It starts as a whisper that rises faintly above normalcy. It begins with, "Mom, I don't feel good." It is never, "Dad, I don't feel good," because it is known what will follow. Like my father before me, and most likely several generations before him the response would be the same. Three words that sum up the situation. "Suck it up." That's right. This world is tough, and we must adapt, adjust, improvise, and above all overcome. However, that is why the statement is directed at the mother and not the father. But, let's be honest here the mother is normally the tough one, and the father will give in and let the offspring stay home from school. Yes, that's right- I'm speaking about sick days. Whether we are referring to playing hooky or an actual malady that prevents the attendance of scholarly adventure. Three days in the most recent version. A knew a man once who said, "Death smiles at us all, and all a man can do is smile back." Sickness, especially child sickness, could fit into this philosophy. I'm smiling though the pain. Three days.
The biggest fear that I have when it comes to a child being sick is the expulsion of stomach contents. I can do swine flu (I've always liked bacon), I can do avian flu (I used to wear those shoes back in the day. Avia that is), and I can even do all the related cold weather illnesses that pop up every year (the cold never bothered me anyway. See, I learned from Frozen.) However, if the words "stomach virus" are mentioned it scares the beejeezus out of me. I don't do stomach illnesses very well, because I'm not crazy about the process involved. I won't go into details here, but we're all adults. At least I hope we are, but I do know the spots where one would expel what you have eaten and I don't like them. Not one bit. My sole male heir was struck with the dreaded stomach virus, and he had to stay home from school with yours truly. The lovely Miss Madison, my daughter, saw this as an opportunity. She's a crafty grifter. So, believe it or not as soon as Maddie found out that Jesse would be staying home from school she was stricken with a serious illness rivaling monkey pox. The first day was deceptively simple, and outside of a lot of whining (by Jesse) and video game playing (by Maddie) all was well. The silver lining was the rediscovery of Super Mario Bros., and a serious attempt by me to return to the glory days of 1985 and capturing the princess. Those stupid hammer turtles got me on level 8. No dice. As the day progressed Jesse seemed to be getting worse, and this was concerning to everyone except Maddie. She was living high on the hog and getting a free day off.
After a long night of emptying mucho stomach contents my poor son was doomed to spend another day at home with dear old dad. My wife assisted with the process by staying home in the morning hours, because Jesse requested it and I had to take the sick or is it slick Grifter Maddie to school. She tried to run another con game on me, but just like George W. Bush said, "Fool me once shame on you, but fool my twice and I won't get fooled again." I always liked The Who. Once Maddie was in school, and Mama had left the house Jesse was in obvious gastrointestinal distress. I felt really bad for him so I put my master plan into effect. Operation Mario would commence. Recently, I moved the Wii downstairs for Maddie to play since Jesse was more of an XboxOne and PlayStation kinda guy. Maddie has staked claim to the device, but Jesse and I played a marathon of Super Mario Brothers adventure. Mainly to keep Jesse's mind off the evil plague-like stomach virus. New Super Mario Bros., Old Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Mario Sports, Mario Super Sluggers, and Mario Call of Duty. He ate some Ritz crackers and drank Powerade to stay hydrated. I thought he might be out of the woods, but I wasn't sure yet.
Still progressing but over night issues caused another off day. On this day his mother, undoubtedly concerned with Operation Mario, decided to stay home with the sick boy. What follows is the story of the Toaster Lesson. Jesse needed food, because if the tank is empty it needs to be refilled. The foodstuff of choice was toast. Good old toast. Easy on the stomach, and buttery seared bread is a delicacy. Well it is with gravy and beef, but that wouldn't work for a stomach virus. My beloved wife decided to teach young Jesse how to use a toaster. This is the same boy who has made a living on having other people do stuff for him for quite some time, and need I mention he is a kind innocent soul who asked me the other day if the pets we once had, "Got excited about Christmas" and "Wondered who put the gifts in their stockings." He's extremely intelligent, and he has a great way of looking at things. Unfortunately, I think he lives in the land of Magic and Unicorns like his mother, but back to the toaster thing. Is it difficult to make toast? For Jesse, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" The Mom questions kept on coming. Mom, is this the toaster? Mom, do I put the bread in there? Mom, what do I press down? Mom, how do I know when it's done? Mom, is it done yet? Mom, I think it's done. Mom, should I take it out now? Mom, where's the butter. Mom, how do you put butter on it? As much as I want to say that I am exaggerating here, I'm not. He was a sheltered child. Heart of gold and a better young man you won't find, but man alive- It's just toast!! It was becoming obvious that Toasty J, while not a bread cooking savant, was in fact getting better. The stomach virus was relinquishing it's grip on my son, and he would be returning to school. Whether he liked it or not. Unfortunately, now the ever mindful young man began to overly concern himself with all the school work that he would have to make up upon his return. I had to talk him off a ledge, and tell him that I was sure that no teachers would force him to take any tests that he was not ready for. Well, they better not. If so, I'm climbing a clock tower.....just kidding. As far as you know.
This too shall pass. Sickness will end, but to quote Axl Rose, "I'd hate to look into those eyes, and see an ounce of pain." True story. I remember well the days when I would stay home from school, and my dear saint of a mother would care for me. On occasion I had a true sickness, but I wasn't above faking it. Those were days that I still think of fondly, because of how safe I felt with my mother there. I always felt better. I would lay in my bed and wait for an old rerun of Batman or The Brady Bunch. The Price is Right was always a big hit too. While times are much different now I still hope that at least in some ways they are the same. I hope my children feel as safe with my wife and I as I did with my mother and father, although Drew Carey is no Bob Barker. Come on down!