She wakes me up around midnight on Sunday, not that late into the night but late enough that I had finally found peace dreamless sleep.
She’s burning up.
This is out of nowhere, she was fine, just fine and now she’s sick and I have to wake up and figure something out.
Ice, water, Tylenol.
I try to use the thermometer, the expensive one that scans across skin and makes this crazy beeping pattern that only my children understand.
Its too dark, I can’t read it, I don’t need to see it.
She’s burning up.
I settle her on the sofa, tucking her with pillows and blankets. I wet a cloth with cold water and lay it on her forehead.
She isn’t talking much, and I have nothing to say. I hope that she'll fall asleep, that I'll fall asleep, everything will be better quickly.
As I try to move away moans and puts her arms up. Please, pleeeeease, I need my Mom.
Ok, Ok, I say and get myself a glass of water before settling down next to her.
She leans against me; maybe actually she pushes herself against me. I once had a dog that would walk up and push his itchy butt on people begging to be scratched in a gesture of needy frustration.
That’s how her head feels pushed up against me.
I’m nice to her. For as long as I can take it, I’m nice to her.
I have such a long day coming, so long I needed to start it at 4:45am to have any shot of getting everything done. I try to fall asleep, to get just a little sleep but then she moans and thrashes.
Her throat hurts. She’s freezing. She needs Kleenex.
She moans my name and asks why is this happening to her.
I try to be nice. Soon enough it’s 1:30am, it’s 2am, its 2:30, its 3am and the pauses between her bouts of neediness are too short for even cat naps.
She asks for more ice, more water, more ice water and I bring it to her, bleary, cranky, already wondering how I’m going to cover the Potsdam Conference in class and make any sense at all.
Don’t be mad at me, she sniffles and crescendos to a wailing proclamation of I need my Mom, and then her cries grow into heaving sobs.
Another day, another time I might have held her.
But I feel parched inside, burnt and empty like the desert.
I tell her unsympathetically that I”ll lay down on the other side of the sectional sofa, I’ll be right here but no niceness, that’s too much, the niceness is gone.
I don’t even like what I hear as it comes out of my mouth, but I’m that tired, that empty, that edgy these days.
I tuck my head on a pillow and shut up, hoping to find a back door or a shortcut to a quick sleep.
She moans again and I get up to fix her. She’s burning up.
I sit up and fix her blanket then move my blanket to cover her legs.
She exhales peacefully and I lay back down on my side of the sofa.
I find her foot with mine under the blankets and move it against her in an anemic demonstration of affection.
She lifts her head up in her fever and half whispers Thank you for the generosity of your toes. I giggle forget to be cranky for a few minutes, just long enough to find my back to the my dreamless peaceful sleep.