…and crazy stories
He sobs and throws himself at me, full-bodied, his arms grasping. He’s racked by sorrow and fear. He pushes me away. His eyes widen dramatically.
“Oh my god, I’m so afraid.”
“What is it, Noah? I’m here.”
“I can’t say,” whispering loudly.
He buries his head in the pillows of his bed and sobs. I rub his back.
I’m at a loss. It’s 11 at night. The Acetaminophen has brought his fever down but suddenly he’s delirious. No idea whether it’s the drugs or the underlying condition.
My work day ended at 11 this morning,
“Meeester Barichello?” The caller ID shows Bancroft School. The voice has a pleasant West-Indian lilt that in no way reassures me.
“Yes !?!” Instant images of death, destruction, horror, mangled limbs, crying babies, nuclear explosions rifle through my mind like a madman’s flip chart.
“Noah Barichello’s dad?”
“Yes !?!” Are they unaware of the sick suspense they put parents through or is it a perverse pleasure that makes up for poor pay?
“Your child is…uhm.”
“Yeeesss?” I’m about to scream at her…”what the f… is wrong?”
“He is crying and has high fever.” Relief! He’s only sick!
When I arrive at his school (at the speed of light) he’s sobbing, his head is splitting and hot enough to cook an egg.
“I’m so sorry dad, I’m so sorry.” His first concern is ruining my day. Damn, I feel cheap for all the times I complain about getting my life sucked out of me.
The whole day at home, he alternates between bad headaches, high fever, stomach cramps.
By the time he goes to bed he’s actually doing alright.
“Dad, I feel fine now. Do you think i can go to school tomorrow because it’s like storytelling day and I prepared my poem to tell in front of everybody, so yeah…”
And here we are.
Unfortunately, an hour after falling asleep he woke in a mad tirade against someone, unseen, but clearly terrifying.
Now, he rears off of his pillows and stares ahead. He lifts a hand as if to fend off an attack.
“No, no, nooooo…. .”
Classic horror film stuff. If it wasn’t so scary, it would be funny.
“Noah, Noah, what’s going on? Noah!”
“No… I’m going to die. I’m a giant and they are going to kill me. I don’t want to die.”
“You’re not a giant, you’ re a 9 year old boy, who weighs 59 pounds. A boy that I can pick up and carry. You’re no giant.”
I pick him up in one fell swoop and carry him. He goes limp and washes my shoulder in tears.
“Ok? Noah? Noah?”
He’s out of the bad film, back into his own life.
I slip him into his bed and lie down beside him. He slowly falls asleep. So do I.
I wake an hour later. He’s snoring. I touch his forehead. Almost cool.
I crawl out without waking him. The cat jumps in to replace me as soon as I leave the room.
I go to bed, hoping for sleep … succeed in doing nothing better than listening to his every breath and sigh. The drugs will be out of his system in an hour and I fully expect a spike in the fever. I spend the hour calming everything my imagination generates, None of it is good.
Like clockwork, an hour later, he pops up in bed and howls. I don’t run, I fly.
He’s burning up, but not enough to cook anything. Progress. He’s grabbing his head, in pain.
I hate it when it’s his head. Scares me way more than pain in any other part of the body.
“I’m going crazy, dad. I’m crazy. My head is so full. I’m going crazy, I’ll never be normal again. Dad, dad, it hurts.”
This time he knows me, knows himself.
“Headache, fever does that to everybody, Noah. You’re not crazy you’re sick. Vince gets the same.”
The name of his adored cousin is like a talisman.
“Oh yeah… you’ll be ok.”
He nods, in pain.
No choice but to bring down the fever. Despite my doubts I dose him with acetaminophen. It’ll take three quarters of an hour before it kicks in, so I cold compress his forehead, massage his head and shoulders. An hour later he finally falls asleep.
He wakes me from an exhausted slumber.
“Dad, I’m hungry.”
I touch his forehead. Warm but not hot.
“Dad, do I go to school today?”
“How do you feel.”
“All tired and my legs are weak.”
“No chances to take, kid. Today you’ll stay with me so that you’ll be in shape for the rest of the week.”
“It’s ok, kid. I’m sorry you had to suffer.”
“Look dad, it’s super sunny. Do you want to go to the café, so you can write? I’ll bring my stuff to draw.”
He’s right it’s a bright one today.