It started the week before Christmas.
My dad, my hero, called and told me he couldn’t make his visit because he hadn’t been feeling well. He went to his doctor and had some tests run. We all awaited the results, and I felt a little sorry for myself that he wasn’t going to be here for the holiday. Living away from family is especially difficult during the holidays — and we had planned to not travel to Minnesota to see Philip’s family because my dad was coming here from Ohio.
On Monday, we learned my dad is suffering from kidney failure, and his doctor wanted to hospitalize him. It was a difficult, emotional day, made even worse by again being so far from home. I made it through my work day and picked the kids up from school.
Philip had to go into work, so after a brief chat, I took the kids upstairs for their baths. And that’s when the sort of comedy of errors that hallmarked my holiday week began.
The toilet was clogged.
Thankfully, it was just … water, but still. It needed plunging. We have a 100-year-old house with, I swear, 100-year-old plumbing. And I needed a working upstairs toilet for the kids to use in the middle of the night. I debated waiting until they were asleep to plunge, but decided to do it while they were awake instead.
Which meant I stood there. Plunging. Splashing small amounts of technically poop-water on myself and my clothes, while Jack, 5, stood there saying, “Is it all full of poop? That’s a lot of poop, mom.”
Yes, son. Yes it is.
Plunge, plunge, plunge.
Finally it started to work, and I turned and buried my head in a towel, sobbing about my father’s health and, frankly, my poop-water soaked clothes. Gross. Is this my life tonight? Really?
Later that night, Philip came home from work. Vomiting.
He proceded to throw up for about 24 straight hours on Christmas Eve. We stuck him in our finished basement — with his own bathroom — and the kids and I did all the things you do before a holiday. Including baking:
My Grandma Palfy’s nut roll!
Making sugar cookies.
It was mostly a beautiful morning. Except the barfing coming from the basement.
I ran an errand with the kids and started crying on the way, missing my dad and thinking so much about him and the rest of my family. I was grateful for a text from my best friend, after I told her about my evening: “Shitter’s full, Clark,” is all it said. I laughed for about an hour straight every time I thought of it. I’m laughing now.
A friend of ours came over to spend the holiday, and we decided to take the kids for a walk in the new snow. I love snow, I love winter and I love walks, so it was great.
The kids were thrilled, and Jack pushed a shovel around the neighborhood, making crooked paths on all the sidewalks.
I looked at my dog, Harley, a beautiful black Lab-shepherd mix.
“Is that a … worm … coming from my dog’s butt?” I asked my friend.
“I think it is,” he replied.
Yes, friends. It was.
A wiggling, squiggling, disgusting worm. We tried to scoot it off with the tip of a snowy boot.
Another one appeared.
We asked Harley to “sit!”
It reappeared. And then I recalled how about two weeks ago, I had noticed something on him that looked like tinsel. The fact that I don’t decorate with tinsel should have given me a clue, but I didn’t think much else about it. I perhaps also should have taken note that he was begging for food and stealing cookies from the kids — things he has never, ever done in 10 years of living with us. I thought he just woke up a normal, starving black Lab one day.
I went down to the germy basement when we got home and told Philip, “I think Harley has worms.”
“Oh $%^#,” Philip said.
Exactly. A gigantic vet bill was not part of our holiday budget. We decided it didn’t require emergency vet services — clearly he had lived with it for a little while. And so, dear god, had we.
So, I pushed that off to the day after Christmas, shoved the dog outside (which he loves — and he has a doghouse) and went on with my day.
Christmas itself was beautiful. The night before, I admired our beautiful tree and nearly cried when Jack asked me, so earnestly, “Mom, do you think Santa will really come to our house?”
I do, buddy. In the middle of all the sickness and chaos and sadness, there was still time and space for the magic of the holiday.
My mom found this Santa and sleigh for me on eBay and had it shipped — it is identical to one her dad gave her, and that I played with as a kid. We don’t know what happened to that one, but this one is close enough. The sleigh is different, but the reindeer are the same. I love it.
Silent Night. Except the puking from the basement and the gross dog.
Philip woke up Christmas morning feeling much, much better. And after a shower, he was ready for the holiday. The kids were up at 6:15, which I thought was pretty good for Christmas morning. They were thrilled:
Viv and her Raggedy Ann — which we had as kids.
The world’s worst Play-Doh set. Messy! I hate Play-Doh! Thanks Aunt Pam and Uncle John!
Santa was too sick to wrap any gifts for me, but I was thrilled with a running holiday — full of new tights, socks, shirts, water bottles and more socks. And an “Arrested Development” t-shirt.
Two friends came over — and it was a great day. We chose to not share the news of our wormy dog with everyone — after learning it wasn’t contagious (tapeworm) and were grateful for a nice day to keep the dog outside.
“Does your dog just like to be outside?”
“Yes, yes he does.”
I won’t disgust you, but we did get a sample from the dog. Awful. Wiggling, squiggling awfulness.
The day after the holiday included a 7-mile snowy run before dawn, a leisurely breakfast, staying in our sweat pants all morning and sledding all afternoon. And a trip to the vet for the dog (who should stop eating rabbits, apparently). And the news that my dad had agreed to go to the hospital … .
But on the way there, his wife fell down the stairs and broke her arm. Now both of them were in the hospital. (And both are now out.)
Friday I woke up with the flu and slept for 20 straight hours.
Saturday was another pretty good day.
Sunday? Another round of the stomach flu for me.
Today was a new day. I’m at a weight I haven’t seen since 2012 marathon training. I fell off the push-up wagon and stalled at 2,000 since Thanksgiving. My running log is suffering mightily. My best friend had this magical holiday. My sister was in Telluride.
Us? We had the flu. A tapeworm. A digusting clogged toilet and sick parents.
But the most important folks on the holiday were Jack and Viv — and they had a great day. We played games. We ate way too many cookies. We shot Nerf guns everywhere.
And I disinfected everything. Everywhere. Floors, sinks, counters, toilets, and then again. So much disinfecting.
I’m so ready for 2014.