Sick of Sick

Our 15-year-old son walked into our bedroom at 2:20 last night, and asked if he could make some pasta. This is not a common request. But when your kid has been unable to keep food down for 4-5 days, you don’t quibble.

“Sure,” I say.

“There’s chicken noodle soup in the fridge,” my wife adds.

And Kelly disappears to his early morning meal.

He’s been unable to eat much at all for at least 4 days now, and it’s gotten to the point he’s tired—of puking, of nausea, of how disgusting food smells when you are sick. Tired of even trying.

What’s more, he’s tired of his current medicine, Humira, which requires a weekly, painful shot, and has yet to prove very effective. “Why do I even need to keep getting the shot?” he complains.

He’s tired of the exhaustion. Tired of the diarrhea. Tired of blood in his stool. Of the smell. Of feeling like crap.

Can’t say I blame him. Being sick sucks. I haven’t been really sick since I was 17 and had pneumonia. I missed a week of school. That’s it. I’ve never even broken a bone. When I was in kindergarten or first grade, in the winter, I cut my hand while ice skating in the woods, then proceeded to fall and reopen the wound several times over a month’s time. (I wasn’t very graceful, even then.) Eventually, I developed a fever and this fascinating red line began to inch from my wrist up my arm. I got a week out of school then, too, but the fever broke quickly and it never really hurt that much. I remember soaking my hand in warm water while watching “Sesame Street.”

I don’t know much about being sick.

My wife has had migraines. Her dad died in his 30s from pneumonia, after a life with muscular dystrophy. He had been born with a collapsed chest. Her brother has myasthenia graves, another muscular disease. She’s known illness. Heck, she’s known death.

And yet, this, having a son with a chronic disease, is uncharted territory. For her. For me. For parents. Because it’s not supposed to be this way. Life is supposed to take out its capriciousness, its unfairness, on me, on us. Wanna make my back hurt for a year and a half, for no apparent reason? Go ahead. Have at it. I am the adult. There is suffering baked into the definition.

Except that’s not quite true. The suffering is baked into all life. Even young ones. Even my young ones. And that is just about unbearable sometimes. Until I remember that nothing is promised us, that we make what we do of what we’re given, and that we’re given so much. The gratitude is there, if only I’ll stop to sense it.

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. – Maya Angelou


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