Was that a sandwich I ate back in ’76?

Categorized as 11/10/08 Goshen News column

Thank God for mothers. No matter how old you get to be, it seems you always need one.

As long as I’ve been married, I’ve lived far away from mine. I’ve not had the pleasure or the accompanying benefits of having babies or raising those babies with my mother in close attendance. Those babies have not been able to experience her beautiful hands-on style of grandparenting up close on a regular basis.

Last week I was reminded again of two things – what I’ve been missing by not having Mom close by and how wonderful it is to feel human. I’ll explain.

As it had been awhile since she’d been here, Mom booked a flight and landed in South Bend on Thursday. Two hours later, I was slinking to bed, clotheslined by nausea and other unsavory GI manifestations. Whether it was food poisoning from a fast-food burger I’d eaten the night before or just a garden-variety virus didn’t really matter at the time. All I knew was that I was miserable.

Is there anything worse than stomach flu? You know, the kind where you feel like your stomach is a nuclear reactor about to melt down? There is throbbing and pulsing accompanied by flashing lights and blaring alarms. Usually in this scenario, men in white coats come running from every direction to offer aid and assistance. Not in my world.

Three of them were oblivious. Grandma was feeding and entertaining them, so they were good to go. Mr. Schrock, instead of mopping my fevered brow, seemed distinctly nervous and fidgety, ready to bolt if I got too close. Eager to avoid the GI pyrotechnics, he spent the night hunkered down on the couch. The other one came home from school looking green, and soon there were two of us writhing on our respective pillows.

It’s this “other one” who has historically displayed a pain tolerance of about -10. While his older brother’s pain tolerance is off the charts, this kid has always expressed his aversion to pain in some very interesting and high-decibel ways. One day, hearing a horrible racket coming from the back 40, I flew back there to save my boy, fully expecting to find him lying there, one limb amputated by a rusty hacksaw. I found no such trauma; only a wasp sting on the right foot.

This is the same kid who used to toss and turn, moaning and groaning loudly through the night when he was stricken with the flu. This inevitably left the rest of us pea green and feeling queasy just from hearing about it. And throwing up in the bucket? Not a chance. It was in the bed, on his brother, on the floor, or beside the bucket. Anywhere, you see, but in the bucket.

After my own personal battle with the flu this week, I had to admit (albeit secretly and only to myself) that I may have an inkling as to where he gets his aversion to pain. I’ve always told our oldest son that he can forget a career with the CIA or FBI thanks to his patent inability to whisper. Spies, I’ve always admonished him, simply must be able to whisper.

Well, spies, I fear, must also be able to take some torture without spilling important national secrets. I now know that if I were a secret government agent who fell into enemy hands, all they’d have to do is threaten to make me throw up. That’s all it would take. Right then and there, this girl would start singing like a canary, giving up everything from the combination to the vault at Fort Knox to that day’s nuclear launch codes to the President’s childhood nickname that he tells absolutely no one. That’s how much I hate this stuff.

It’s inconceivable to me how the human body works. Just when you think you’ve revisited everything you’ve eaten since 2006, another wave hits, leaving you asking yourself, “Was that a sandwich I ate back in ’76?”

The stuff that you normally love, you suddenly can’t stand. Mochas? Not a chance. Coffee? Forty-eight hours without. Fresh salsa? Move over – comin’ through. Which is why I have a new appreciation for the simple things in life I usually take for granted. Like being able to enjoy a meal and have it stay down. The smell of fresh coffee. The taste of a maple white chocolate mocha at Border’s Bookstore.

Like having The Moaner suffer in relative silence this time. Oh – and having him hit the bucket. Every time.

Like having a mother here who stepped in and fed the kids, diapered the baby, defrosted the freezer, and baked 20 loaves of bread to put in that very freezer. She also did laundry, washed dishes, picked up kids, dropped off kids, and ate lunch at school with a fourth grader. She was, I told her, a godsend.

Yes, all of this just goes to prove that the old adage, “There’s a silver lining in every cloud,” is true. But it sure as shootin’ will be a long time before I can look a cow in the eye and think “patties.”

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