When he was little it was easier. Even the nights when his little body was limp, his skin red and burning with fever and I was running on little to no sleep as I kept vigil by his bed, those nights were easier than this. I felt helpless then but at least I was able to hold him, catching what rest I could as I monitored his sleep, counting each breath through the night. Helpless because I couldn’t control the virus that had found it’s way into my little boy’s system. Helpless, because I could sometimes ease his discomfort, but I couldn’t cure him. Wanting desperately to take his place, I was helpless but I was in charge.
As his momma, I decided if he went to the doctor, if he took his medicine, if he stayed in bed, or if he went outside. I could take his temperature, apply cool cloths to his forehead, fix ginger ale with crushed ice, make chicken soup with noodles, and make certain his favorite movies were available on the VCR. Back then when he was sick, I would put him in his bed and he stayed there until I felt he was well enough to move around in the world again.
It gave me some sort of peace to know that I was responsible for seeing that his meals were balanced and his vitamins were consumed. If he did fall to the random virus or stomach bug, most times I could pinpoint where and when he was exposed. I could call another mom and ask details like how many days the virus lasted for their child and what medications worked best. There was an odd comfort in believing that I knew the source of his illnesses, as if that information alone helped to lessen the severity and shorten the time he was sick.
But now it’s different. Now I don’t know where the viruses come from and there are no other moms to consult. He lives six hours away with a life I know only through phone calls and text messages. He’s a young man in charge of himself and I feel helpless, helpless and not in control. I can suggest but I can’t decide. I see dark circles around his huckleberry blue eyes, and motherly instinct screams, “Your baby is sick. Take care of him.” I suggest a visit to the doctor but he doesn’t have time so I give him more ibuprophen to mask the pain in his throat and make him promise to go to Health Services if he doesn’t feel better tomorrow. I suggest he take a nutritional supplement back to school with him but he doesn’t have a refrigerator or time to buy one so I offer to pay but he refuses. I can only do as much as he will allow and then I have to step back and let him go.
It’s harder now. When he was little, I could comfort him and that in turn comforted me. Now I can only sit and wait, sending healing energy across the miles and surrounding him with light.