-- Ellis (Barry Corbin) in No Country for Old Men
Erik was behaving strangely yesterday. After about four time outs, I took his temperature. It was nearly 103 degrees. We were planning on following his aunt, uncle, and cousins on their way from Idaho over the mountain to visit his grandparents in the valley, but Brian called them and told them we were now all sick with this bug and not to stop to get us. Unfortunately, Brian came down with it, too. This malady is beginning to remind me of the Little House on the Prairie episode where they all eat bad mutton and end up with anthrax, sweating profusely and lying on mats strewn all over the chapel floor. Yes, these are the things that course through my brain during times of stress. Welcome to my world.
I ended up taking Erik to the doctor at noon. All things considered, it was the best medical appointment we have ever had in terms of his reaction. We checked in and sat in the nearly empty waiting room. I let Erik explore the immediate area. Usually, I have to keep him on a short leash, as he wanders up to everyone and climbs up in their laps. He brought me books and played with some of the toys scattered about. When a child came in and out of the room, he greeted the older ones enthusiastically and retreated to the safety of my arms with his hands over his ears when a younger child or a baby appeared. The main reason I took Erik to the doctor was because he clamps his hands over his ears often these days, and I can't decipher whether this means that they hurt or he is protecting himself from potentially offensive noises. I can't count how many times people at school or out and about have gently suggested I take him to see a physician to rule out an ear infection. When I ask Erik if his ears hurt, he doesn't answer me. Maybe that's because his hands are over his ears.
When it was our turn to be seen, he greeted the nurse and the physician's assistant who would care for us. He normally refuses to be weighed or have his height measured because of the clanking noises the scale makes. This time, however, he reluctantly allowed me to place him on the platform with each little tennis shoe atop large stickers shaped like butterflies. I silently hoped they would not try to determine how tall he was, and they did not. While we waited in an examination room, he deposited his little backside in a tiny chair next to mine. The heating/cooling system in the innards of the quiet building made strange noises that came through the vent in the floor, and he gripped onto me tightly when he heard it begin to creak, groan, and wheeze, blowing Arctic air into the small room. I sang him songs and gave him high fives. I determined that my singing does not improve with an illness of this sort.
When the PA examined Erik, he was patient with her. There was no screaming or crying when she poked the otoscope into his ears, and he was obviously not happy about the stethoscope but allowed her to listen to his chest. She informed me that his ears looked fine but that his sinuses were likely brewing an infection, producing the bright green trails of mucus down his upper lip we were seeing. Erik is almost 4 years old now, and I have yet to place him on antibiotics. Ever. She wrote me a prescription for some but told me I could wait to fill it as late as Monday.
When I got home, we gave Erik lunch and put him down for a nap. Brian and I watched No Country for Old Men, which I ended up liking much more than I expected. I baked a tray of homemade meatballs, made mushroom and onion gravy, boiled some pasta, and made two salads. We all sat at the larger dining room table for once. Erik only ate a few bites of his dinner. After dinner and Erik's bath, our son's behavior became strange again. He went to his room and came back out with his fleece blanket. He carried both Stinky Dog and the blanket to me and climbed up in my lap. The heat coming off of him was intense. I asked Brian to bring us Advil and bowls of chopped-up Popsicles. Erik normally never spontaneously falls asleep anywhere but his bed, but his eyelids seemed heavy, and he nodded off, waking up momentarily here and there to say, "Hi, Mama" or mutter halfway incoherently about something I promised for his birthday this year. We finally put him to bed.
I awoke from a deep, Nyquil-induced sleep to a drunken-sounding man screaming bloody murder at about 1:30 a.m. My heart pounded so hard that I could barely breathe. Brian asked me what the man had said, but I told him that I wasn't sure. I found myself crouched down in the bathroom, peering through the screen of the open window into the darkness, knowing that I'm blind without my glasses but doing it, anyway. The yelling subsided. I reminded myself that the cave across the street is an idiot magnet in the middle of the night and that the hour for satanic rituals had likely already passed. I am still haunted by the memory of waking up to the sound and bright flashes of a shotgun emptying from that same area into the house next door a couple of years ago and find it hard to settle back down. I previously called 911 at about this hour at least twice since we moved here. I retrieved the baby monitor from the dresser and clicked it on. Erik's room was silent. Brian's breathing in the darkness confirmed that he was already asleep again. I sat on the bed a few minutes before lying down again with my ears on high alert.
When the adrenaline had run its course, the Nyquil grabbed me and pulled me back under again.