by Mike Todd
“Love u…Gunfight,” my wife Kara texted me last week, her phone’s spellchecker taking some Second-Amendment liberties with her attempt to wish me a good night.
“Gunfight to you too, babe,” I replied, clicking off the lamp in the hotel room.
I don’t have to travel for work very often, but that week had me scheduled for two trips, abandoning Kara to juggle our two kids with her own work schedule. Every time one of us gets ditched, we develop an appreciation for single parents that borders on incredulity.
“How do single parents do this?” I will ask, unshowered and starving, cradling a screaming baby while a screaming three-year-old demands pancakes.
But Kara was doing just fine without me. She’d picked the kids up from daycare and gotten them through the evening routine without an issue.
Then some issues happened.
The stomach flu that had been making the rounds at daycare finally paid our house a visit.
“Knock, knock! Who wants some violent gastrointestinal distress?” it said.
You don’t need all the details, but if your washing machine is running at 3 a.m., as ours was, nothing good is happening in your house.
Just before my big presentation the next morning, I received this text: “Both kids up barfing all night. Had to stay home from work. Great timing!”
“Whew! Dodged that bullet!” I texted back. No, that is not what I said, which is why I am still alive.
“I need you to come home. Can you get on another plane? How long is the drive?” Kara asked later that day, sounding frazzled and worn-out.
I stood on the sidewalk in Greensboro, NC, trying to think of a way to get home sooner than my 5:55 a.m. flight the next morning. There wasn’t one. Even driving would have only gotten me home a few hours sooner, and I didn’t have unlimited miles on the rental car. It would have been cheaper to hire a private jet.
The next day, the kids were feeling better. I got home just in time to take them so that Kara could finally have a few moments to herself, moments that she spent in the bathroom, barfing.
That was Thursday. On Friday, I was scheduled to go to New York City early, getting home in time to pick up the kids from daycare. On Saturday, we were having Zack’s first birthday party at our house. We knew the week would be crazy but manageable. That was before our family went viral.
At 5 a.m. on Friday morning, Kara moaned in bed as I got out of the shower.
“Babe, I have to be on the 6:30 train to New York. Daycare doesn’t open until 7:30. Can you take them?” I asked.
“Uuuuuggghhh,” she replied.
“I already made their food. Maybe you could just drop them off and come back to rest? That could work,” I said.
“HWAAAARF!” she replied, in rebuttal.
It’s really hard to negotiate with someone whose head is in a trash can. Unable to foist the kids on Kara again, I took the kids to daycare myself and caught a later train, sliding headfirst into my lunchtime meeting.
That night, sanity returned to our house, as much as it ever does. Everyone was feeling almost 100% again.
“OK, let’s have a party!” I said, relieved that the weeks of preparation, including the cauldron of turkey BBQ that Kara’s mom had prepared, wouldn’t be wasted.
“I really hope you don’t get sick, too,” Kara said.
“Don’t worry about me. I have the immune system of a water buffalo,” I replied.
After napalming every surface of the house with disinfectant, Kara set about putting the finishing touches on the cake masterpiece she’d been creating.
The cake was a big hit. People really enjoyed it. At least from what I could hear from the bathroom.