitation, answered joyously, “Genie, kill me. I wish for death. Make it swift, but make it happen.” Of course, this would be a strategic error, because you could probably just as easily wish for the stomach virus to go away and still enjoy the rest of your life.
The toddler was taking a late afternoon nap when he laughed (see above note) for the first time that Saturday. As adults when it comes to the unpleasant but inevitable task of laughing, we are experienced enough to run to the bathroom commode, laugh it up, and flush it down. Toddlers can’t get to the bathroom so they just laugh and laugh. And man, there’s nothing more unpleasant than cleaning up projectile laughter. You find laughter in places that seem impossible.
The toddler wasn’t done though. He began laughing every fifteen minutes. The poor little guy was miserable. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only understood that he wanted it to stop. Every time he felt the laughter start to rise he would whine a meager, “No. No. Done. Done.” as if to reason with his stomach that he was no longer enjoying this thank you very much. A doctor was called and prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Since it was after 6:00 on a Saturday evening, the prescription was called into an all night pharmacy. It was in the next town over and about a fifteen minute drive. The father raced over only to find that the all night pharmacy was closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. that particular night due to “unforseen circumstances.” Of course it was.
Upon arriving back at home empty-handed, the father discovered that the toddler had been laughing in his own room, giggling in his parents’ bed, chortling in the hallway, and guffawing everywhere else. The mother and father would try to put a bucket in front of him, but the toddler began to associate that action with laughing and would push it away in hopes that it would stave off the next joke. Of course it didn’t and only made things quite a bit messier. Carpets needed to be scrubbed. The toddler’s bedsheets were soon soaking in the bathtub in an attempt to save them for future use. An attempt that would prove futile. The mother and father’s bedsheets were thrown into a washing machine that was about to have a very long night.
The family rushed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The title “emergency room” is one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” or “holy war.” Nothing about that place moves at the pace that emergencies should. And if you ever feel depressed because you’re sitting home on a Saturday night, take a walk over to your local emergency room. After spending five minutes in the packed waiting room of miserable, injured, and sick people, you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks happily returning to your boring but healthy Saturday night at home. The family arrived at 9:00 and was seen at midnight. The toodler was given some medication that actually seemed to help. He stopped laughing long enough to hold down some liquids.
The little guy was exhausted from his six-hour ordeal however. The doctor looked at the parents and said, “It’s so sad isn’t it? You just wish it was you going through it rather than him, don’t you?” Stupidly the father agreed. And the irony began. When the father turned to the mother, he noticed that her face had gone deathly pale. She looked at him and said, “I don’t believe this. I’m about to start laughing.” She excused herself and went off to find a ladies room to chuckle in private. It was like the end of The Exorcist. The toddler was no longer possessed, but the evil spirits had hopped over to the nearest warm body. The hospital prescribed an anti-nausea medication (the same one the doctor had prescribed over the phone five hours before) and released the family.
The pale mother and recovering toddler headed out to the parking lot while the father settled the bill. As he was filling out the paperwork, he suddenly felt the blood completely leave his face like the tide rushing out to sea just before a massive tidal wave. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands go clammy. You’ve got to be kidding me. The clerk handed his insurance card back and said cheerily, “You’re all set. Good night!” The father grunted something incomprehensible and pondered turning right to the bathroom or left to the parking lot. Being the good father that he was, he decided to get his sick wife and baby home. He walked out to the car where the mother was already in the driver’s seat. He was trying to talk himself out of laughing until he arrived home. No such luck. Things were just too funny on this night. The car was barely moving when the window was rolled down and the father shared a joke with the parking lot. And then there were three …
Upon arrival home, the mother and toddler wearily climbed into the master bed which was now a bare mattress with a bare comforter. The toddler quickly fell asleep while the mother made a few more trips to the bathroom. The mother and father debated getting the prescription filled immediately or waiting until morning. The mother reasoned that there would be no sleep without some form of medication. The father reluctantly agreed, climbed into the car that didn’t have remnants of laughter all over the passenger door, and headed out to the other all night pharmacy which coincidentally was in the strip mall across the street from the previous all night pharmacy. This begs the question: what’s wrong with the inhabitants of this town that they need two all night pharmacies within fifty yards of each other? The father felt queasy and exhausted, but was proud of his heroic efforts to take care of his family at 2:30 a.m. In fact, he felt downright thirsty. And he remembered that as a small boy, his mother always let him have Coke to help his upset stomach. So he picked up a bottle on his way out of the pharmacy. But always mindful of his weight, he settled for Diet Coke.
Now this was stupid because a) he had probably dropped a pound or two anyway in the last couple of hours, b) the sweet coke syrup not found in Diet Coke was what helped upset stomachs and c) sipping the Diet Coke was probably the way to go rather than gulping half of the twenty-ounce bottle in one swig.
Needless to say the father was halfway home when he felt the urge to cackle which quickly turned into a strong urge to hoot and holler. Having no time to pull over he rolled down the window and leaned out while acrobatically keeping the car straight. Now this was also stupid because if he had paid attention in Physics class he would know that expelling an object out of a vehicle moving fifty miles per hour would just bring said object right back into the vehicle at an equal velocity … or something like that. The joke was now on the father not to mention the front seat of his car. Laughter: 2 Family Cars: 0. Had anybody been witness to this pathetic display, they would have seen a grown man driving a car down the highway screaming, “AHHH! AHHH! OH MY GOD!”
Upon arrival at home, the father quickly undressed and threw his clothes into the overworked washing machine. He jumped into the shower, scrubbed himself with the ferocity of an obsessive compulsive, toweled off, gave a pill to the mother and took one for himself. He then staggered into bed and the family enjoyed a restless sleep for two hours.
The next two days were spent alternately on the couch and the bed. Frequent trips were made to the bathroom by both the mother and the father. The toddler was thankfully good as new and couldn’t understand why his parents didn’t enjoy it when he gleefully climbed all over them or jumped on their heads and why they remained in bed moaning all day. The mother and father were actually grateful that the toddler felt better. It would have been impossible to take care of him in this state. The family eventually recovered and actually relished in the weight loss. But they never will forget the night of 1,000 Laughs.
So why do I recount this graphic tale that at times crosses the line of over sharing? Because looking back, it was a seventy-two hour period of time that can only be endured by people who truly love each other. Never has the term “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” been put to the test more. Because nothing says happy family like a night filled with laughter.
Photo courtesy of Our Milk Money