The Toddler Rides Again

Well, on Tuesday night, Natalie and I journeyed deeper into the wilds of parenthood, wandering into that uncharted territory where your child nearly scares you to death. We had our first midnight trip to the emergency room with Thomas. It wasn’t a long trip in terms of arrival to destination because Natalie was speeding through downtown Shelby at speeds my Camry rarely reaches. I learned right then that neither speed limit, nor red light, nor traffic pattern will separate my son from the love of his mom. Also, I learned if my wife ever wants to quit her job as a librarian, she has a second career waiting as an ambulance driver. 

The problem is Thomas woke up at 1:00 in the morning crying, which isn’t all that unusual (we’re still working on sleep training), but this time he was not only crying but gasping for breath and clutching at his throat. His forehead was hot. He had a temperature of 103 and a wheeze loud enough to rival a lifelong smoker forced to run. 

Now back up five hours. Before bed, Thomas had a slightly runny nose, but otherwise he was acting perfectly normal, toddling around the house as if he owned the place. For a kid in daycare, a slightly runny nose is part of baseline health. I mean, in the past three months Thomas has had RSV, the stomach bug, and foot and mouth disease. Merely a runny nose seemed like a step in the right direction, keyword being seemed. Little did we know it foreboded a long night in the emergency room. 

The ER is a surreal place. We had to walk through metal detectors and get checked in by a security guard to enter the ER, which I thought was kind of strange. Turns out, I quickly realized why this procedure was in place. No sooner than we arrived and sat down in the waiting room than another man walked up to check in. I overheard him talking to the security guard and the desk receptionist. The man said he was homeless and needing help. He said he was having strange thoughts. The receptionist asked if he was having any thoughts of self harm. “No,” the man said, “more like thoughts of hurting a stranger.”

I suspect the receptionist tripped a silent alarm of some sort because in less than a minute another security guard as well as a police officer emerged from the corridors of the hospital. The man was polite enough. Eventually, he admitted that he just wanted a shower, and the police officer escorted him down a hallway to somewhere else in the hospital. The receptionist and two security guards continued to talk, however, and we listened to them swap war stories about their craziest patients while we sat nearby, Thomas still wheezing in Natalie’s arms. All I can say, after overhearing some of their stories, is God bless everyone who works in an emergency room–may their numbers increase and bloodlines prosper. 

Eventually we got to move to an exam room and see a doctor. After suctioning out his mucus and running a few tests, the doctor diagnosed Thomas with croup. Being first time parents, neither of us knew anything about this childhood ailment, but the doctor said croup is pretty common in kids. They gave Thomas a treatment with a nebulizer and an oral steroid which quickly improved his breathing. I say quickly, but really we didn’t get home till 5 AM, at which point, after entering the house, Thomas proceeded to mount his Red Flyer toddler car and putter about the kitchen going “vrooom, vrooom” as if nothing slightly traumatic happened five hours earlier.

Beware of the Butter Bean

Well, in other news, my throat is still trying to kill me. It came close a few years ago when the Grim Reaper apparently tired of his boring ole scythe and got creative in his methods. Had my wife not been there to administer the Heimlich, my death certificate would read, “Death by butter bean.”  All my life I’ve struggled to eat healthy, thinking that Bojangles would probably do me in. Then I nearly die from a vegetable—talk about irony. 

So three endoscopies and many thousands of dollars later, my esophagus was sufficiently expanded to once again allow safe passage of food—this was two years ago. The problem is white blood cells still like to hang out in my esophagus and practice strangulation in their free time. The doctors tell me that this is not normal, that only 1 in 1000 people have the condition, that there’s no good way to treat it other than to restretch my throat every few years, ideally before my white blood cells commit murder. 

I’m hoping I can make it three years between endoscopies because I don’t relish the idea of having my throat roto-rootered again. Done in an outpatient facility, it’s a routine procedure, except when it isn’t. Before my third endoscopy, while I was waiting in the prep room with an IV in my arm, I got to hear one of those “when it isn’t” cases. The prep room is right beside the operating room. Normally, you can’t hear the doctors and nurses talking as they work on whoever is scheduled before you, unless something bad is happening, in which case everyone is shouting and running and alarms are blaring. I just remember one nurse shouting “heart rate 180” and the doctor using the expression “stat” as in “get an ambulance here stat.” The nice old lady having the procedure done before me, who smiled at me while we were both in the waiting room, was having a heart attack on the table. 

I often wonder what happened to that lady, a complete stranger, after she was transported to the hospital. As they wheeled me into the operating room, because, well, the show must go one, I’m not sure who was more shell-shocked, the doctor, nurses, or me. Sensing I was perhaps disconcerted by the preceding event, one nurse tried to calm my trembling skeletal structure with some reassuring words, which, to be honest, paled in reassurance to the valium she shot in my IV.

The next thing I know, I’m waking up at home with a sore throat and a bad case of hiccups. But that beats waking up in a hospital or not waking up at all. So, all in all, I have a lot to be thankful for, even if my throat is still trying to kill me.

A Dad in Distress

After years of whacking all the foul and indecent thoughts that pop up in my head, I think I’ve finally rid myself of the harmful little fantasy of rescuing a damsel in distress. In the fantasy, I would be puttering along in my pickup, rounding a curve at a responsible speed, when a car, hood up and flashers on, would appear before me on the roadside. As I peered into the billowing engine smoke, I would catch my first glimpse. “Lady ahoy,” my heart would leap. Turns out, the lady is none other than Jennifer Love Hewitt. Who would have thought she would have time to get away from the grueling schedule of Hollywood and do a little leisure driving in the boonies? Well, me, of course, it is my fantasy, but the point is if someone doesn’t fix her engine soon, she’ll miss her taping of “Party of Five.” 

So I slow down, roll down my window, give her the obligatory, “How ya doing mam? What happens to be your trouble?” She asks if I know anything about cars. I do, of course—again, this is my fantasy—so I pull over, get out, and cut my way through the engine smoke. Here, without coughing, I utter a few manly words like manifold, head gasket, and driveshaft. Then I fiddle with a few miscellaneous parts. Then I tell her to turn the key. The engine roars to life, purrs like a kitten. She thanks me effusively and even gives me a peck on the cheek (this is a PG website after all). Then I get to go tell all my buddies in high school that Jennifer Love Hewitt kissed me. 

After a thorough scrubbing of my grey matter, I’m proud to say I’ve finally rid myself of this chauvinistic fantasy. I thought about keeping it and just putting a disclaimer in front, like Disney+ does with Snow White, but I decided that doesn’t go far enough. Instead, I’ve completely banished and replaced it with a fantasy befitting a man in 2021. 

In a lot of ways, the new fantasy resembles the old one: namely, a car is broke down, mine, and a good Samaritan in a pickup truck pulls up beside me and asks if I need any help. Turns out, it’s Jennifer Love Hewitt and she happens to know a lot about cars. She utters a few manly words like manifold, head gasket, and drive shaft. Then she fiddles with a few miscellaneous parts. Then she tells me to turn the key. My Camry roars to life, purrs like a kitten. I thank her effusively, and we shake hands, after which I get to go tell all my buddies that I shook hands with Jennifer Love Hewitt. 

FYI: Being a happily married man, I had to run this new fantasy past my wife for approval. She approved it, so long as my engine is the only thing Jennifer Love Hewitt revs up.  

I Think, Therefore I Ham

My brainpower astonishes me—I mean, I guess I can call it mine now. I haven’t got a bill yet, so I’m not sure what the payment plan is for a brain replacement during an abduction, but whatever make and model the aliens installed in my noggin is impressive. For instance, my new brain’s reservoir of profundity recently produced the following thought: “Hamburgers are made of beef, not ham. Therefore, hamburgers should be called beefburgers.” 

It’s rock-solid logic like that my old brain wasn’t capable of. Before the abduction, I rarely used logic or had profound thoughts. Now, however, it’s not uncommon for me to think existentially. Last night, right before I bit into a sandwich, I pronounced “I think, therefore I ham.” My in-laws, who happened to be dining with us, gave me a puzzled look (they’ve never had minds for philosophy), which then inspired a Socratic quote to well up: “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them a ham sandwich.”  

“Please do,” my father-in-law said, “I’ll take another.” 

Admittedly, I never philosophized like that before the Unidentified Flying Object hitched its wagon to our chimney. Of course, you might ask, “How can you remember if the aliens gave you a new brain?” Apparently, it’s standard protocol to transfer over a few memories, kinda like transferring contacts to a new phone. Plus, seeing a UFO hovering over your house is rather memorable, especially a UFO pulling a wagon.

Come to think of it, the wagon may have been a livestock trailer. I vaguely recall oinks raining down from the heavens, though I kinda second-guess myself cause I doubt those aliens were big pork eaters. They were rather lanky and anemic-looking, so I have no idea what they might use pigs for.

All I know is I’m liking my newfound intelligence—oink, oink!

Want to make money? Invest in Your Ad Deer, Inc.

For anyone looking for prime advertising space, boy have I got a deal for you. Last night while I was swerving and slamming on brakes, the thought came to me that many of the deer grazing the roadside were big enough to put billboards on. In the best-case scenario, a deer in the headlights already commands your attention even without snazzy ads applied. In the worst-case scenario, you can’t get more in-your-face advertising than a deer through your windshield.

Of course, there would be a certain irony to me becoming a wealthy deer advertising mogul. Frankly, I’m pretty sure the local deer herd already has my bank account information, considering how much money they’ve stolen from my farm over the years. Think you’ve got a beautiful crop of melons? So do the deer, which is why they’re having a picnic and playing croquet in your field as you read this.

Wildlife biologists estimate the current deer population in North Carolina stands at one million. I agree and estimate the vast majority stand in my zip code. According to biologists, there were only ten thousand deer in North Carolina a century ago, which means that deer may be the only large land mammal that has multiplied faster than people. And this is despite the billion dollar hunting industry and my participation in it. 

Yes, I once was a prolific hunter. In fact, I bagged a ten-pointer, sabretooth tiger, and window pane in the same trip, the trip before my mom confiscated my bb gun. Afterwards, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and my mom made sure I took the one straight to my room, not the tree stand. But apparently a lot of other people are hunters, and you’d think with the run on ammo in recent years, there wouldn’t be a deer left standing. But I can assure you there are plenty of deer still standing on the roadsides, which brings me back to the advertising idea. 

The good news is I’ve already solved the main obstacle to advertising on the broadsides of deer, which is catching the deer to adhere the advertisement. Deer stagger away from my fields so engorged on farm-fresh melons that they fall over in a sugar coma. Thus, I have ample time to splatter some paint on a deer–strike that, I mean apply a targeted ad on a mobile billboard–before the billboard wakes in a craze and darts in front of a car full of potential customers. 

So if you want to reach a coveted demographic, namely drivers who are highly alert and trembling, consider placing an ad with my newest business venture, Your Ad Deer, Inc. 

My slogan is, “There’s no money in farming, but big bucks in deer.”

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