This is the shirt I had picked out for St. Patrick’s Day 2014.
I had no idea how prophetic this shirt would turn out to be.
It was 3 am on Saturday morning when I woke from a deep slumber—my stomach was grumbling in protest. I lay wondering if a stomach bug was taking hold—or worse yet—could “The Best Chicken Tenders on Earth” be to blame?Perhaps the chicken was undercooked, I thought?
Perhaps the mashed potatoes were littered with bacteria?
As the clock struck 4 and my stomach settled back down, I realized it was nothing more than my body trying to recuperate from my gorging. I had eaten enough Tully’s takeout to make William “Refrigerator” Perry blush, and my stomach was not pleased.
I was grateful for not throwing up, as my wife and I were planning to enjoy the St. Patrick’s day parade. Wyatt was scheduled to spend the day with his aunt and a friend.
The relief didn’t last long as I was quickly woken at 5 am.
“What’s going on?” I mumbled as my wife sprung from the bed and ran into our son’s room.
“Wyatt!” she blurted, “are you OK?”
There was Wyatt—keeled over with his hands on his knees—his head rotating on a swivel like a possessed demon. The kid was blowing half-digested artichoke dip from his mouth like Davey “Lardass” Hogan from Stand By Me.
Genevieve sought shelter behind the toy chest as chewed-up cheese sticks were recalled from his belly and launched out of his mouth like bullets from an AK-47.
The aftermath was a horrific scene. Blankets and pillows were covered in Wyatt’s grayish and lumpy vomit. The once pearly-white carpet had been permanently marked, and the resale value of my home plummeted with his every gag.
It was like a war zone. The stench of death was in the air and I could hear the cries of orphaned babies in the distance.
At first, my wife was incredibly noble. She lunged toward the mounds of barf like a young war hero covering up a grenade for her comrades. She seemed willing to absorb the burden so that at least one of us could continue on with a normal life.
“Mmmmm…,” she moaned, “mmmm…nnnnn…eeewwww!” she screamed as the acidic fumes burned her eyes.
“Ahh!… No!… No!” she bellowed as her head shook from side to side. She sped from the room with her hands covering her mouth.
“I will do it!” I screamed, “Run! Save yourself!”
The boy’s gut-porridge stunk of hot garbage dipped in diarrhea. It was unimaginable.
With nothing but an old crock pot and paper towels at my disposal, I battled the regurgitated matter for twenty minutes, fighting back my own reflex with clenched teeth and puffy cheeks. Wyatt looked on from his bed, seemingly amazed at his father’s bravery.
"Wolverines!” I shouted as my hands scooped up pile after pile of chunk-riddled puke.
“Wyatt…,” I mumbled under my breath as my body finally gave out and I collapsed to the floor.
“Dad?” whispered the concerned boy.
“Avenge me!” I screamed with my remaining breaths, “Avenge me!”
“Huh?” asked a confused Wyatt, “Can I have some water?”
After pulling myself together, I guided the youngster downstairs to get him cleaned up—only to find his mother curled up in the corner of our dining room, rocking back and forth with her thumb in her mouth.
“Tick tock,” she mumbled incoherently, “Tick tock”.
“What are you saying?” I asked.
“Tick tock,” she replied with wide and disoriented eyes.
“What does that mean?”
“Tick tock…tick tock” she continued.
“I don’t understand…the clock?” I countered.
“His barf…” she whispered, “it was in a clock pattern…every hour he shall barf again…”
Apparently she needs to stop watching The Hunger Games about as much as I need to lay off Red Dawn.
She snapped out of her trauma-induced trance to help get the kid cleaned up and put all his linens in the washing machine.
We knew we were in trouble for the St. Patty’s day parade.
“Maybe it’s just a fluke,” I offered, “maybe in a couple hours he’ll feel perfectly fine.”
Genevieve stayed downstairs with him on the couch, with a newly labeled barf bucket nearby.
It was only 6 am when I was woken by the next round of retching—I clenched my eyes tight in denial as I heard the vomit splash into the desecrated popcorn bowl by his side. I pretended not to hear as my wife tended to the boy downstairs.
At 7 am, it was more of the same. Genevieve’s prophecy had unfolded before us.
Alas, I knew the day was ruined. Just like the last time he got sick, Wyatt would cost me a glorious day of binge drinking.
As the day moved toward lunchtime, and Facebook updates started to funnel in with pictures of our friends having a great time at the parade, I decided to man up.
“Honey, why don’t you go without me?” I offered to my wife.
“I couldn’t do that…I wanted us to go together,” she assured me.
But by 2 o’clock, it turns out she could do that—and she would do that. Now I know how Jack Dawson felt after the Titanic sank, after Rose practically pushed his ass off that piece of wood.
All kidding aside, I wanted to stay behind with the boy and be the care-taker for once in my life.
Honestly, I can’t say that I did too much. I was mostly oblivious to his needs.
I fed him Golden Grahams for dinner and poked him a few times while he slept to make sure he didn't die on my watch. That was about it.
So you can imagine my surprise when on Sunday morning Wyatt said, “Thanks for taking care of me, Dad.”
And with those words, watching eight hours of Investigation Discovery during Parade Day didn’t seem so bad after all.