Liam requested chicken noodle soup for dinner. Liam doesn’t like soup. Liam came to dinner holding his stomach and didn’t eat his soup. Liam went to bed at 6:00 pm with the giant popcorn bowl, a kiss, and a temperature check. His average body temperature is barely 97 degrees on a good day. He’s about 99 degrees right now, and for Liam that’s a fever. I’m glad my son has a fever.
If my daughter Moira had a fever, I’d have the average parental reaction: bed, rest, barf-bowl if necessary. Actually for Moira I’d do exactly the same things I’ve done for Liam, but I wouldn’t be relieved that she had a viral infection. Liam’s virus is a relief because my already pale kid is just ghostly tonight. His lips are practically colorless, and the top of his tongue is also pale. These things scare me because they could be symptoms of oxygen deprivation, of a clot, of doom. But, thankfully, Liam has a fever and the underside of his tongue is nice and pink. He’s just sick with the same stomach bug that’s been running around his school for a week now. It’s simply his turn for the normal virus.
My friend George, who passed away in April, used to tell me that his mother worried about him every day until she died. Her worry for her heart baby lasted about sixty years. I know that even though Liam is ten, hasn’t had surgery in five years, and will be in college within the next decade, I will always worry. I will always be glad to see a fever. I will always be checking under his tongue for tell-tale color. Though I will relax 90% of the time, 10% of the rest of my life I will worry, and I will be grateful for my fears, and his fevers, and all the symptoms of ordinary illness in this extraordinary journey. Funny how our perspectives are shaped by mountains we’ve climbed. Funny how you can be grateful for a fever.