No chick­en­pox on the cal­en­dar

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

To im­me­di­ately see naked panic in a par­ent’s eyes, say it loud: chick­en­pox. So be­gan my Wed­nes­day. We learned a buddy of Oliver’s may have come down with the virus. The hys­te­ria rose so hot and fast in my throat that I prac­ti­cally screamed, then quickly pulled over for a large cof­fee. I couldn’t deal with this un­caf­feinated.

I ran through when we last saw this poor fella — let’s call him Pete — and whether we had ac­tual con­tact with him. I wasn’t ab­so­lutely sure, of course, given I wasn’t on red alert for con­ta­gions back then. I mean, it’s sum­mer. But les­son learned.

Child­hood ill­nesses are a part of life, I know. We all have chick­en­pox sto­ries. I came down with the itchy spots my­self when I was 5 or 6, quickly shar­ing the fun with my younger sis­ter. This hap­pened on a week­end in which my par­ents had at­tempted — for the first time since we were born, of course — to take a cou­ples-only trip. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) They cut it short to re­lieve my grand­par­ents, who likely had us wail­ing in tubs of oat­meal. I can still con­jure up the smell of calamine lo­tion.

But I don’t re­mem­ber dis­lik­ing the chick­en­pox ex­pe­ri­ence, oddly. In my mem­ory, I stayed home for days in my pa­ja­mas. There were count­less times sick to­gether, and those weird weeks were sort of . . . fun. One or both of our par­ents were home, for starters. We had all the Nick­elodeon we could watch, plenty of flat gin­ger ale, saltine crack­ers for ev­ery meal. We didn’t have to do math home­work. To a kid, it was magic. (Mi­nus the nau­sea.)

Be­ing sick as an adult is far less ex­cit­ing. Most of us still have to work, for one, which means do­ing all the usual projects . . . just with less en­ergy. If we’re lucky enough to stay home, we’re prob­a­bly not curled up with chicken soup. Germs spread quickly ’round these parts; our sick kids are there, too. No rest for the weary.

We’ve been through the ill­ness wringer in our son’s first year and a half. Putting aside all the worry that comes with pre­ma­tu­rity, we’ve dealt with croup and colds plus hand, foot and mouth virus — along with the usual rashes, mys­te­ri­ous bumps and teething pains.

We’ve been to the emer­gency room with Ol­lie at 1 a.m., driv­ing around three hours later in search of food be­cause stay­ing up all night left us starv­ing. We also spent five hours in ur­gent care last De­cem­ber, watching “Em­met Ot­ter’s Jug-Band Christ­mas” on a loop un­til my hus­band and I were laugh­ing at noth­ing and ever ything. Throw in our son’s mi­nor surgery, re­cov­ery and on­go­ing fol­low-up ap­point­ments? Well.

Noth­ing is worse than see­ing your child sick or in pain. I know I’ve said I’m not a germa­phobe, but the tides are turn­ing. Oliver came down with a nasty cold dur­ing our beach va­ca­tion in May, and that sick­ness hit the ex­tended fam­ily within days. By the time we left for home, Spencer was sip­ping from a DayQuil bot­tle. I was next. My dad sent me a mes­sage soon af­ter: he and Mom got it, too. So bad, in fact, that my mom missed a week of work. Kids are germ fac­to­ries, man. But we’ve all been well for, oh, about two weeks now (I don’t count the lin­ger­ing coughs; that’s just the sound­track of our lives). I know bet­ter than to think some­thing like that with­out knock­ing on wood, though . . . and in comes poor Pete.

Two-year-old Pete is one of Oliver’s best bud­dies, and that sweet kid has had his share of sick­ness. When word of Pete’s pos­si­ble chick­en­pox reached us Wed­nes­day, I ran through when we saw him last — and whether Oliver would have been try­ing to gnaw on his toys, steal his blan­ket or snatch some of his lunch. Which: yes. Of course. As out­lined in our re­cent re­mote con­trol bat­tles (still a prob­lem), any­thing near my son will be picked up and chewed on. Germs, germs and more germs. On the bright side? Our floors are cleaner than they’ve ever been, given the con­stant need to vac­uum. Some­times I have to sink down and look un­der the couch, try­ing to catch any sort of chok­ing haz­ard those tod­dler eyes will spot be­fore we will. Which is about as fun as try­ing to get back up af­ter­ward.

I spent most of Wed­nes­day wait­ing for an up­date on Pete, driv­ing my­self crazy by Googling in­cu­ba­tion pe­ri­ods for viruses and treat­ment op­tions. We’re sup­posed to go on another drive for a fam­ily re­union in July, which would be dis­ap­point­ingly de­railed by some­thing like this.

He may get it, or he may not. There’s no way to know. Can’t pen­cil “chick­en­pox” into the cal­en­dar.

Just another les­son I must learn.

I hate that.

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