I have very foggy recollections of the summers of my childhood. They stretched out forever, endless days of lazy, unscheduled lovely boredom. There was usually an un-airconditioned road-trip from our home in New York to Toronto, which meant a stay at my grandmother’s house, play with my cousins, and a camping holiday in the wilds of southern Ontario. There were weeks spent at some sort of sub-par day-camp and random tennis lessons here and there. Taken as a whole, those memories are good. There is beach, ice-cream and the smell of pines at campgrounds. There is play and bike-rides and swimming.
I can tell you, with total certainty, what I was not doing. I was not spending my days vomiting, headache-ridden, coming home early from activities, lying in a darkened room and visiting the emergency department. I went to the ER once in my entire childhood, and that was enough.
Summertime seems to me now like this fleeting epoch in which all the fun of warm weather must be jammed into a few short weeks, and if you can’t tick all the boxes by Labour Day, well, there’s always next year. I feel this way because last summer was such a write-off for us, in which I spent more days huddled indoors with Gavin than doing anything else. This past spring I determined that the Summer of 2014 was going to be Different. We were going to have the funnest fun! Gavin was going to be well and enjoy his summer holiday the way a little boy should.
Of course, today we spent the day in the ER getting some much-needed hydration on board. Tonight, Gavin and his Daddy are sleeping at the HSC. Peering out from under these dark clouds, it’s hard to see the sun shining.
I keep a detailed health diary for Gav, documenting his daily health and ups and downs, in the relentless search for patterns in how he feels. It’s a spreadsheet that reads, Good, Good, Good, Headache, Vomiting, Headache, etc. In July there were an unprecedented 11 days that read Good. He hasn’t had a run like that since last October. Making it through one week without an episode is an achievement.
Despite how grim that sounds, we have managed to stay out of the ER since March. That is a very long stretch for us. I’ve controlled his vomiting and kept it to a minimum with timely use of meds and strict measures around rest and eating. There are still a lot of questions and no great answers. I’ve tackled this issue from so many angles, and been on the receiving end of reams of well-meant, but ultimately useless advice.
At the beginning of July, Gav and I wrote down on little strips of paper all the things that he wanted to do this summer. They were things like Go Strawberry Picking and Visit the CN Tower. Strawberry Picking was interrupted by headache and vomiting, which meant a two-hour nap on the ground at the strawberry patch, enduring the stares of passersby as Craig and I idled with our phones until he woke up. We’d planned to visit the CN Tower this past Friday night, followed by a Blue Jays game on Saturday. Both events did not come to be. Which brings us to today, Sunday, which we spent at emerge rather than attending a family party together in honour of Gav’s new little cousin, Olivia.
Obviously, the loss of these fun times is disappointing. It was heart-breaking to have to collect him from a camp he attended at High Park, almost every day for the week he was there, when he had been looking forward to it since March. Our life is unpredictable in the extreme, with no way of knowing how things will go from one day to the next.
The only way to handle all of this is to Do It Now. There is no putting anything off until tomorrow, because tomorrow might be a total disaster.
I’ve learned that we have to carpe the crap out of this diem if we ever want to get anything done.
And with that as the family motto, this summer, so far, there has been THIS:
He has learned to ride a bike. He has been learning to swim. He’s had wonderful play with friends and long solo hours with his beloved Lego. He can now whistle and snap his fingers and play chess. He is doing all the things I always dreamt he would.
The one thing I want for him that still eludes us is health. I want him to never worry again that his trip to the zoo will be cancelled or ever shed another tear because he missed the Blue Jays game. I want for him to wake up every day and just feel good. And if he feels sick, I want it to be for a normal reason, that like a normal child he’s caught some sort of virus, but it will soon be over without a trip to the hospital.
If you live YOUR life in good health, please never take it for granted. Love your body for being so kind to you and carrying you through life with grace and ease and the occasional bout of food poisoning. Cherish the fact that you can make it through each day without having to lie down or throw up, and sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that your internal organs are doing right by you.