Unfortunately, Jet, Oboe and Jem won’t remember how hard their mother worked to produce and rear three children while she pursued her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering so let me make it clear: hard doesn’t begin to describe it. My grandchildren should know that their mother is a real-life feminist heroine of long-standing duration, who soldiered on with quiet grace through physical and mental adversity to excel in work and home, research and motherhood. She endured pregnancy complications, delivery injuries and the unexpected addition of premature twins. She overcame research anomalies, breast-feeding hardships, and colicky babies. She triumphed over mathematical derivations, sleepless nights and early morning alarm clocks.
My husband and I can only watch our daughter slog toward the finish line with awe, frustrated by how little we can do to help. “Grandma, why don’t you let mommy and Aunt Mary live here any more?” Jet asked. If only she knew how much we wished we could bring her mommy home and take care of her for just a little while!
We hoped to alleviate a bit of pressure by inviting Jet to sleep overnight Sunday and Monday night. Jet loves sleepovers, thanks in no small part to the opportunity to stay up late and watch a movie with Grandma and Papa. It’s the only time we let her watch a TV screen, which makes it even more special. She chose The Little Mermaid the first night. Jet was not at all impressed by Ariel’s decision to disobey her father. “She’s not a very good girl, is she? Why did she go out by herself?” She found much of the plot unfathomable: “Why doesn’t she have legs?” “Why does that shark want to eat her?” “Why doesn’t she know it’s a fork?” “Why does that witch want to take her voice?” I must admit we were all ready for bed when the movie ended!
The next night I made popcorn. Jet was thrilled to munch her way through a substantial helping. The Sound of Music turned out to be a better choice, but was a little too long to finish in one night. When Jet spread her blanket on the floor to “rest,” I asked if she’d like to go to bed. The promise that we’d finish the movie the next day was all she needed to acquiesce. Jet is that rare child who understands how to delay gratification.
An hour later our house was rent by piercing screams. Channeling Miss Clavell from Madeline, Jet’s Papa and I — sincerely afraid of disaster — ran fast — and faster! We found Jet huddled over her bed, hair dragging in the contents of her stomach. She had no words to express her horror and disgust, but her tear-streaked face told the story. Perhaps popcorn wasn’t the best idea after all.
With clean sheets, clean pajamas and a bowl “just in case,” Jet went back to sleep for another hour or so, only to wake a little too late to find the bowl. I gave her a partial bath while Papa replaced the sheets again. This time her special blanket fell victim. “Get it off, get it off,” she begged. She wanted her special blanket back no matter how wet, but was eventually persuaded that Grandma’s dry, clean blanket would be cozier.
Prudence required that her esophagus remain vertical for a while, so went back to the couch for some cartoon offerings on Netflix. By 3:00 a.m. I felt pretty sure the popcorn was not the only problem despite the absence of a fever. Jet handled her continuing gastric distress with incredible aplomb, reaching calmly for the bowl and hitting the mark every time throughout the night. She is definitely her mother’s daughter!
Tuesday morning found us both exhausted. Papa ran to the drugstore for Pedialyte and an anti-nausea prescription and Jet was able to eat some toast and part of a banana. We watched the rest of the Sound of Music. “Why are you letting me watch this, Grandma?”
“Because you are sick, sweetie. It’s okay to watch movies when you are not feeling well because you really can’t do anything else.”
“I think I could take a nap.”
“You want to take a nap? Now?” Jet nodded, but sleep eluded her and she had to empty her stomach yet again.
“Can you read to me?” We snuggled together on the couch, bowl at the ready.