"It's good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." —Ernest Hemingway
Guyana I started feeling sick. Watching Santa fly over the South American sovereign nation via the Official NORAD Santa Tracker, I could feel my insides churn and flip. I chalked it up to indigestion at first due to our yummy but huge Christmas Eve dinner at home.
After some generic pink tummy medicine, I seemed to feel better and proceeded with our Christmas Eve. When it was bedtime for the girls, we read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and a few other stories and then put them to bed. We reminded them they couldn't get up before 5:30 AM, and being the early birds the entire family is, especially me and Bea, that would be tough on Christmas morning. Thankfully everything felt pretty good in my gut area at this point.
The Mama and I watched some more TV ourselves and then set up the rest of our Christmas gifts and prepped for Santa's visit. At this point he was already somewhere along the East Coast after delivering a few billion gifts elsewhere around the world.
We went to bed and the Mama asked how I felt. I told her better, but that wasn't exactly true.
"Wake me up if you need anything, Sweetie," she said.
But by 9:45 PM while reading in bed and shortly after the Mama dozed off, my tummy churned and flipped with a vengeance. I took more pink stuff, but then an hour later I lay there wide awake with a throbbing gut.
Crap, I thought. This is more than just a belly and/or intestines ache. I must be getting sick. Please no, not on Christmas Eve.
That's when the chills started. Although I felt hot laying there miserable in bed, when I got up to go to the bathroom, the chills set in, something I hadn't felt in years. Decades actually, especially if this was the flu. We all had our flu shots again this year, as we do every year, but that's never an iron-clad guarantee, and we did just return from that big petri dish amusement park called Disneyland.
But still, was it food poisoning somehow? None of the girls had belly aches after dinner, so that didn't seem viable. I was the only one who ate the sugar cookie dough, but I've done that every year for over 40 years and have never gotten sick on it. Either way I did not feel well and worries about the fact that I wouldn't make it through the night without getting sick.
No sooner had I thought that the horrid discomfort of painful bodily expression started from the bottom end. It was only 11:30 PM.
Back in bed things only got worse. I did everything I could to focus on my breathing, that maybe that would help me settle in the moment and feel better, but the bad brewing continued. I got the heating pad out to see if that would help, and while the heat felt good, the pain didn't subside.
12:00 AM, 12:30 AM, 1:00 AM -- I watched minutes of sick tick away, but it only got worse. At 1:30 AM I couldn't take any more and things erupted from the top end. I hadn't thrown up for 14 years and it's never an experience anyone wants to remember anew.
By 2:30 AM I felt slightly better, but every time I got out of bed to go the the bathroom, and going I still was from the other end, the chills were so bad I was visibly shaking. I looked out the bathroom to our street below and imagined Santa swooping down through our neighborhood to deliver the goods. Sugarplums dancing in my head indeed.
I shivered and shuffled back to bed. At 3:30 AM I was really worried I wasn't going to make Christmas morning. I felt horrible and knew at some point I'd be throwing up again. I've never missed Christmas with the girls, I thought.
This must be a reset. The thought had popped up in my fevered mind more than once that night. Maybe it's a karmic reset; a prophetic message from God. A needed purge and a movement in a new and improved healthier lifestyle direction. I've been working on my mind, body and spirit a little more of late, and although I've been pretty healthy, there's always work to be done, and this Big Daddy could use some more work, some true healthy mindfulness in equal measure applied regularly and liberally, to ensure I'm always there for me and my family. And although this wasn't the physical diet I had planned, we didn't eat that much crap at Disneyland, did we, Sweetie? Sigh...
Reset. Maybe. Although a little too convenient for being this close to the end of the linear calendar year, a week before the New Year. I'm just being delusional. Blech. It's not like I'm living on the streets of Bangladesh. Good God...
At 4:30 am I prayed/meditated that I'd make it at least until the girls opened their gifts, and then I could go back to bed.
Then, at 5:31 am, Bea had gotten up and I woke the Mama up and told her how I felt, which, if I were a cartoon, had felt like an ACME truck had knocked me off a cliff and I fell to the canyon bottom below. Poof. Wile E. Coyote indeed.
She told me she was sorry and that I should stay in bed, but I had to go downstairs. Bryce came in and said, "Daddy, it's time to go see what Santa brought us!"
And downstairs I went. I don't know exactly how I did it without getting sick all over, but I did. The Mama took my temperature and sure enough it was 101 degrees. Blech. But I made it for about 45 minutes as we opened gifts and took a few pictures. My limit hit, I slowly went back upstairs and straight to the bathroom, got sick, and then slept for nearly three hours.
Still feverish, but finally feeling better in the belly, I meandered back downstairs while the girls were playing with all their new toys and cool science gadgets, and the Mama was cleaning up. I had missed the Star Wars pancakes as well. Dammit.
"'You missed Christmas, Jack,'" I joked, quoting the character of Kate from early in the movie The Family Man, when Jack returns after freaking out Christmas morning and taking off to NYC for a few hours.
The Mama laughed and said, "I'm so sorry you got sick, Sweetie. I hope you feel better. Girls, tell daddy you love him."
"Are you feeling better, Daddy?"
"Yes. Love you, girls. Love you, Mama. Merry Christmas."
Even with fever, my gaze focused fully on my girls and all was well in my world, that 25th day of December, anno Domini (in the year of our Lord), two-thousand and fifteen.
In the end, I didn't miss Christmas, and if God willin' and the creek don't rise, as my Pop always used to say, and of course if I'm always present and paying attention in sickness and in health, I'll never miss a moment again.