Although Jonah has had a cold or two, he entered the realm of the real-deal sickness during his seventh month.
I remember it clearly:
We were visiting my in-laws, the Beckmans, in Cincinnati and, as usual, Jonah had his room and we had ours. He was sleeping about thirty feet from us, right down the hall. I was asleep at about 5am—which is my custom—and I heard a sound that scared me to my very soul.
It was like I was forced to listen to hours of speeches given by my high school football coach: mostly loud noises punctuated even louder noises. I opened my eyes and concentrated on the sound.
It was a seal barking.
The Beckmans had bought a seal, and I was standing in my underwear watching a circus inhabited only by orangutans and third graders. (I had fallen asleep and I quickly moved to “weird dream land”). I awoke again to the sound of the seal in the other room, and I realized that sound came from Jonah. I jumped out of bed, ran to his room where he coughed again, and I thought that he had caught something in his throat. I picked him up, forced his mouth open and searched for whatever was in there. Aside from my finger, I couldn’t find anything. There wasn’t really anything in his throat: he was making that noise all by his little self.
By the time I had finished searching for the thing in his throat, Sunday staggered into the room looking for the seal.
She asked, “Was that Jonah?”
I said, “Yep. I think he’s got a cold.”
She said, “Sounds like he’s a little seal.”
I said, “Don’t you mean a little horse?”
She said, “No. Don’t you think he sounds like a seal?”
Still mostly asleep, I said, “Watch out for the third graders. They don’t get along with the orangutans.”
She said, “What?”
I said, “Never mind.”
We stood there, waiting for him to cough again as we wondered how bad this thing really was. We knew that his cough wasn’t normal, but we had enough false alarms to know that not-every-terrible noise coming from Jonah translated into a negative situation.
After a little while listening to him breathe and cough and breathe again, we realized we had no idea what was wrong with him. We were clueless. We thought about everything from the common cold, to bronchitis, to lung cancer. We didn’t know. Since we were away from home, we didn’t have a doctor and we were helpless. And in between all of our conversations, we heard the barking of our little boy.
By the time I had gotten Jonah to fall back asleep, Sunday had made about 57 phone calls and lined up a doctor’s appointment for Jonah that afternoon.
By the time we got to the doctor’s office, we were worn out with the worrying and the listening to his coughing and just wondering what was wrong with our son. Both Sunday and I looked much worse than Jonah, and he was about to show us how good a little boy he can be.
The doctor walked into the room, introduced himself, and took Jonah into his arms. He listened. We were silent. Jonah barked. He listened.
“Sounds like he has the croup.”
We didn’t want him to be sick, and to our ears the croup sounded much worse than the cold or lung cancer. The croup sounded like some medieval torture device that uses a system of weights and pullies to slowly pull out nose hairs one by one.
“Beware of the awful power of the croup! Ye shall never have furry nostrils again!”
Anyway, the doctor explained that the croup wasn’t that big a deal, as long as the medication is used. He said that Jonah should be ok in a few days. Then Jonah barked. We all felt terrible. We didn’t want him to go through all that garbage and we thought he was feeling terrible like we were feeling.
We were wrong. As we began our most intense feelings of angst over our sick child, Jonah happened to look up at me and smile.
I couldn’t believe how great he was acting.
Then he barked.