One of the perks of J.R.’s autism is his out of whack (as in super-immune) immune system. For some reason the kid RARELY gets sick. I honestly think it’s God’s way of throwing The Vannattas a bone, because when a bug does penetrate his candy-coated shell, LOOK OUT! The worst part? My memory constantly fails me. I forget that J.R. will act like he is possessed by Charlie Sheen for a good ten days even before his nose starts whistling “Winning!” Then comes the guilt- I knew I shouldn’t have threatened that he’d have to sleep in the yard if he didn’t straighten up. I am so going to hell.
Now that I know why J.R. refused to get dressed for school, tantrumed when I offered him a preferred activity (because he suddenly prefers I not know it’s preferred), and taught his little brother how to play Wii Swordfighting (yes, acting a bit normal is a clue that abnormality is approaching), now comes the hard part- the actual illness.
Oh and did I mention that Murphy’s Law always weasels its way in? The DAY BEFORE J.R’s Spring Break was to begin, his teacher calls to tell me he has a fever. My response? I am pretty sure I repeated the sarcastic mantra good times three or four times over before I said I’d be right there. I had planned on teaching J.R. to roller skate over the break, and the news that he was sick had me crushed. I’d begun to map out his future as a roller skating king ever since he showed interest in Disco a few weeks ago. Now this. Holy Deney Terrio; this licks.
Again my scrambled egg for a brain lacks recall. I have to remind myself that the next ten days (as if the last ten weren’t hell enough) J.R. would proceed to do the following:
refuse to breathe out of his mouth even though his nose would be “broken” (his term)
act as if he’d never encountered tissues a day in his life, and run kicking and screaming from the box
sniff up his snot with a gusto that would rival Rick James in Studio 54’s men’s room
spit out any form of medication, no matter WHAT food or drink we attempt to disguise it in
spit out any non-medicated form of food or drink in fear of the above action
suffer due to lack of medication. And food. And drink.
cry. A lot.
And me? Just the cry, a lot part. To add to the drama this time around, a doctor told us that there was nothing wrong with J.R. (who lie comatose on the exam table, but what would that matter?), yet he prescribed antibiotics “just in case.” As usual, I filled the script “just in case” a miracle would occur and J.R. would ingest the stuff. Wrong! He spit it in my hand then vomited on me. He had refused meds countless times before and lived, so I didn’t worry much UNTIL ….
“This is the doctor’s office calling.”
“Hi there. What can I do for you?”
“Oh you don’t want to have to hear from me (I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP).”
“Oh did I forget my copay or something?”
“No it’s not that. And why haven’t you been answering your home phone Mrs. Vannatta?”
“Um…I’m a bit busy nursing a very sick kid. What can I do for you [bitch!]?”
“We messed up (I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP). You didn’t send James to school today did you?”
“Um…what do YOU think?” I am getting angrier by the second.
“James has strep throat. We forgot to tell you.”
I begin to panic at the thought of (a) what I am going to do to this nurse when I see her in person (b) the possibility of J.R. becoming blind from going unmedicated (I was trying to think of something worse than autism- forgive me for grasping at straws) and (c) what happened last time the doctor suggested we do if J.R. wouldn’t take the meds.
Two years ago we had to get J.R. an antibiotic shot and it worked great at knocking out his infection. The problem was that the singular side effect involved a weeklong bout of explosive diarrhea. I would gladly offer you details because I am gross like that, but I am pretty sure I mental blocked that time in my life in order to avoid jumping into a canal. Oh wait, I am suddenly conjuring up an image of a baboon’s bottom. That’s how colorfully raw my kid’s behind became after just one hour of the ordeal. Enough said.
I don’t want to burden you with the rest of the story that features me, having a private panic attack in the shower while pondering over shot A which is administered in three injections over three days and gives J.R. volcano ass, or shot B which would be a one-time, non poop-provoking solution (but contained preservatives, admitted Nurse Ratched after I drilled her to the wall).
None of those details are important anymore; I’d rather get to my point, which is: membership in the J.R. sick bay has its privileges. Call me mentally ill, but hear me out.
J.R. actually wants me when he is sick. He asks for his mommy. He says “Mommy you need to come over here and check on me.” He lay his head on my chest. He falls asleep in my arms. J.R. hugs me and holds on for dear life, and not just when a doctor is approaching.
J.R. remains still. And I’m sorry, but you either TOTALLY relate to that last sentence or will have zero idea of its significance no matter how hard I attempt to translate, so I won’t. J.R. naps like a “normal” child. Even asks to go to bed. And for a kid who rarely says “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty” J.R. looks into my eyes and whispers “I just don’t feel well mom.” The few days a year that my son “needs me” makes up for all the months and years of his life that he resisted me, offered halfhearted my hugs, and communicated simply on a need to know basis.
After a good puke, J.R. would perk up and say “I’m all better! Can we go to Grandpa’s house now?” And when I had to lure him back to the doctor’s office for the dreaded shot, I told him (big fat lie) that we were returning simply so he could inform the doctor in person that he was getting better. And oh boy did he- the doctor and everyone else in the office! He was so proud. He even took the shot in stride (while I cowered in the ladies room).
And as sleep deprived and anxious as I’ve been over the past few days, part of me (the part of me that matters) has never felt better. I felt wanted for a change. I couldn’t wait for J.R. to roll over and moan just so I could rub his forehead to lull him back to sleep. A far cry from the days when I rocked an inconsolable infant, wishing I knew how to be his mom. Being able to pacify him for the first time at age 6 ¾ gives me a sense of satisfaction I couldn’t explain (or match) if my life depended on it.
I have read that kids with autism can experience wonderfully lucid moments upon becoming feverish. In J.R.’s case I think that the weight of an illness stifles a certain amount of his anxiety- he basically doesn’t have the strength to act as restless and apprehensive as the disorder would like him to. How sick is it, pardon the pun, that I savor every minute of it?
All in all, I hope that my memory of surviving J.R.’s step throat involves me hitting three fast food drive thrus (I actually did McDonalds twice, in one hilarious loop) as my patient barked orders at me from the back seat. I wanted his first meal in three days to be exactly what he wanted. He just was a bit undecided. Carsick and out twenty bucks, all I can say is good times (with not a hint of sarcasm). Really good times.
I write this blog as my beautiful first born sleeps quietly beside me. I am signing off to take some Nyquil. Yeah, I too have felt a bit under the weather today.
Soo worth it.