He doesn’t usually crawl into bed with me.
That should have been a sign.
“Devin, what are you doing?” I asked as the alarm blared again and I realized my nine year old son was snuggled into his father’s side of the bed.
“I’m tired. My leg hurts.”
“It’s time to get up, buddy.”
He groaned and pulled himself out from under the covers and shuffled out of the bedroom. I walked past my open bedroom door a few minutes later on my way to the bathroom and noticed he was sitting on the couch, still in his underwear.
“Devin, what are you doing?”
“I’m tired. My arm hurts.”
“Devin, you need to get dressed, you’re going to be late,” I said before getting back to the business of getting ready for work.
I finished getting dressed, putting on my makeup and blow drying my hair. I was on my way back to the bedroom to grab some jewelry when I caught another glimpse of him on the love seat, this time fully dressed.
“Devin, what are you doing?”
“I’m tired. My throat is scratchy.”
“Devin, are you sick?”
“No. My throat is just…” he gasped for emphasis, “… scratchy. My eyes are blurry. My nose hurts.”
“Devin, if you’re not feeling well you need to tell me.”
“I’m not sick.”
“Are you sure?”
“OK, then enough with the sound effects and drama queen act. Get your butt up and get your stuff together. You need to get going if you’re going to make the bus.”
He sighed as he wrenched himself from the couch cushions. A warning bell rang, faintly, in the back of my mom brain.
“Devin? Are you sure you’re not sick?”
“I’m sure. I’m OK. I just feel… scratchy.”
“OK. Get going. Love you. Have a good day!”
And I shoved him out the door towards the bus stop.
You think you know where this is going, don’t you? It gets worse.
I spent the next 15 minutes gathering my laptop and my purse, making sure Emma brushed her teeth and her hair, and packing the lunch that hadn’t been packed the night before. I grabbed my car keys and my phone and noticed I’d forgotten to plug it in before I went to bed. The extra battery pack was dead.
“Damn,” I muttered. I sent my mom a text message “my phone is dead”, letting her know I wouldn’t be calling to chat on my way to work.
Emma and I were out the door and ready for the day. I dropped her off at daycare, stopped at 7-11 for coffee and was on the road to work when my phone rang. It was Adam’s number on the caller ID.
“You’re up early!”
“You need to call the school,” he said.
Fuck. I knew the rest of the story before he said another word. “Devin’s sick?”
“Yeah. He threw up on the bus twice.”
On the bus? Damn it. That was right after he left me. Damn it.
“And they couldn’t reach you because you changed your cell phone number.”
Son of a bitch. I realized instantly that not only had I not told them I’d changed my cell phone, but I’d canceled the home line a few months ago and hadn’t bothered to update that information either. The school nurse had gotten two disconnection messages before finally reaching my boss on my work number. Fabulous.
I turned the car around and headed towards the school. Of course, I don’t have my GPS and the town I live in is a navigational nightmare of side roads and neighborhoods wth no outlets – so I got lost. Trying to get to my kid’s school, and I got fucking lost. I finally pulled into the parking lot and ran into the front office.
“I’m here for Devin. He’s.. he’s sick. He told me…”
“It’s OK. Sign him out,” the nurse was sympathetic. She’d obviously seen this before.
Devin’s unruly head popped out of the nurse’s office. He was clearly sick. His eyes were small, his face was puffy – any idiot could see this kid wasn’t feeling well.
“We took his temperature – 101,” the nurse said, trying to maintain a sympathetic tone.
“I am so sorry. He told me his throat hurt. I told him to stop being dramatic,” I was fighting to hold back tears. Devin had reached me by this point and I dropped to one knee to hug hm and apologize.
“It’s OK, Mom. It’s not your fault.” His voice was so small and gentle.
We got in the car and made a detour at the store. Over and over again I told him I was sorry, sorry that he didn’t feel good, sorry that I’d sent him to school and hadn’t been more careful. I handed him the keys and told him to lock the door, stay put, don’t let anyone in the car while I run in to get soup and liquids.
“Mom,” he stopped me as I was sliding the back door shut.
“Thank you for doing this for me.”
And the pieces that were left of my heart shattered right there in the Winn Dixie parking lot. He was thanking me. In his weak, fragile voice, he was thanking me for soup and 7up and doing what mothers are supposed to do, despite the fact that I’d totally blown Motherhood 101 just one hour earlier.
“You’re welcome, honey,” I leaned over and kissed his forehead. “I’ll be back. I love you, you know.”
I pulled the door shut and walked into the store.