Our kid weekend started out normal enough. I took off work early Friday and picked up the boys from school because Mike had a thing, their mom had a thing, and grandma had a thing. We hung out and played with a new train set until Mike got home. I took an electric engine apart looking for a battery after Liam handed it to me and said, “Fix it.” I took four screws out of the bottom, which is not where the battery is housed. The battery is easily attainable by taking one screw off the top of the train, though I didn’t know that yet. When the last screw came out, the guts of the train fell out. I had three little axles in my hand. They each had three to four wheels on them with teeth. There was only one way to make them fit so they would all work together to make the actual train wheels move. I couldn’t figure it out. All the while, a distressed little boy is hovering over me as I worked on the tiny engine. I kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Daddy will have to fix it,” knowing Daddy wouldn’t be able to fix it. I gave up, put all the parts in a little dish and set it on top of the fridge. I distracted Liam by turning on the TV then went online to Amazon and ordered a new electric train engine exactly like the one I just dismantled. These are the moments I’m thankful for Prime and overnight shipping.
As soon as Mike got home he took the boys to a fair at school so they could jump in bouncy houses. I stayed home and started dinner. I made fresh pesto for pasta and when the guys arrived home, we ate. Liam devoured two platefuls and Finn took his usual two bites. After dinner, baths, and mani-pedis for the boys, we all sat down to watch Curious George 2. Finn seemed tired, but that isn’t unusual for him at the end of a long day. Liam was his usual bouncy self.
Toward the end of the movie, and during an upsetting scene where the mama Elephant is captured, Finn, who was laying on top of Mike, sat up and let out a scream. Just as I was about to say, “the mama elephant will be fine,” the entire contents of his stomach upchucked all over his father and our new couch. And so began the weekend of thirty loads of laundry, diligent sanitation, and managing one healthy kid and one sick kid. (Sidenote to parents whose kids were in the bouncy houses with Finn: So sorry, we didn’t know he was sick).
At 9:24pm I received a message from an old friend’s son-in-law via Facebook. He told me my friend had cancer and wasn’t doing well and that she qualified for Hospice this week. This was a dear friend who for many years was a big part of my life. We met when I was in my early 30s and she was in her 50s. We worked together for several years and despite our difference in age, had an immediate connection. We had always stayed in touch, but the past few years had been more sporadic and when I received his message I immediately felt awful about that. I should have known. I told him I would call her on Saturday.
Only Liam slept much that first night. Finn was up a lot. I will spare you the details of what the stomach bug did to the poor little guy because we’ve all been there either with ourselves or our kids. There’s no need for explanations. In the morning I ran to the store for Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Jello. We had planned to take the boys to see The Angry Birds Movie on Saturday, but that turned into me taking Liam and leaving Mike and Finn at home. Finn being sick had already made an impression on Liam because on the way home from the movie he said, “Let’s go see Daddy and Finn be quiet.”
My friend and the phone call I had to make weighed heavy on my mind. I was afraid to call. What would I say? How would she sound? Would she forgive me for not calling to check in with her sooner? I thought it might be a long phone call, though I didn’t know if her health would allow that. I just knew that in the past our phone calls were often very long as we caught each other up on our lives and I wanted to be sure I had a good stretch of uninterrupted time to talk.
Liam’s new train arrived and when I handed it to him he thought it was the broken one and by the end of the weekend we realized that he thinks I can fix anything. Actually, I did end up fixing the broken train on Saturday evening because of my dogged determination.
Part of me was procrastinating, part of me was having a hard time finding a good time to make the call with all that was going on in the house. I messaged my friend in the early evening not knowing if she would answer. I asked her if Sunday afternoon would be a good time for me to call since Mike and I had already discussed him taking Liam out of the house and me staying home with Finn. I figured Finn would either be asleep or I could put a movie on for him. She responded shortly after with a “Yes.”
On Sunday morning I scooted Mike out the door for a run after breakfast. He’d been housebound since Friday. Finn was still green. He sat and stared at a plate of pancakes, but didn’t attempt one bite. He slept most of the day on Saturday and it looked like Sunday was going to be a repeat. When I returned from a trip to the laundromat to wash the boys’ comforters, Mike took Liam for a walk and lunch downtown. Finn was still lethargic and not eating at all. Knowing kids usually bounce back pretty quickly with these bugs, we were getting a little concerned.
My fear about calling my friend went out the window when I heard her voice. We picked up where we left off like we always had. Knowing the kind of person she was, I wasn’t surprised by her acceptance of her situation and her matter-of-fact demeanor. She had been a rock for me during difficult times in my life. She was the first friend I called when my son was diagnosed with cancer. She had a daughter who had survived cancer so she knew exactly what I was going through and she let me lean on her. I leaned hard.
Around 5pm Sunday evening, Mike and I talked about calling the doctor on Monday morning if Finn still hadn’t eaten and at the end of that conversation, Mike went in to take a shower. I stripped Finn to join Mike and we were both taken aback by how skinny he looked. He’s a skinny kid to begin with, but he didn’t look healthy. It was a little scary. After a good scrub, I took Finn from the shower so Mike could finish up and got him dressed in clean pajamas. Then he sat down at the dining room table. I started asking him about food. Quesadilla? Peanut butter and jelly? Cereal? I held up the box. “Okay,” he said. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he took two big bites. Then he said, “All done.” It was a start. He crawled up on the couch and pulled a blanket over himself. I wanted to keep his interest in food going so I put a small bowl of cantaloupe in his lap that Mike had cut up the night before. He said, “Thank you,” and started eating it, and thus began the bouncing back.
Can I forgive myself for forgetting my friend’s 80th birthday this past March? She told me there was nothing to forgive. She told me that she knows how life is and how busy I am now and how lucky those two little boys are to have me in their lives because she knows the kind of person I am. I don’t feel worthy of her saying those things to me because I feel like I have failed her as a friend. What an amazing and wonderful woman she is.
Just as Mike and I were settling in to watch Game of Thrones, my phone rang and I saw it was my mom. We talk fairly often and it’s usually pretty quick check-ins so I told Mike I wanted to take the call. He paused the TV. A few weeks back my mother had told me that she and my dad had wanted to go to Anaheim for an Elks Lodge event this past weekend. My dad doesn’t drive any longer because of his vision and my mom said she wasn’t sure she wanted to make that drive herself. They were hoping some other friends would be going so they could tag along. I suggested looking into Amtrak too, but she discovered the timing wouldn’t work for the train. I had forgotten about the Anaheim weekend until we started talking last night. She told me that she and my dad had gone after all and it was just the two of them and they had a nice, relaxing time. My mom is 82 and my dad is 86 and they just took a mini roadtrip together.
Hug your parents, hug your kids, and then pick up the phone and call that old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.