My son turned 14 last week. He was sick the week before his birthday and sick the week after. The doctors didn’t know what to make of it. It looked like mono, but the tests were negative.
When a kid has a fever for more than a week, doctors start scratching their heads. When doctors scratch their heads, fathers tear their hair out.
For you boys considering fatherhood, here’s what you’re in for: Waking up at night, hearing the labored breathing, feeling the hot forehead, seeing the dim light in eyes that normally shine like dew. Wanting to trade places, to be the one lying on the altar. I still can’t fathom Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.
There was an obituary in last week’s paper for a man who outlived three of his sons. I can’t fathom that, either.
This doesn’t come naturally for us. You’ve seen the footage of mother apes playing with their children, while the silverback gorilla sits by himself on the other side of the hill, chewing on a blade of grass. That’s what we were born to do.
We’re slowly evolving. We’ve come over the hill, and we like it here, but don’t make light of the challenge. We wash dishes, cook supper, make the bed (sometimes), and change diapers. We nurse our children back to health. We get up and go to work.
My daughter is 16 and has her license, and she loves nothing more than tooling her 100-pound frame around central Minnesota in a giant pickup. She doesn’t even mind bringing her brother along.
She comes home on time, right when we tell her to, but I’m always expecting her 15 minutes early. I’m tense in my bed, listening for tires on gravel and watching for headlight beams.
Finally I pull on my clothes and search for my car keys, with glass breaking and sirens howling in my mind. I’m opening the door when I see the lights coming down the driveway, and I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
Robert Bly has a poem about dragging his father across the floor. The father makes him stop, saying, “This is as far as I dragged my father.”
Ten days in, just when he was feeling better, Leif took a turn for the worse and finally had a positive strep test.
When we thought the fevers were gone, I woke up and took his temperature. It was 102.9, and I sat up waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in. I googled “strep throat” and fretted about rheumatic fever.
A half hour goes by. It’s 103. Another 15 minutes, 102.6. Another 15, 102.
He says “thank you” when I bring some water.
Leif is awake now and totally himself. He’s used to fevers by this time, and the light in his eyes is shining through the sickness.
“You want me to stay up?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
“You want to go back to sleep?” I ask.
He nods. “You should go to sleep, too, Dad,” he says.
He’s right. I should.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.