Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dry Heaving

He was getting sick. Coughed so hard that he got sick. And then kept getting sick, dry heaving for a good 4 minutes. I stood over him, rubbing his back. Langston was up and came in. “Dad, are you getting the kind of sick where you can’t get sick?” he wanted to know. He patiently waited as if Art could separate himself from his body and answer the question. Me taking pride in noticing those “teachable” moments, patiently explained that it’s called “dry heaving.” Langston looked at Art while he heaved as if to etch the term with the action into his brain, then nodded and tried to walk over Art and I to get to the toilet to pee. It was as if to Langston, Art and I were doing nothing more than our evening bedtime ritual. As if his father were not sitting on the bathtub edge expelling his insides into a garbage can due to the raging side effect that plague him from the over 30 days he was gone while they gave his father enough chemo (whatever the hell that meant) to kill him. What Langston seemed to know was that daddy was getting sick in a manner he had never seen and that he needed to pee. And there was no way he (Langston) was walking across the dark front room, into a dark kitchen and even a darker laundry room to reach and use the other bathroom…dad dry heaving or not.

I have no idea what was running though Langston’s mind. It being close to an hour and a half past his bed time, I did not ask. In general though, I try not to read my own anxieties into his experiences. How does an almost 10 year old brain process this stuff? That will most likely be between him and his future therapist.

After I got Art (and Langston) settled and back to bed, my stomach felt like it’s being unpleasantly tickled. It’s dense and disheartened. The desire to leave my skin and thus this fear that rises every time Art suffers acute symptoms like vomiting is undeniable. I envision myself, in the grief, ripping off my clothes, pulling out clumps of my hair and mauling my face with my own hands. The energy from the thought makes my fingers tingle in anticipation of the release. Watching Art get sick, not knowing whether or not to panic is unavoidable. But the process of ticking off the items on the "YES Panic" or "NO Don't Panic" lists leave me feeling like I have been on a rollercoaster ride I did not intend to go on. Has it really only been 3 minutes of heaving or was it 4? Does he look like he’s gonna pass out? When was the last time he took a breath? Can you die from dry heaving? What if he inhales some the stuff into his chest? What will the treatment center tell me if I call? Will I have to call a neighbor to stay with the kids so I can bring him in?

I dry heave too.

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