He was sick. Sick as could be with that eye agony; and when the doctor finished looking at his eyes, he was allowed to sit up, and I felt my mind racing. The diagnosis, the dread diagnosis of conjunctivitis, was the last that truly registered in my ears. After that, the follow-up questions and answers seemed merged into a foggy, amorphous buzz. It conveyed to me the feeling of dejection, perhaps from its joining in union with the hum of the overhead fluorescent lights.
Ok, I may not have the style or clout like Edgar Allen Poe, and this situation was nowhere near as dramatic as the Inquisition (for those that recognized the above paragraph’s allusion), but it was one of the first references that entered my mind. At the very least, it seemed like a humorous parallel to start my story. Having children seems to be the modern bladed pendulum or even perhaps the Sword of Damocles; all hell can break loose without a moment’s notice.
It all started innocently enough this past Saturday afternoon. My three year old, Jason, was in the playroom, switching between making Play-Doh animals and trying to corral our obstinate dogs into the faux zoo he had constructed with Legos. My wife and I were in the midst of an intricate dance in the kitchen as we switched between preparing dinner for later that night and handing off our three month old Maggie.
Veggies had been chopped and added to the pot for the chili. Our focus had just begun to shift to the thawed meat that needed to be browned when an unmistakable yelp emanated from the playroom. Katie left the food and dashed over to investigate as I followed with Maggie in my arms.
By the time I arrived within hearing range of what was already transpiring between my wife and three year old, it only took a brief moment to piece together the story. During his wrangling of the dogs, something grabbed hold of Jason’s attention, and of all the things to be curious about, he decided that particular “something” needed to be explored in more detail.
And the subject of inquiry for my little Magellan? Our dog Austin’s butt. Yep, Jason gave him a significant poke in the rear. I really wish I could explain the rationale behind his thought process, but unfortunately, I still can’t figure it out. I doubt he could either.
He was hurried into the nearby bathroom at lightning speed to begin the vigorous washing of hands. My wife and I just shook our heads at each other as we hoped nothing had been touched in the short time-frame of the infamous poke and when the soap touched his hands.
It was at this point that a movie immediately popped into my mind. For those of you familiar with Knocked Up, you may remember the scene where the friends recounted a bizarre game they had engaged in of….how can I keep this PG….passing gas onto one anther’s pillows. And, as a result, several characters develop pinkeye.
Well, within about 24 hours of the poking incident, and around the time that the Broncos wide-receivers were starting to figure out how to catch passes thrown at them, Jason came up to me to let me know his eye hurt. Seeing a slight tinge of redness in his left eye, I resolved to keep a close watch on it. And of course, within about 30 minutes, his eye progressed to steady tears and some discharge.
The Broncos hadn’t quite finished off securing their win over the Steelers, but I began searching for any clinics that may still be open at 6:45pm on a Sunday night. But of course, none were. Getting him home was the next best course of action, and so I began the epic struggle of getting an over-stimulated, sick child into his coat and hat; a child who was not only close to bedtime but who also didn’t want to leave his aunt and uncle’s house. A supremely enjoyable experience for sure.
We headed off toward home in the near 0 degree temperature. But in the five minute trip, his eye seemed to get worse, and so the search for an open urgent care office began in order for him to get medication started. I found one that was open for another 30 minutes, so we dashed off to it.
Rarely have I seen a child exhibit such restraint as Jason displayed while I filled out forms at the clinic. There were toys, Legos, coloring books, and magazines for him to touch and pass on his germs to future unsuspecting kids. But he held fast, remaining next to me as he asked how the doctor would be able to help his eye.
We were taken into an exam room in short order. And faster than a swift, exploratory poke in the butt, the doctor entered the room. As he finished his physical examination, he sat in his stool and began asking me questions to narrow down the source of the eye issue. Did Jason have contact with other kids with pinkeye? Was there something else that had happened to his eye? Had he gotten into something?
Like a wave engulfing an ill-prepared beach-goer, embarrassment overtook me as I attempted to find the words to explain the situation. I knew this moment was coming, but I hadn’t fully readied myself. I swallowed the knot in my throat and sheepishly admitted that Jason had poked our dog in the behind, and that was probably the culprit of the eye infection.
An interesting thing unfolded before me. The doctor’s face turned from an inquisitive one to a look of astonishment with only a minor, almost imperceptible twitch. He squinted his eyes briefly and it looked like he was trying to form a sentence. But in quick succession, his eyes widened and his mouth started to hang open as his brain gave up on forming any coherent thought. It almost seemed as if he expected to hear the canned laughter of a studio audience or someone to jump out and say he was on a hidden camera show. But alas, there was no audience and no hidden camera.
The doctor ultimately regained his composure, wrote a prescription for drops, and wished Jason a quick recovery. I began to wonder how cooperative Jason would be as we would have to put drops into his eyes every three hours for the next week when the doctor, as he began to leave the room, reminded me that the contagiousness of pinkeye can last for about 24hrs, or until the eye stops discharging.
“Oh joy” I thought to myself as I began to think about how we will keep Jason from wanting to hug Maggie or play with her toys for the next day or so. And then I began to think about all the toys that would need to be cleaned at home and all the towels, bedding, and clothes that will need to be washed while we ride out the pinkeye storm.
Life is sure interesting. And yeah, it could be worse.
But ah, parenthood. Sometimes it can feel supremely rewarding and amazing. And at other times, it feels like a struggle to bring order to chaos while being just a half-step away from calamity. But of course, when things get topsy-turvy, the pendulum always swings back the other way.