“Whoa” is my immediate response. I hesitate after this initial jolt and then pull up again, trying to heave my heavy throbbing head off the wet pillow.
My condition shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all I’d been up throughout the night gasping for water and trying to double up the blankets around my shivering frame.
I blink back at the clock, trying to register the urgency of getting up after five snooze alarms. My throbbing head cradles the pillow, which feels like a rock rubbing a sore. You’ve got to get the kids ready for school. You’ve got to get the kids ready for school. It registers: a checklist of actions dart across my numb brain. The recognition of how impossible actual racing through the morning is also registers, and compels me to try again.
Ooof, up I go; the motion seems to pull against the front of my skull, forcing my eye socket tendons tight against my brain, while a cascade of soreness ripples down my body.
On, on I stagger to my robe, to a sweater I hastily pull on top of the robe. Still shivering. Down the stairs—ow, ow, ow—to the kitchen where I stumble about pulling cereal cartons down and start laying out lunch boxes.
There should be a Mom medal of courage given at times like this when it takes every will of your being to press on.
“Mom, are you okay?” my nine year old cautiously inquires as she skips down the stairs.
“No, I’m sick” a throaty bark returns back. Her eyes widen.
All three children now eye me from the table. One of them decides to test the waters by beginning to tease another. It’s all I can do to manage a deep “Don’t you dare. Not today. I am sick.” Little bodies retract in their seats and quietly finish their Cheerios.
This impact doesn’t get past me and I realize I’d better use it to my necessary advantage. “Mom’s sick today guys,” I begin haltingly. “You need to step up and help. I need help. After breakfast you need to … COUGH! COUGH! … put your dishes in the sink and go upstairs to get dre … COUGH! COUGH! … dressed. You need to help.”
And in an amazing fluid turn of events, they do. Quietly, helpfully, swiftly … obediently.
With time to spare, they pile into the car without so much as a tease or defiant standoff (the three-year-old’s morning modus operandi).
On the drive, as I squint painfully past my headache to the street ahead, I hear William say that he is going to make me a get well card. Lauren chimes in that she will, too, and that they all will all make one together as well. Interjected in this loving conversation are hopes and wishes that I feel better. And soon.
Huge hugs at drop-off at the elementary school and preschool, and I stagger home with the realization I have a rare almost three hours before pickups begin. I pull back on pajamas over tender skin and collapse into bed, weakly doubling up the blankets around me.
For a brief few hours I will get to do what Dads do when they’re being walloped by the flu. I will get to stay in bed and just sleep.