My wife Kate and I look forward to Thanksgiving all year because it is the holiday that combines food and family…something we both love…though I’m partial to food (sorry family). Every other year we spend the holiday with Kate’s family in St. Louis which means there are tons of kids running around, multiple turkeys in the ovens, hundreds of relatives and friends, and general family awesomeness. This year we were especially looking forward to it as our oldest son (Max) is almost 3 and can run with the big boys now without needing constant supervision. Our youngest (Dodge) is 9 months and there would be so many people who wanted to hold the baby that Kate and I could drink and feel like real people for just one day. It was going to be magical…but things didn’t go to plan.
Max was so excited to stay in a hotel that he couldn’t contain himself. On Tuesday morning he asked me as I headed out the door to the office if we were going to go to the hotel. ”Not yet buddy, after your nap we’ll pack up the car and drive to the hotel.” Max ran upstairs immediately, read himself a book, and promptly tucked himself in for a nap at a little after 8 AM…5 hours before his regular nap time. We got to Kansas City that night and checked in to the hotel before heading to a Wichita State basketball game and leaving the kids with a sitter. Max was eating room service in bed and watching cartoons while Kate and I chugged beers at the Sprint Center as we watched the Shockers win the CBE Hall of Fame Tournament. It was a great night and everybody got what they wanted! That was when the fun ended.
When Kate shook me awake the next morning I could tell it was going to be a rough day. The double Makers Mark on the rocks from 2 AM with a Coors Lite chaser at The Quaff Bar & Grill had left my head split in two and Kate wanted to hit the road within the hour. So…Dada rallied. I rallied hard. Shower, breakfast, Advil, checkout, valet, and on the road in 45 minutes. Nice. My headache ebbed somewhere around Columbia and it was clear, vacation had begun!
We arrived at the St. Louis hotel before the rest of the family and checked in to discover they did not have adjoining rooms as we had requested. On one hand this meant privacy from my mother and father-in-law while on the other it meant more space and extra hands to help with the kids. I’ll take extra hands and a party over privacy any day so I set about negotiating with the nice woman at the front desk. The hotel was under renovation so some rooms were vacant but slated to be revamped the following week. I was able to finagle a deal with the older rooms to get a king bed in one room for the in-laws and 2 double beds in the other for me, Kate, Max, and Dodge. Sure they weren’t the 2 queen beds we requested which would have been better…but who cares! Its vacation! When we went into the room it was obvious why they were renovating…the room was pretty rough around the edges and I said, “Who cares, it’s just a place to sleep at night…we’re going to be out and about all day.” Kate agreed, “Who cares.” Famous last words.
The following morning, Thanksgiving Day, I awoke with the stomach flu. Kate thought I was just being a wuss from the hangover the previous morning, rallying, and then drinking with the family Wednesday night. Nope…something was severely wrong. Having spent my life battling various issues with my gastrointestinal tract, stomach bugs hit me hard. I wasn’t going anywhere that day no matter how hard I tried, and by 2 PM it was obvious I was going to miss Thanksgiving dinner. I cried. Yes…I cried. I tossed and turned in my double bed (which I’m too big for) with fever dreams of gravy-laden turkey legs, Iowa corn, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie as tears rolled down my face. I was a grown man crying over food. I told Kate to leave me, that she should take the kids to Uncle Shaun’s house and have fun. Then she locked eyes with me, set Dodge down on the floor, and ran to the bathroom just in time to make a kneeling donation of her own to our reverse Thanksgiving feast.
We spent all Thanksgiving Day taking turns in our Holiday Inn bathroom that desperately needed to be renovated. The sagging wallpaper that had once been a funny joke was now a reminder that we were in hell. ”Who cares!” Ha! Friday was slightly better but we were weak with dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. The boys were fine however. The family began to speculate that it must be food poisoning since only the two of us had it while they and the boys were fine. The consensus was that it was the homemade venison jerky my uncle Carl had given me in Kansas City…a treat I look forward to all year. I refused to throw it away and insisted that it had to be something else…but no one else was sick. ”It must be food poisoning.” I almost cried again over loss of food.
On Friday I managed to eat 3 bites of eggs and half a pancake before going for a walk in the Laumeier Sculpture Park next to the hotel. That night we had a little gathering at the indoor pool of the hotel for those brave enough to visit. I washed my hands profusely just in case. I had a little left over turkey (cold) and drank 1 light beer. I felt better…not 100%, but better. We had planned to stay till Sunday and either catch the Shockers play in St. Louis or the Chiefs play in KC, but after 60 hours of living in that damn Holiday Inn with one excursion to IHOP and one 20 minute walk in the park I was ready to call it quits and just go home. We raised the white flag, packed the car, and started driving west down I-70 first thing Saturday morning.
Somewhere west of St. Louis and east of anything else Kate and I both heard it…a sound only a parent knows. It’s the sound of your child’s stomach about to wretch. ”Kate!” I shouted as she turned around to try to get a plastic bag in front of Max who was dead asleep. It was as if someone turned on a sprinkler in the back seat of my car…my beautiful car. Only the sprinkler didn’t send water across the leather seats and wood-grained dash…it sprayed eggs, potatoes, french toast, milk, orange juice, and of course…maple syrup in all directions as my poor sweet little 2-year-old woke up in horror. Why did we give him french toast that morning? Why? I’ll never be able to smell it again. Max’s poor stuffed animal “Muffin” the bunny rabbit took the brunt of the puke. The rest was actually pretty well contained to his clothes and of course every crease and crevasse of his car seat. In all truth, I could care less about getting a little kid-puke in the car and was more concerned for my little man. He was a champ. Plus, now I knew it wasn’t the venison jerky!
We pulled off at a truck stop immediately and Max stood by the car totally terrified where both Kate and I comforted him and explained he had done nothing wrong. I went inside and bought…
- 2 rolls of paper towels
- 1 industrial size wet-wipes container
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 64 oz Mountain Dew trucker mug
- 1 Powerade
- 1 Banana
- As many plastic bags as the man at the counter would give me
Kate took Max and Muffin inside to get rinsed off while I removed french toast bits from the car. Most of the trouble makers were in the car seat so I pulled the cushions and wiped everything down. Okay…not bad. Max came back in new clothes and felt right as rain but we knew that wouldn’t last. Some college kids pulled in next to us and vacated the car in disgust as their dog had just puked in the back seat. Apparently I-70 is the Pukeway to Hell. Their dog had gotten into a bag of pork rinds that hadn’t settled well with the little fella. Kate laughed at them in understanding and motioned to me cleaning the car, the soaking wet stuffed animal, the car seat in dismay…the college kid said, “You win.” Yay! We win the Puke-a-thon! We piled back in the car and taught Max that if he felt his tummy get ouchy again to put his chin into the 64 oz Mountain Dew mug and let er rip. He puked 3 more times between St. Louis and Kansas City and passed out with the mug in his lap where “Muffin” should have been instead. He was yet again a champ!
We pushed on through to Wichita despite the plan to spend the night in KC…ragged and weary we stumbled back home where we had the hardest conversation ever with a 2-year-old…explaining why he can’t have any dinner before bed other than a little more Powerade and a few crackers. Though he put up a fight he was exhausted and asleep in his own bed hugging a bowl before his head ever hit the pillow. Dodge cried all night and vomited the next morning. We were officially all sick. Yay!!!
Being sick sucks. Being sick when you have to care for kids sucks even more. Everyone being sick at the same time sucks more that the previous suck, and having it all happen over Thanksgiving and missing out on all the fun, food, and family is like the Turducken of sucks. It’s a sucks, inside a sucks, inside a suuuuucks! So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for family that doesn’t mind getting sick with you to help take care of kids, adjoining hotel rooms, Powerade, Immodium, interior car detailing, my wife for taking care of me before she got sick, and my kids for being amazing once they got sick. Turkey and gravy is nice…but family is better, and I’m thankful I got to spend Thanksgiving with my family…albeit in a Holiday Inn bathroom in Saint Louis.
The family photo in the park…my 20 minutes of freedom from Holiday Inn.
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