“Nate,” I interrupted him in a whisper. “Do you know why Uranus is funny?”
“Not really. Why?”
“Because anus is another word for butt. So when you say Ur-anus, it’s like you’re saying ‘your butt.’”
“Oh. That is funny.” He paused for a moment, like the marvelous Mrs. Maisel, committing that little nugget to memory so he could use it on the playground. That’s kindergarten gold right there.
And then he continued talking.
“Anyway, so Captain Underpants and Principal Poopypants were…”
He went on, but I zoned out again. It was sometime after 4AM. I was curled up on the bathroom floor under a beach towel—the closest thing to a blanket I could find in the dark. Nate was perched on a stool in front of the toilet waiting to puke.
I had been listening to him talk for almost an hour at this point. His filibuster began with cheery lamentations about being sick. Then he went into an assessment of the kindergarten special schedules, which he eventually compared to eating dessert after dinner and reading his favorite books—something about how it’s such a cherished moment, but then he has to wait that much longer until it occurs again. But he was cheerful the whole time, pausing every now and again to hurl his head in the direction of the toilet bowl ready to vomit. Which he never did.
He gave me a very detailed summary of the Captain Underpants movie. When he finished, he said, “And that’s the end. But I skipped over the beginning, so let me start again.”
And he peppered his oratory with a vivid portrayal of his fever hallucinations.
“It looks like you’re getting far away from me, Mom. You’re getting smaller.”
Or: “I think I see a Lego set in the corner behind the sink, but that can’t be right. It’s yellow.”
During his discourse, I debated whether or not I was getting sick. My ankles were pressed against the cold tile floor, and my right shoulder was falling asleep.
Why is the bathroom floor the most uncomfortable floor in the house when it’s clearly the one you’re most likely to fall asleep on? [Cue your memory of a college hangover] A bathroom floor is so hard, cold, and … sterile. Why can’t we make it softer, warmer, a bit more Sealy Posturepedic-y? Seems like a no brainer.
A headache was forming and my stomach had that uneasy sensation that characterized the early stages of my pregnancies. But I’m pretty sure I was just hungry.
After about ninety minutes, I couldn’t stand it any more. I was cold, so sleepy, and Nate’s commentary was making my headache worse.
He had just launched into emotional pleas for prayers.
“I can’t believe I have the flu. I hope people are praying for me. Ben’s dad had the flu and we prayed for him a lot. Am I going to die?”
“I’m pretty sure you’re fine. Let’s go back to your room and if you feel like you’re going to throw up, just get to the bathroom. You don’t need to knock on our door again.”
That’s how this whole thing started. Tighe had nominated himself to go back to bed.
“Right.” He nodded like I was giving him marching orders. I helped him climb back up his ladder and told him to stop talking and go to sleep.
“Remember, it’s President’s Day, so you don’t have school in the morning and there’s nowhere we have to be.”
“Right. Mom. Did you know George Washington loved all animals?”
“Go to sleep, Nate.”
"And then he fought in some battles, I think."
I'd be lying if I said a lecture on the American Revolution wasn't in my wheelhouse. But not at this hour.
"Go to sleep, Nate."
“Right. I can’t believe I’m six!”
The day before, Tighe and I disagreed about whether or not Nate was actually sick.
“He feels warm to me,” I murmured, standing on the ladder to the top bunk where Nate was entrenched, pulling my hand away from his flushed face. I was already convinced he had the flu. Maybe cholera.
“He’s not warm!” Tighe’s rebuttal had roots in his personal pride, so I had trouble trusting it. He refuses to believe that anyone in his gene pool could ever fall victim to a virus, let alone the strain of flu that’s been plaguing the country and much of Nate’s kindergarten class.
And he’s partially right. Aside from the colds that weave their way in and out of our house all winter long, enveloping us, one at a time, in enough snotty mucus to keep the Kleenex company in business, we’re usually pretty healthy. Sam’s had two ear infections, Nate had croup once, and Tess had some nasty diaper rash the week all four top teeth came in at the same time.
But this year’s flu strain is not to be denied! Watch the news, it’s a fact.
Tighe had a few facts on his side. First, this was the morning after Nate’s birthday party—an indoor pool party. With all the sugar and excitement, maybe he was just suffering a kid hangover. His main presenting symptom was a headache. Was he just dehydrated and worn out? Hopefully.
The important thing is that I got to skip suffering through church with Sam and Tess, so I could stay home and tend to Nate. He slept the whole time. It was glorious.
When I checked on him, he could barely lift his head. His birthday presents were sitting unopened on top of the piano. And when I mentioned the giant Lego set he had started the day before, now sitting untouched on the table in the sunroom, vulnerable to Tess’s and Sam’s meddling, he didn’t budge from under his blanket.
And that was the moment I knew this was more than a hangover.
Note to reader: finish your lunch before you read on.
Around three o’clock he finally threw up. It was mostly bile, mixed with some strawberry Pop-Tart chunks and the purple Gatorade we made him chug.
He missed the trashcan I had set in front of him by an inch or two, and his fluids landed all over the rug, a throw blanket, the sofa, my water bottle, and the coffee table.
The same coffee table that Sam pooped on two years ago.
But, like any good sorority girl, he puked and rallied. He opened all of his presents, cheerfully praising each friend for their thoughtful selection and making a mental note about what he’d write in their thank you notes. Then, still in his pajamas, he returned to work on his his Lego set.
He ate his whole dinner, asked for seconds, and even requested extra dessert. He was asleep by 7:22PM and eight hours later, we were lying on the bathroom floor together.
Do I send him to school on Tuesday? Technically, he meets the guidelines to go—no fever for more than 24 hours, he hasn’t thrown up since Sunday afternoon, and there’s no green goo #medicalterminology trickling out of his nostrils.
And, more importantly, if he stays home but Sam goes to school, can I handle the one-on-one time—six hours of non-stop babbling?
I'm gonna keep my beach towel handy just in case.