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The Ballad of Sick Henry '14

Sick Henry 2014 is sick, and he wants the world to know it.

Inside of his small body, his nearly 3-year-old system is playing cruel tricks on his mind, telling him that in order for him to feel better in this moment, it would probably be for the best if he would just hurl a punch at daddy’s groin while biting down hard into his own forearm like it was made of caramel cream.

I am standing at the edge of sanity, at the very beginning of a wilderness, which, once you head out into, you don’t come back, man. You simply move out into the darkness of another realm, of hard winds and unrelenting cruelty, never to return.

OK, that’s a lie; I am standing in my kitchen.

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But, trust me when I assure you that I’m teetering at the edge of everything righteous and good.

Sick Henry ’14 has had a fever, but it hasn’t been one of those undeniable ones or anything. He has spent the past four days passing in and out of slightly balmier temps than usual, but no "emergency room" signs have been glowing down off his little forehead.

He’s been sick, I guess is what I’m trying to say, but not crazy sick, you know? Actually, that’s a bad choice of words when I think about it. Because staring down at him, me in my cloak of perplexed awe, him turning red as the back of his face loads up with blood, I have a small moment of clarity—my first since he turned into an irritated wild animal—in which it occurs to me that he might not be coming back. My son, that is. He might be bonkers for good.

Sick kids are one thing, and they’re never really easy, but you still take care of them because it’s your job and because you love them and because you want/need them to get better so that they feel themselves again and the routine of life that we always take for granted until it’s disrupted can return to its sweet beautiful groove.

Sick Henry in January 2014 is something different altogether, though.

Sick Henry ‘14 has rabies.

He has dementia.

I love this kid with all of my heart and soul, but we are at our wits' end.

SH ‘14 is high on evil street crack, the kind you just eat like Smarties, one after the other, gorging on them with reckless abandon. Tiny fingers pop them back until the moment arrives when you are standing there in front of your family, snot bubbles expanding and popping at the tip of your nose, your bloodshot eyes salivating, and you throw a jab at your dad’s privates before collapsing into a heap on the floor as you attempt to eat your own body.

It has been, without a doubt, the toughest four-day run of parenthood that I have experienced yet. Sick Henry ’14 has lost his mind. And the sheer exhaustion of being down with a bad cold and maybe a bit of virus has led him, just when we thought he was coming out of it, to pull out this 96-hour marathon of terrorism. I can’t beat around the bush. I love this kid with all of my heart and soul, but we are at our wits' end.

You can do a lot for a sick child, but you can’t make him feel better before he feels better. And that just sucks.

My wife and I can’t even look at each other now because it’s there, against all of our better knowledge and wisdom, this glooming illuminated fact that each of us is feeling pure hatred toward the other because, without saying it out loud, we each want that other adult person to take Sick Henry ’14 to a hotel and stay there with him until he either turns back into the feisty, fun kiddo we used to know, or he just up and eats the face off of the only parent there with him in Room 666 down at the Econo Lodge.

There is sympathy too, don’t get me wrong. Deep down inside of my wife and me there is still some sympathetic pangs, some wishing that we could take it all away from him and stick the stupid germs inside our own bodies. But I’d be lying if I told you that it’s still a real strong feeling at this point. It’s there, but it’s a gumdrop in the sea.

Our son has gone insane, and he is dragging us under the waves with him.

I try to talk to Sick Henry ’14 at times, but that’s a freaking joke. The sound of my voice seems to affect him with the same soothing power I might get if I was actually poking his wee ass with a 5-inch lump of molten lava rock. He hears my words and immediately hisses at me and shows fangs (yes, he has grown f-ing fangs) and then does this flop move he has where he hits the deck with a thud and looks up at me with the calculated teary eyes of a hay feverish murderer.

Still, by the by, the love remains.

Our little guy, we have to get him back.

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I pick him up and feel him biting into my finger, but it’s not something that I get overwhelmingly pissed about. I mean, in a way I understand. He doesn’t know what’s happening down in his bones; he just knows he’s not into it at all.

This is love, I tell myself as he wriggles and wrestles me and tries to get me to drop him on the floor. This is love, and this is family. No rest for the wicked, you know?

A few days later, I’ll laugh about all of this.

But there, in that moment, with Sick Henry ’14 in my arms, a grizzly bear cub hammering at my chin with a pretty damn good one-two combination, I wish that I’d been born a breeze somewhere out over the deep dark Atlantic, destined to live out my life far from this afternoon kitchen in Super Crazy Town.

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