By Hamid Newberry
The boys woke at their mom’s house Easter morning, and after diving into their Easter baskets full of toys and candy, I picked them up at noon. This was my first holiday experience since my wife and I separated, so I got to feel the strangeness that comes with two separate celebrations per special occasion.
As far as the boys were concerned, they scored! Getting double the candy and gifts from that creepy bunny that sneaks into our houses? Right on! The day started with candy and ended with meeting Grandma and Grandpa at the Spaghetti Factory, a family favorite; we even got to sit in the train. I always wanted to do that! So basically, I’m the best dad.
We’ve been battling bad bronchial infection of some sort on and off for nearly two months, because kids are always sick, and my kids are probably the ones getting all the other kids sick. There’s anger that comes over me when my boys come down with something, and I want to find out who gave it to them so that, you know, I can just give them The Eye. If they’re anything like me though, they are probably totally cool with passing it on once it’s out of our household.
No, not really.
So the next logical step for us was the stomach flu… and it hit us all hard. Those few days after Easter weekend of shaking, aching, and revisiting everything we had eaten in our lifetimes will live in my memory as a dark hole of stinking despair, the likes of which I hope to never experience again.
The boys had been with me for the most part for a few weeks straight because their mom had a girl’s getaway trip (why don’t dads get guy-getaways? I don’t know what I’d do anyway. I don’t fish, hunt or read comic books.) Then she had a surgery, so I was kind of a Superdad for a while. My days as a stay-home dad only ended a few months ago, so I was used to handing things. I managed to take care of a toddler and a newborn all day while maintaining my status on the Dean’s List taking full time credits at our local college. I tried my best to find all of the online courses that I could to minimize daycare expenses, as well as be an ever-present father, which doesn’t happen too often these days.
No, I didn’t sleep for three years and part of my brain is dead, but did I mention the Dean’s List?
Clinton, my five year old, was the first to come down with the flu. He is probably mad at me and his mom because of our recent separation, so it was maybe something he did to punish me. Of course, it’s horrible for him too, But you know when your kid pukes, it kind of happens to everyone.
On Thursday, I picked him up from school, and he continued to complain about a tummy ache for several hours. By dinner time, he was puking every 45 minutes and continued through the night and late into the morning. I must say that this dude really knew how to hunker down and get into the “sick zone,” as he asked me for a blanket and pillow to sleep on the bathroom floor for the night (my boy!) So I kept him home from school the next day and took a sick day. I have a new job, so I felt a little stressed about asking for time off. But what else could I do? Luckily, I have a very supportive and understanding boss.
By Friday midday, my youngest son, Harrison, started complaining of a tummy ache. Thank God he’s now old enough (two and a half) to communicate. He made it through the night without puking, but Clinton was still nauseous, so I tended to him and kept an eye on Harry, who was looking greener by the minute.
By Saturday morning, Harry was getting repetitive tummy aches. By the afternoon, he was throwing up continuously, and that’s when I felt my stomach starting to rumble. Growing up, I rarely ever got the stomach flu, and when I did, I was pretty good at keeping myself from throwing up. Besides, being surrounded by other people’s puke isn’t the most appetizing thing, so maybe I was actually just fine, but only just a little disgusted. Either way, I figured I would “will” the ever-increasing stomach pain away.
It turned out that I was pretty powerful, so that lasted until about 10:30 PM.
Then I started feeling the chills.
Harry at this point was puking every 30 minutes, and was feeling so miserable! I was hanging him over the toilet to minimize a bad cleanup whenever I could—but even with a toddler who can give you warning, he was still spewing along the way. Then my stomach started getting really septic. I realized I needed a plan for the night, and my time to make it happen was getting short. This is where I show you what an awesome dad and genius person I am.
I got blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags and laid them in the hallway outside of the bathroom. I was dizzy, and I couldn’t stand up straight due to my stomach pain, but I was doing what I could to prepare. Harrison didn’t have to ask what was going on, and I could see by the look in his eyes that he knew I had this situation nailed. Clinton on the other hand, was now feeling better, and was seriously stoked that we were about to have a slumber party in the hallway! He wanted to sleep closest to the bathroom, and it took all of my energy to say to him “sorry bud, I think Harry and I need a clear path to the toilet. What you had yesterday, is what we have now.” All three of us hunkered down. I knew it was going to be rough, but at least there was now less distance—and carpet—between us and the toilet.
At midnight, while suspending a puking and screaming Harrison over the toilet, I finally lost my stomach and puked for a good 10 minutes. It scared the poor kid to see me going through it all, and I was gasping for air between my pukes. You see, I don’t know how other MEN throw up, but my method is violent and loud; enough to scare myself! In between the brief moments of puking, I would gently tell Harrison “daddy’s ok my man, it’s just my turn to throw up.” Although he couldn’t stop yelling “what’s wrong daddy?!” with big tears rolling down his cheeks. It broke my heart that I couldn’t comfort him when I was at my worst.
After my fifth round, I figured there was no way I had more puke in me, so I went into the kitchen to take a swig of water. I was so parched! Within less than a minute, I was throwing up again. My body was not ready to take in water just yet, and apparently there was also plenty more food in my stomach! Harry and I took turns the whole night, either puking or…you know…that other thing. Which of course meant I was changing his liquid diapers in between our vomit relay. I’d say we stopped puking by 5:30 AM, and were finally in better spirits and drinking some water. Oh sweet water!
Since I was on my own, and groceries had run out by Thursday (when I was planning on going to the store with the boys,) we had nothing to help nurse us back to health. I had to let my fellow HOA board members know that I wasn’t able to attend the meeting that afternoon. Yes, I’m a community leader, and a pretty big deal around here. While I was at it, I asked if any of them could drop by some necessities; luckily, one of the members had just gone through the same thing, and decided to build up a stash. Within an hour, we had Gatorade and chicken noodle soup. She was smart, and left the supplies at the door. A truly strong man isn’t afraid to ask for help, especially when he’s at his weakest.
I took another sick day on Monday to nurse us all back to health. We all had stomach troubles for a good week after, and I had the boys for another week since their mom couldn’t be exposed to the flu with her recent surgery.
While I like to joke about my masculine manliness, I have to say that the weekend of sickness was the most difficult and trying time of my life—as a father, and as a man. Even though it was incredibly hard to get through it on my own, I will not forget it, and I can consider it character building and growth. While I am very recently separated, I am generally quite happy with where I am, but I certainly have my down times. There’s no way to explain the energy that is no longer present in the house, good or bad. When the boys aren’t with me, I have some very down times. I try to make sure that I do not deny my feelings though, so while it is good to distract myself, there are times when I choose to really feel my emotions and try to get through them. I am for the most part doing really well, and my solitude has been good. I’ve only done a few social things, but they’ve been fun. I am a MUCH better father now, and I don’t lash out like I used to. I can see in hindsight that my lack of patience with my kids was coming from my lack of happiness in my life and marriage.
With my down time I do little hobbies that make me happy; I tinker on my cars, the house, and I’m getting back into music and dusting off my vinyl and CD collection. Some of the many things that I hope my boys will grow to appreciate in life.
Maybe life likes to kick you in the groin sometimes when you’re already down. But maybe it’s also a cleansing—out with the old (food/life) and in with the new (food/life.)