The call came in before the crack of dawn; 4:06 to be exact. It caused me to jump out of bed and stand at immediate attention. I didn’t even pause to yawn or rub my eyes. Being on call isn’t always pleasant but it comes with the job.
I was being summoned. And, the truth is, it felt good to be needed. After all, that’s one of the reasons I took this job in the first place.
Grabbing my bathrobe, I sprinted across the house at lightening speed. I passed the bathroom and felt a sudden urge to go but I didn’t stop. I waved at the coffee maker as I went by, desperately wanting to hit the “brew” button. But there would be plenty of time for caffeine later.
Emily, my nine-year old patient, moaned as I approached. Instinctively, I reached down and touched her forehead.
“It’s okay, Sweetie, Mommy’s here,” I whispered. I Flipped on the lamp and looked into my daughter’s eyes, which were droopy and bloodshot.
“I cat breed,” she said, stuffy-nosed.
“You can’t breathe?” I repeated. “I’ll be right back with some water and medicine. We’ll unplug that naughty nose.” I braced myself for protests. Emily couldn’t stand the taste of cold medicine, except for one particular flavor. A flavor I knew we didn’t have in the house.
“Id it bubble gub?” Emily croaked.
I tried to stall. “I’ll see what I can find.” I raced to the kitchen, praying for a bottle of bubble gum flavored cold medicine to magically appear in the cupboard. I kicked myself for not replacing it before Emily actually got sick.
I opened the cupboard and took a moment to stare at all of the various medicine bottles. The only cold medicine that stared back at me read, "CHERRY," the yuckiest of all yucky medicines.
I love my daughter very much. I hated seeing her sick. I wanted more than anything to give her what she desired, which was bubble gum flavored medicine! Perhaps because it was so ridiculously early, or maybe because I was coming down with something myself, I grabbed a stick of bubble gum from the candy box and stuffed it inside of the cherry medicine bottle. I shook it vigorously, hearing it click-clack against the plastic.
Cautiously, I took off the cap and peered inside. The stick was now covered in thick, red liquid. I dug through the utensil drawer for a medicine cup and poured exactly two teaspoons full. I sniffed the contents. Hmmm. Not bad.
A muffled moan came from the bedroom. I quickly filled a glass with water and hurried back to my daughter’s side.
“Here you go, Honey.” I sank onto the bed and helped her into a sitting position.
“Id it bubble gub?” She looked at me as hopefully as a little girl with a nasty cold could.
I smiled and hoped I looked reassuring. “It is now.”
Skeptically, she raised the cup to her lips. As she drained it, I frowned, thinking that it had been a while since she’d eaten. I suddenly recalled a night two years before when Emily had taken cherry cold medicine on an empty stomach.
It hadn’t ended well.
As if in slow motion, Emily scrunched up her nose and closed her eyes. She shivered and made a weird face. Then, before I could retrieve the cup or move out of the way, the medicine reappeared. Only there was a lot more of it this time.
Simultaneously, my daughter and I broke into tears. She felt bad for throwing up all over me and I felt horrible for providing her with the medicine that caused it. What kind of mother forgets how her child reacts to cherry cold medicine on an empty stomach? (and what kind of lunatic thinks a stick of chewing gum will change the flavor?)
I changed the sheets (and my clothes) while my groggy husband went out in search of real bubble gum cold medicine. After propping Emily up in bed I pulled her into a hug.
“Forgive me?” I asked.
“Ob court,” she said.
Emily’s forgiveness came forth as quickly as the medicine had earlier. What a remarkable daughter I have!
She called me several times throughout the next few nights while the cold took its course. Like I said, being on call isn’t always pleasant but it’s part of the job.
And “Mommy” is a job I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
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