Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Touch of Flu

Some day my son will read this, so I will apologize in advance for being such a selfish dad.

A generation earlier, my dad’s job was to work, play catch, and disappear mysteriously every December evening to make strange noises, emerging Christmas morning with an incredible doll house full of hand-made furniture, or new houses for the Christmas Village.

When a child was sick, his schedule did not change. If the child was really sick, he visited quickly and stood awkwardly at the end of the bed. When I was in the hospital with something so dreadful every possible diagnosis ended in death, he brought my mother early and took her home late, but it was she who helped me through the complicated tests and the awful waits in between (happily, the diagnoses were all wrong and, as you can read, I lived to tell the tale).

I need no apology from him now because that is just the way it was back then.

Today, as dads, we are much more involved in our children’s health. The first to see his tiny head crown, I have been with my son at nearly every doctor’s appointment, sick or well. I have rocked him for hours under a blanket by an open window on a cold, croupy night, and wiped his feverish forehead dry during a summer flu.

To keep her from squirming, I held my 18 month old daughter for 4 hours straight post surgery, the two of us tangled in wires monitoring her heart, never a peep of complaint from her as I hummed and hummed a comforting song.

Their mother, of course, has been no less involved.

Tonight, after a long trip back from a soccer game he never played in, although it is our week for him to stay with me, he has chosen to be home in his regular bed, safe with his mother nearby, nursing him softly. Sympathetic and understanding how, not feeling well, he would want this, still I confess jealousy torments my caring heart.

Sad it is that he must choose between his parents. There should certainly be no argument around choice for him tonight: he is granted, by virtue of our love, whatever comfort he needs; but I am alone here at my humble apartment under construction, helpless and discomforted myself, wishing I could do more, wanting to put my hand to his forehead.

Nothing serious that will bother him more than a day or two, this further reminder of our changes scalds my patience. He will heal himself quickly, but I sit here in the meantime, stewing. I know a call would most likely wake him, talking would ache his head all the more, but still I want the satisfaction of standing in the doorway, hearing his labored-but-peaceful breath, reassured with my own senses that he will live to play another day.
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persistentillusion said...

I don't know why, but it's different with dads. I grew up with mine and when I was ill, I never really wanted 'nurturing' from him like that.

Now that I think about it, I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation at all, my son is the same... when he's ill, it's me that he wants. It isn't that he loves his Daddy any less than me, he doesn't. Nor is it a case that his Daddy will nurture him any less than I will. But the boy wants his Mummy when he's poorly.

Be well my friend and don't torture yourself, although I understand where you're coming from :-)

Kip de Moll said...

I'm agreed with both of you that the Motherlode has the strongest pull when a child is sick. It's not at all about a competition. I was just strongly aware last night of the backround role a father takes, present and caring, but just not the same embracing arms as one gets from mother and a familiar bed.

I felt this when we were all together. It's just more pronounced when he made his choice to go home.

Laurie said...

Go see him. Are you banned?

You will find as you muttle your way though the changes ahead that your son will turn to things he doesn't want to involve his mom in. There is an undefined division of labor so to speak. You just have to wait for the right divisor! Hang in there Kip. Be involved when you can. You boy will appreciate it.