I stand paused in front of a cook book called “Dump.” I see that it was written for the crockpot set, but still wonder at the branding team that unloaded this on the public. I want to reach out to examine it more closely but my good arm is filled with animal shaped slippers and as seen on TV engraving tools. It is early November so I am following the Rite Aid Rule and shopping for the holidays. Really I am waiting for my medication (AGAIN) but as the customer flow wizards know waiting is the same as shopping.
Twenty minutes later my muscle relaxer is ready.
When I sat in my Doctor’s office on day 5 of my paralyzing pain I resisted the muscle relaxant. I am already on more medication than I want. We sat in a stalemate, my MD and me, finally he asked if I had been having trouble sleeping and I looked at him as if those particular words had never been strung together before. “I see.” He said crisply as he clicked and routed the prescription to my favorite christmas shoppe. You should take one tonight. It will help you sleep. Then just rest. 90% of these pinched nerves resolve themselves in a week. We both decide to ignore the fact that my pain has already been present for a week and worsening and I trudge out of his office.
Steve has driven me because adding the inability to turn my head to already poor driving makes me a hazard to the unsuspecting public. We kill an hour of time then head to the pharmacy to pick up my various prescriptions. My body seems to know I am middle aged. Only one of the three is ready, one won’t be filled until the following day. The f-ing Viibryd which is never ready.
As Steve looks for things like batteries and deoderant. I lurch towards the 75% off Halloween decor, staring down the plastic ogre. He too has shoulders that are askew and the miserable pinched face of someone in pain. He can still win the staring contest though so I pile my plush treasures into Steve’s cart and text a friend. “Have you ever taken a muscle relaxant?” I ask. “Best night’s sleep of my life.” She responds. Her reassurance and the sight of the plastic ogre combine in the push I need to take the pill.
As Steve leaves for hockey at 9pm he offers me the muscle relaxant and I refuse. I don’t want to be alone with the kids drugged out like the prom date in 16 candles. So we decide I will take it when he returns. Optimistically I imagine I will be sleeping comfortably when he gets in and I am right on one count. When he carefully slides our bedroom door open at midnight I wake with a slice of pain that is beyond any in my memory so I swallow it.
Some unknown amount of time passes and Leo stands next to the bed. I vomited he tells me. In my strange state I understand his vomit to be a side effect of my muscle relaxant. “I am so sorry” I tell him. He asks if he can sleep in our bedroom and I have no idea about this. This is a very confusing question. Everything is slow and stretchy like taffy being made. I point out Steve using either my limp arm or my stuck tongue and I hear him explain that he vomited to Steve. Steve seems to understand that my medicine didn’t make Leo vomit so the two of them set up a small bed on the floor on Steve’s side and I half sleep wondering why I can feel totally like a puddle and still have sharp distinct pain.
Some other amount of time later I am woken by a scream and a lurch as someone next to me jumps out of bed. That lurch causes me to lurch and I think for a moment that I have paralyzed myself. Until I remember that if I can feel the pain I am not paralyzed so I lie there like the puddle I am and try to figure out why Steve, who is not vomitously ill, seems to be jumping out of bed with the rush of someone about to puke. Obviously the answer is cat pee. The skeleton cat has somehow hung around past Halloween and she crouches in the corner as Steve snatches his best shoes out from the corner where she has been peeing. Juggling several dripping pairs Steve trips over Leo in his little bed and falls to the floor spraying shoes and urine as he tumbles.
Somehow sick Leo sleeps through this but I decide this is a good time to get up so I pour myself out of bed and join Steve in the bathroom as he tries to clean the shoes and the floor. I offer to help while offering my condolences but actually say and do nothing. I am in fact silent and still despite having made my way into the lav.
Somehow Steve and I end up back in bed with cleanish shoes and no cats in sight. I drift off dreaming of cats in workshoes. I think wonder why there haven’t been any youtube videos of cats at work and make a plan to fix this problem as soon as I have two working hands. The pain from my neck has traveled all the way down to my fingertips and I find that so interesting. I can feel the pathway over my shoulder through the space between my tricep and bicep and how it twirls forward and down to my fingers. There are a series of super small cats in workshoes traveling this path which has turned to a paved road. From neck to fingertip they are downright jaunty and I wonder if the electrical energy of my pain is what is giving them such a pick me up. I decide that having only one hand is totally worth it if these miniature well dressed cats can travel to work so chipperly. I am nothing if not giving. Just as I begin to settle into the physical feeling of benevolence Leo runs to the bathroom and retches.
The cats are distracted, Leo is sick, Steve is awake, and I am something like each of them, but not doing any of it well. I think the problem is that I don’t have any nice leather shoes on. I consider getting some.
Five more times Leo wakes in the night to be sick. Once I get up with him and hold back his hair. For this small slice of time I am neither a puddle nor in pain and I imagine that the sharp pain and the smooth drug have perfectly offset one another. I pronounce myself cured and continue to comfort Leo. In this state I start to realize that Leo has quite a bad stomach bug, and I remember his kisses with less than love. I also remember that Leo and Oliver and I all shared a water glass at dinner. I try to push aside those thoughts because they are neither helpful nor kind but all of a sudden they swirl around me and I am in them and they are the water glass and the water in the toilet and we are all sick.
For the last time that night we are all headed back to sleep. I am concentrating on slowing the vortex of water back into a calm puddle. Leo moans a little but stays down. Steve lightly snores.
Then it is morning and Oliver wakes us up. Or tries. Steve gets out of bed to see him off the school and Leo and I lie there. I am still both in pain and drugged. He is still sick. Asking me things like “Am I going to vomit again?” In the sweetest, saddest voice. I coax him back into sleep until around 11 mountain time and now he is up. We have snuggled and I am trying not to think about germs.I admit my guilt to Steve. That while I am comforting my kid I am worried about my own stomach. “I’m not sure you should worry about your stomach babe, if you started puking I have no idea how your neck would handle it.” That helps about as much as it sounds like it would. Last night the cat pee shoes and puking seemed to be a perfect punchline for parenthood.
I am not sure now, as I offer Leo my raw nerve arm to lean into. This might be the paradox of parenthood, setting aside a bit of my pain to lessen his…while still wondering if I am next to take the throne.