When I was little I went through the gamut of childhood illnesses. Strep, flu, mono, chicken pox and a billion colds. But when I think about the times I was sick, I don't remember the pain. I do remember a few puking spells but even still, I don't remember the crying that I know accompanied them. I know there was crying because, well, puking makes me cry. Just ask Daddy Pants.
Here's what I do remember...
I remember the comfy couch and piles of blankets. I remember Press Your Luck, Love Connection and Family Feud. I remember the way the sunlight hit the living room at noon and how at 3 in the afternoon the glare would overwhelm the TV and we'd have to draw the curtains so that I could finish watching General Hospital. I remember the vacuum running and seeing my mom's legs go by with each pass of it. I remember going in and out of sleep. Waking to find my mom's soft hands cupping my face or feeling the back of my neck. Opening my eyes to see her sweet face offering me sips of juice or encouraging me to take my aspirin or cough syrup. Telling me to go slow and that it would be ok.
I remember the bucket next to the bed or couch in anticipation of what was certain to come and the stack of towels that would no doubt be needed to clean up any over shot or total miss. She was never mad. I remember the smell of Lysol as she cleaned between my periods of wakefulness and sleep. I remember the eye contact she gave me. She looked deep into my eyes as though she could see the whole sickness and would know how to help if she just looked long enough into my eyes.
I remember the sight of my daddy coming home. I remember the smell of snow, dirt, sweat and cold that was his signature scent when he got home after trudging for miles through all types of weather to deliver the mail. I remember the words, "How's my baby" as he greeted me. I remember sometimes exaggerating my symptoms to gain just that little bit more sympathy. "Daddy, I'm siiiiick", I would say in my most pathetic voice. He would head off to shower and return smelling of Old Spice and ready to scratch my back or bring me ice cream. Or both.
At night when the sickness is always worse, I remember her. She was there and she held me. Her cool hands feeling my head. I don't remember ever needing to call for her. I would open my eyes and she was there. Encouraging me through holding the thermometer under my tongue. I never liked that. It tasted like rubbing alcohol. She'd rub my back and hold my face to her breast. I felt so safe there. So comfortable. She held the bucket and dried my tears.
As I held my sick children this week, these are the things I thought about. These are the memories I hope they one day have. I know now that my mama was no doubt afraid for me. That my fevers and sickness made her sad. That the reason she was always there was because she no doubt held vigil with me. Watching and waiting. Always checking and praying for me to recover quickly. She more than likely cried tears of grief for my grief. I also know now that she didn't sleep. And that it wasn't because she wasn't tired.
I know now that she wanted to take my sickness from me. That it pained her heart to see me so sick.
So as I held the towels under my babies' chins this last week, snuggling them in blankets, giving popsicles and Advil as my shirts were soaked in their tears, I remember my own mama and daddy and how they comforted me. And as I slid into bed next Pants last night and gently placed my hands on the back of his neck to check his fever, I was careful to be gentle. When he opened his eyes to see my face smiling back at him I know he felt comforted. He shivered and said, "Mama, I so cowd (cold). I sweep, Mama" and I pulled his covers up and told him softly that I loved him and that it was ok to go back to sleep and he did. What he doesn't know is that I stayed there. Holding vigil for him. Hoping for him that by sunrise his body wouldn't hurt as much. That this night would be the end of the hard part. Knowing that it won't be the last time they are sick but hoping that this night would please bring the end of this one. Respite.
What he doesn't know is that when I traded places with Daddy and left him for the night, his daddy held vigil for him too. What I hope he does remember is that his mama held him all day long and then his daddy held him through the night. I hope they both remember that through the shivers, pain and tears they were held and that for a time it comforted them.
The rest, I hope, just fades away.