"No. No cookies. Mommy is sick. Go back to sleep. Wait, are you even awake?"
Our son snuggled up next to me in bed and said no more. Luke coughed and stirred in the guest bed downstairs. We were now all in various stages of illness, the first attack having started in the night not many nights earlier.
It began with a whimper from Geddy's room. My brain went into the normal do-I-go-check-on-him-or-do-I-wait conversation in my head before I rolled out of bed and into his dark room to hear him sobbing. Thinking he was having a bad dream, I reached out my hand to where I thought his back was and touched instead a sticky, glumpy goo. The dread had hardly time to sink in as he continued to vomit.
"Oh, baby, you're sick!" Nice of me to state the obvious. I turned on the light and started flinging blankets and animals out of the way and wiping up with his shirt as I pulled it over his head. Luke came running to hold a shivering boy and calm him while I took all the yuck to the laundry room and set up a bed on the floor in our room. Geddy had made it to almost four years old without having such sickness.
"Time to check off another milestone on your growth chart, buddy!" I thought as I settled him in the new bed and sent Luke back to his. But since Geddy had never experienced such trauma to his body before he naturally wanted to talk about it.
"Well there's a sick germ in you, hun, making you feel bad. But you have a strong body and it's fighting back."
"I think the germ has a knife. Or a sword."
"Yes, I'm sure it feels that way!"
"And I have lava in me!"
I smiled at his accurate description of the vile vomit erupting from his system. We soon settled back down for sleep, but the lava had other ideas. Two more eruptions followed. This was getting a bit much for me, so Geddy, ever concerned about his parents, said, "Don't worry; I'll get better."
"Oh yes you will, buddy, you are so right! I know you will be OK." Maybe I could give myself a pep talk too.
But when I tucked Lambie up next to Geddy his optimism wavered. "No, I don't want Lambie to get the lava." So we stuffed Lambie under the mattress.
Better Geddy did get. The following day I decided that he must have eaten something bad and didn't have a virus. Luke and I had hope. But after hours of running around, being hungry but only getting gentle foods for his tummy, and having a grand ol' day as his normal self, Geddy erupted again while sitting on the couch next to me. My slow-motion reflexes left me sitting there watching and waiting for the action to end. His tears this time were for his favorite shirt, and I soothed him with the promise that we could wash it and I wouldn't throw it away. The couch, however, to me was a total loss. If I'd had the strength I would have heaved it out the door and placed a "free" sign on it.
Geddy went to the tub and there he was when Luke got home. Somehow I made dinner that night—not for Geddy—and Luke and I took comfort in the fact that Sabbath was next and we didn't have to go anywhere or do any work except to keep cleaning up lava that might continue. Oh how we hoped it wouldn't.
My reflexes were starting to kick in once 24 hours of volcano silence had passed. In his sleep Geddy coughed and I lurched up and grabbed him, ready to put his face in the silver bowl.
"I'm not sick!" He hollered.
"You didn't wake me. I was just listening. It's funny."
"Funny? Don't you remember how it felt when you were vomiting?"
And here I thought he had been scared.
"I'll hold the bowl for you when you have the lava."
"Thanks, Geddy. You're a great helper."
"Yeah, I know. If Daddy gets the lava he won't think it's funny."
No, when the lava erupted from Daddy he did not have a smile on his face, but he was ready.
While I had been moaning in bed wondering how Geddy had all his energy and yet I was completely incapacitated, Luke had spent most of Sunday doing chores around the house and stocking up on sickness supplies. What I didn't know as he was making his favorite Jell-O, was that he knew the germ was coming for him.
Luke went down hard, just as I had, and Geddy remained the helper. On Monday I managed to drag myself out of the house for more supplies. Geddy wanted to help by buying jelly beans, cookies, and more Jell-O, but I firmly declined. Yet Jell-O dinners with a side of saltine crackers became a staple for the week.
Through it all the silver bowl was our constant companion. When Geddy was at his worst he carried the bowl around, from room to room, as I directed, just in case one of the eruptions could actually be contained in it. Then it lived on the floor by his bed for a time, getting a rinse once or twice. By the time Luke joined the party the bowl took up residence in bed beside him, moving to the couch when he was able to sit up for a period of time. Like another member of the family, the bowl was loyal and ready to carry our burdens.
When the wave of turmoil had passed, once and for all, I didn't put the bowl away immediately. Weakness and the inability to consume much food still left me skeptical that the danger was over. It was kind of like wanting one more day to stay home from school or one more reason to drink 7-Up through a straw: The bowl was a crutch to lean on.
Now the bowl is back on its shelf yet still ready to serve. If such an illness ravages our family again—you say "when," but I can't face that—we and the bowl will be prepared to care for each other. And if you find yourself in volcanic distress, just call on Geddy, because, as he said, he'll "help anyone who has the lava." He'll hold the bowl for you.