I'm sitting in a cozy blue room appointed with trains and toy mice in tutus. I'm on a too-small bed, but I do have this bit of quilt cover, so I'm, ouch, good.
The rest of the bed is taken up by my daughter, a three-year-old with the heaviest, hottest head imaginable. Her head, with a 102-degree fever, is on my belly, somewhere by my spleen, I'd guess. I don't really know where my spleen is, but at 4AM you think about these things.
Anna is going to wake up any moment. She'll lift her head and say "Where are you, Mommy?" I'll stroke her cheek and say, "I'm here, sweetie. Me and my spleen are right here." And she'll drop her head, thunk, on my belly, and sleep.
Ordinarily I don't sleep in Anna's room. But when a kid is sick, there are no rules. I remember milk shakes when I was sick, and my mom wheeling the TV into my room. Mostly I remember her hand on my cheek. Her worried hand. The hand that said, "Oh, no! You're sick!" It's all about the hand on the cheek.
I had Anna's virus a few days ago. My fever shot to 103, and I called my mother. She did what she could. She said, "Oh no!, You're sick!" My husband tried to help. But a husband is handicapped at a time like this: He is not your mother. He needs instructions. "Here, like this," I said, placing his hand on my forehead. "Just come by and do this every hour and I think I may survive." I was too weak to tell him about the milk shakes, the TV.
A sick child and a mother, there's an electricity. The sick child needs what the mother has, what the mother is. The child needs worry and sorrow and tender loving care. And the sick child makes the mother whole.
All night long Anna had been calling. So, eventually I climbed into her bed. The truth is, I'm about as comfortable as an old lady flying coach on a transatlantic flight. And yet I'm so comfortable I could cry. Anna lifts her head. "Where are you, Mommy?" she says. "I'm right here, sweetie," I say, placing my hand on her cheek. "Me and my spleen are right here."
Thunk. Ugh. What strange joy.
Written by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Ms Laskas is an advise columnist and published author.