Just Let It Spew

“Poor Toby, he tries so hard to be the best dog for Olivia and it does not always work out for him. Last night at 1:00am, he heard her make a noise and so he walked in to check on her. Stuck his head in to give her a kiss and. . . bam, she threw up all over his head. He shook and spread it around the room. We had an awesome mess to clean up as they snuggled on our bed. Olivia still has an upset stomach, but is feeling fine. Olivia and Toby were both very chipper this morning, unlike their dads.” posted by Brock Hancock, July 1, 2014, Facebook.  

My friend’s post almost made coffee come out of my nostrils.  Truly, parenting is not for the weak-stomached, and how ever can we love our long-suffering pets enough when they are so tolerant and forgiving of these little things?  I think every parent has gross bodily fluid stories we, later, laughingly share to terrorize both new parents and our non-parent friends who are sure they know exactly what our lives are like.  Until your child has spit up, puked, bled, sneezed a cup full of snot, dropped a lugey, peed or pooed on you, and I don’t just mean near you or where it hasn’t actually touched your skin, but literally upon your body and possibly your face and hair, you haven’t been fully initiated into parenting.  For some, it’s a one time deal that rises to epic horror proportions because they only have the one story. For others, the experience has defined which parent will automatically add to the biohazard and which one is hereinafter designated as the cleaner-upper.  And then there are those who can hold a vomiting child while nibbling their own PB&J sandwich…meh.

My own kid’s episodes of spewing were taken in stride as a rite of parenting.  In fact, we used what we called the vomit bowl which did double duty after a trip through the dishwasher.  If a child felt ill, we sent them to bed with the vomit bowl.  I’ll never forget the first night my son’s footsteps awakened me and when I asked what was up he said he was just going to the kitchen to get the vomit bowl.  Tremendous moment of pride and my cue to get up, wet a washrag, and await, er, results.   

There were really no horrible horror stories with the exception of the night our third child awakened us with blood red vomit hurtling at amazing speeds across our bed, christening three shocked immobile cats in the process.  The moment we’d get it cleaned up and settle back in another gusher would burst forth.  Truly awesome the sheer volume of vomitus that can be produced and projected by a tiny child under the age of two.  This occurred five or six times in less than an hour at which point there were no more clean sheets, or comforters, or towels, or, for that matter, cats and people.  Seconds after panic calling the doctor at the magical barfing hour of 1 a.m. it occurred to us that the blood red coloring that looked like little pieces of cherry skin actually was just that.  If we hadn’t been befuddled by the recurrence and magnitude of expulsion and its alarming color, we would have remembered that much sooner and salvaged the stoic parent reputation.  Nothing like a second panic call to the answering service explaining you were just kidding when you asked them to awaken the doctor because your baby was vomiting blood, heh, heh, heh. I’m sure my name wound up somewhere on a list of suspicious people.

Though exhausting, parents of a sick child who bounces up early the next day really wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s a privilege we alone hold, along with a hopefully empty vomit bowl.  

Boy to Marine

When they’re small, we tend to think of them as staying little boys, even though somewhere in our minds we may have dreams for their futures.   Sam just graduated Marine Boot Camp and is now on his way to schooling that, when done, will send him to an active unit.  He’s eighteen.  He’s my son.  He’s a United States Marine. 

Other than proud of who and what he is, I’m not sure how I feel about all this. 

We were riding in the car last week, he’s home for his ten day leave following boot camp, and I asked him how he felt about being a Marine.  “Good, mom, it’s what I’ve always wanted.”  I know and he has, since he was seven or eight or nine.  I found a nine-year birthday card I’d given him that starts “To my future Marine”.  Did I really think about what that meant when I wrote it?  I’m sure I didn’t.  At the time, he was a blond-haired, green-eyed kid who collected socks for the homeless men, fed stray cats at hotels where we stayed on vacation, and prayed earnestly for policemen, firemen and the military.  He was busy getting straight A’s and getting into trouble with his posse of friends that seemed to terrorize our household every summer.  He was inhaling every food in sight and we were up to buying four gallons of milk a week.   He was still throwing his arms around me in private and sticking his pinky out as our signal of “I love you” as I dropped him off at school. 

His ten day leave has been not only quick, but enlightening.  We sent a young man who was full of energy, often uncontrolled, and filled with all the angst of a young man whose had his fair share of life’s hardships already.  We got back someone who looks like our son, smells like our son, even feels like our son as we throw our arms around him, but there is a subtle difference that I’m not sure how to handle. 

He’s a man now.  And he’s a Marine.

I see it in how he walks – taller, more graceful, more confident and assured.  It’s there when he talks to you.  He makes eye contact and listens.  It’s in the quickness to open the door for me, the “take your time” instead of “hurry up” during lunch or dinner.  It’s the immediate reply of “I love you, too, Mom”.  And it’s the paperwork in his safe that he handed over to me this morning that holds letters and information should anything happen to him. 

He’s always been Sam.  He still is Sam, but he’s not the boy Sam anymore.  He’s a fine young man who is responsible and dependable.  He told us this in one of his letters:  “Thank you for raising me the way you did.  I’m able to take care of myself and I understand what work is.  I have good values and I have grown spiritually.  It takes leaving home to realize how good you had it, and I thank you and Dad for all you’ve done for me.  You are great parents, and I love you.” 

We can ask for no more than that.   We did our job, my husband tells me as he wipes the tears that fall and fall and fall.  Yes, we did our job, but does it have to be over now?  I love my Marine and I’m terribly proud of him, but somewhere in my heart, in that place of wishes and what ifs, I want my boy back.  I couldn’t hold him enough while he was here.  I couldn’t look at him enough while he was here.   I couldn’t listen or be amazed by him enough while he was here. 

As I walk into his room with clean laundry I washed for him yesterday, I see a t-shirt in the bottom of a perfectly clean hamper.  The smell is still there, his smell, and it’s a mixed one – part my boy, part my Marine.   I breathe it in and the tears are there again.  

Once more, I give my son to the Lord because, as he told me his first sargeant said to them, “The Marines belong God, Mom.  Jesus leads us.”   And, as always, He does.