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It Takes a Village

Against the backdrop of birthday preparations last week, other stuff was percolating. This stuff, which I will get to in a moment, demonstrated to me more than anything that it takes a village—or better still an army—to raise a child.

It all started the week before last, when I had a five-day fever that didn’t end until Yom Kippur was over. This was the same week I learned that my neck was a mess. (PT is helping, by the way, but I still have an appointment with a neurosurgeon in three weeks.) The timing was pretty bad, because I wanted to use that week to get my house in shape before birthday-palooza arrived.

Then, Sunday night, Gabriel called. Agotich had been sick with a fever since Friday night and was refusing to eat or drink. He was looking for parent-to-parent advice until he could get her to the pediatrician the next morning. I wasn’t too concerned about the food, but the lack of fluids made me nervous. I gave him the address of a pediatric immediate care center, he decided to go straight away, and the doctors there immediately referred Agotich to Kosair Children’s Hospital. Turns out, she had an uncommonly severe form of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease that had left her entire mouth and throat covered in ulcers. That’s why she refused to eat or drink, and the two-day fast had left her dehydrated. Poor baby.

So what’s a family with one car, one licensed driver, and a five-month-old baby to do when a second child ends up in the hospital? Anyieth couldn’t go to the hospital with her parents, Alek doesn’t drive yet, and Gabriel couldn’t leave Agotich alone in such strange and stressful surroundings. They needed someone who could pick up Alek and Anyieth, drop off Anyieth somewhere to be watched, take Alek to the hospital, and then reverse things several hours later.

Friends Alier and Yar helped out, Matt and I helped out, and staff at Agotich’s preschool helped out. I’m sure others did too: they had to. Agotich was in the hospital for six days, during which time this family needed the kind of support we lucky ones get from our extended families. How does anyone do this alone? I can’t imagine. My Sudanese friends have friends, siblings, and cousins, but none have parents to help.

I was happy to step in, and I tried not to think about what it boded in the days ahead that I spent several hours on two different days running carpool instead of getting ready to entertain twice. A sick child takes precedence over parties. Nor did I think too much about the time I was spending coordinating a preschool fundraiser that week. Nor did I think too much about the time I spent in physical therapy for my neck. Nor did I think too much about the fact that school was out Thursday and Friday for Sukkot. Nor did I think too much about the fact that last week was my most intense week of fall half-marathon training, with runs of 6, 7, and 13 miles. I even managed to put out my mind the fact that Simon’s swim lesson on Sunday was going to take away precious preparation time.

I can assure you, however, that when I awoke Saturday morning spectacularly unprepared for the days ahead, I thought about all of these things! We were having 12-14 kids at the Louisville Nature Center for Simon’s class party on Saturday and a total of 18 family members for dinner at our house on Sunday. And as of Saturday morning, I had not made party favors; picked up my junk, much less cleaned my house; or gone to the grocery. I was as or more behind preparing for Simon’s parties than I have ever been for anything in my life.

Evie kindly helped out at the kid’s party and brought a key part of Sunday night’s dinner. Matt and Simon ran errands Saturday and Sunday to get ready. And my mother, an army of one in her own right, helped me cook Sunday and even, I’m embarrassed to admit, helped clean my house. The very woman that Alek wants to cook for was, in fact, cleaning my downstairs bathroom hours before guests arrived.

Thankfully, it all worked out. Simon had a fantastic time at both events, and we were graced with perfect fall weather. But man oh man was I pooped Sunday night. More than that, I was grateful for the village that helped me make Simon’s birthday special and that helps me in so many ways all the time. I’m going to be especially mindful of this when I pick up Braylon Wednesday so he and Simon can have a play-date and celebrate each  other’s birthdays (they missed each other’s parties), when I watch Caroline Thursday when school is closed for Shemini Atzeret, and again when I watch Ruby on Friday when school is closed for Simchat Torah.

Call it paying my karmic debt. Call it paying forward. I’m calling it being a villager.

2 Responses to “It Takes a Village”

  1. Amanda says:

    Poor Tich! And her poor parents, they must have been beside themselves with worry. And even if the house had been a wreck and there were no party favors, everyone would have had a wonderful time just being together. YOU get some rest, missy!

  2. blg says:

    Take care of yourself, Jess!

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