Thursday 24 September 2015

"I've been there" she says.

The clock is nearly striking midnight and I'm as anxious to be home as Cinderella at the end of the ball. Although that is probably the only similarity that she and I share on this day. It's almost midnight and I'm walking my sick four year old into Shoppers Drug Mart. It's that time of year when days still radiate with the last warmth of the summer sun but evenings turn chilly in the blink of an eye. My kid is in a t-shirt because earlier, in the hospital, he puked on his sweatshirt. It's too cold to be out without proper defences to the elements. Especially with a pneumonia. So I'm wrapping him in the adult sized sweatshirt I had in the car. He is whining and crying in protest.

The woman in the car next to me stares for a moment too long. She sees how disheveled I look. Remember when he puked earlier? There are remnants of that on my pant leg. And my right shoulder is painted with his snot and tears. Because hours earlier I held him after he was woken from his sleep strapped into a chest x-ray machine. Terrified. As I pulled him from the necessary contraption he sobbed on my shoulder. And so here I am. It's midnight and my body is a canvas of puke and snot art. And I'm losing the battle to get my kid into an oversized sweatshirt. And he probably should be at home in bed anyway. But there is medicine that he needs and it's in that store. I feel her eyes on me and I dart mine in her direction. I narrow my eyelids and dare her to open her mouth. She just shakes her head and walks in the opposite direction.

Mac at CHEO earlier in the night

Inside the pharmacy we walk to the counter. Kid, who is getting on the big side to be carried but still fits relatively comfortably, is slung over my shoulder and prescription papers are in my hand. At the counter I hand over the sheets and the pharmacist looks at them without looking up at me.

"Will you be waiting for these tonight?" She asks. I open my mouth to answer yes but before any sound comes out she interrupts me and says "oh, yes, I guess you must be." The kid needs steroids, and antibiotics, and new asthma medication to start a new protocol so that perhaps we won't be here again anytime soon. I need the medicine to start in the morning so wait we must.

"It will be 45 minutes to an hour" she says. All business. And I want to cry. I think I do a little. How am I supposed to entertain this child in a pharmacy for an hour at midnight? Especially since he slept from 7 to 10 PM so now feels refreshed after such a long "nap." And how many people will see me during that hour? The mom who drags her kid "shopping"with her at 12 AM. With puke on her pants and snot in her hair. In the span of a day, in the span of this day especially, an hour is not of great consequence. But this hour that she has laid out ahead of me feels like impending misery.

She looks at me a little closer now. Maybe she sees the snot. Maybe she sees the exhausted desperation in my eyes. "Just give me a minute" she says. A minute turns to five and like a fairy godmother she returns with a bag of medicine. "I've been there," she says.

Parenting is no fairytale. There are small people with lost shoes but those shoes are rarely glass slippers. There are damsels in distress but that distress is generally because the blue cup is too blue or the toast was cut in triangles instead of squares. But sometimes there are heros. Other parents who have been there. Who know the true length of an hour at midnight with a sick kid. Who take pity and save the night.

So thank-you fairy pharmacist. I'll do my best to pay it forward.

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