the healing power of popsicles

i spent the past week at my mom’s house in orlando, taking care of two of my adorable nephews. we’d gone down there because my sister and brother-in-law were taking a well-deserved cruise to mexico for the week. his parents volunteered to watch the baby and i volunteered to watch the other two kids. i don’t mind watching them up here but as the longest stretch i’ve spent watching the kids by myself is a little over a day, i decided to go back home for some support. i was very thankful that i made that decision daily, but especially on tuesday.

on tuesday, caleb complained about a stomachache. he’d been saying how much he missed his mommy and daddy and i knew he hadn’t really slept much so i wrote it off. at nap time, caleb will either fall asleep within the first 15 minutes or he won’t sleep at all. he’d been in his bed for an hour when i picked him up to take him with me on an adventure to starbucks. like i’ve talked about before, caleb and i used to go on little dates to starbucks and since elijah was sleeping, i figured it would be a good time to go, so we got into my car and started driving. on the way there, he told me it would’ve been better if he hadn’t gone and that maybe he should go home now. i explained that we were almost there (it’s a little over a mile away from my mom’s house) and that we could just drive through. he asked for chocolate milk and “maybe a little brownie” so i ordered those along with my coffee. we were driving back when it happened.

the night before, i had slept about 5 hours. as a single girl, i’m not used to being on “baby time” as my mom calls it, so staying up til 12:30 or 1:00 am doesn’t sound like it would be painful in the morning. but my nephews are small, so when they woke up at 6:00 am, i was unprepared for them. i wanted sleep or coffee or a time machine so i could go back and unmake my decision to go to bed so late. none of those options were readily available, so i did what any person responsible for the well-being of children would do: i sucked it up and did what i had to do. now, when i haven’t slept, not only do i get cranky but i get very nauseated and i run hot all day. i’m also typically paranoid, so once it all happened, i took my temperature and found out i was running a fever. none of this is particularly relevant to the story other than to help justify my status as “complete basket case,” which you will read about soon enough.

back to the car ride. we had just crossed over goldenrod when caleb tells me that he shouldn’tve come with me. the next noise i hear is a bit graphic, so suffice it to say that the child got sick all over himself and the back of my car. he’s like the rest of the cacciabeves; we hate throwing up. the poor little boy is sitting in the back, trying not to get sick again and all i can do is drive as safely as i can, instructing him to spit it out and get it all out. during the next two minutes it takes to get to my mom’s, he doesn’t say anything. he just sits there, stunned. i called my little sister and told her to either come outside and help me clean him and my car or to send our mom. and to bring towels.

we got everything cleaned up right around the time my mom had to leave for a class. as a teacher, you have to earn an arbitrary number of points to keep your credentials valid, and that’s where she was headed for the evening. my little sister had just had some tests run, so she was also feeling a bit under the weather which left me to take care of one sick nephew and one clueless toddler. and over the next 4 hours, caleb purged everything he had in his system. we still don’t really know what made him sick, as no one else got sick and we all had eaten the exact same food, just that he got sick and that he was miserable. and, just like every other person i’ve ever met, he wanted his mommy and daddy. and each time we got him to drink a little water, he would get sick 10 minutes later. it’s such a violent action, the purging, and his little body shook and all the blood rushed into his head. all i could do was sit there and hold him and clean him off. i cuddled him when he cried and i cried with him because the one thing he wanted, the one thing he needed, i could not give him. he looked at me with his big, sad eyes and said, “can i please be done now?” i made my voice as steady as i could when i replied, “if there was any way for me to take this from you, if there was anything i could do, anything at all, i absolutely would.” and i meant it.

my mom finally came home and was able to convince him to do something i had been trying for hours: she got him to take a few licks of a popsicle. when you’re tired and you’re stressed, you put your hope in strange things. i truly believed that if we could just get him to eat a popsicle or suck on some ice, he’d be ok. when i was 3, i got a bad case of the stomach flu and wound up hospitalized for dehydration. i don’t remember much of this, other than that they called the iv in my leg a “magic straw” and that i got to stay up “really late” [read: like 8:30] and watch the disney channel. we didn’t have the disney channel before then, but you better believe we had it after. now that i’m an adult, i can see things i couldn’t then. i can imagine how scary it would be to take such a small child to the hospital because she’s sick and you can’t fix it. and i didn’t want that for my nephew. so it was my firm belief that if we could just get him to keep something in his system, he’d be ok. and i thanked God for the healing powers i was convinced that that cherry popsicle had.

only about 10 minutes later, he threw it up. i realized that it was just a popsicle after all and not the answer to caleb being sick. my illusion was shattered and so was i. with no other alternatives, i got on my face and cried. i’d say that i cried out to God, and i did, but most of it was incomprehensible to people who speak english. i can’t remember ever being that broken and in so much pain for someone else. i begged, i pleaded and i even attempted to bribe God to heal my nephew and to protect my other nephew from getting sick. [during all of this, he played in his room and tried bringing every toy he had to his brother. he understood something was wrong, but ignored us when we told him to stay away from “bubish.”] and even though i think God already planned to do this, he listened patiently to my prattle and put up with my foolish bribery and healed my nephew.

looking back on it all, i can’t understand why i waited to get on my face and beg God for help. i’d been saying little prayers throughout the course or him being sick, but not like this. i hadn’t gotten to the point of pure desperation until that moment. i wonder if i’d been able to get over myself sooner if he could’ve gotten better more quickly. i honestly don’t want to know the answer to that question. and that’s what it all amounts to: i needed to get over myself and the thoughts that i could fix it and accept the reality that i could do nothing save trust that since i love God and caleb loves God, everything would be fine. and it was, and it was always going to be.

i could use the excuse that since i hadn’t slept, i didn’t think of this more quickly but that’s not true. whether or not i had slept, my first instinct isn’t to lie prostrate and make myself vulnerable. my first instinct is to figure out what i can do to solve whatever problem it is. and right now i can see that my instinct is never actually the right answer, even though i can justify it as “working” when i know in my heart that it actually doesn’t.

so my faith is not in popsicles. and thank God for that, because i need the stability of something that won’t melt when the temperature gets above 80.

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