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AustinMama offers up some Daddy props.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Helpless Holiday

I donít know how things are where you are reading this, but where Iím writing, itís the worst year for influenza since about 1960. In fact, I was all set to write this monthís column about the joys of being broke at Christmas and planning to make as many homemade gifts as possible (Hey, hang on a minute, injects my ever patient editor, isnít that the same column you gave me last year?), when the local bug came and slammed me upside the head with all the subtlety of a White House press statement. I havenít been this sick in at least a decade.

Now that I can finally shake some of the phlegm out of my head, I find I am still broke, havenít made most of the elaborate gifts I intended to, and itís way too late to get the rest of this stack of Christmas cards in the mail. Of course, the biohazard signals coming from our front door have simplified our social schedule, and that means we donít have to share all those cookies we made. Actually, between them and the fact that I haven't had any appetite for two weeks, we've saved a grocery bundle. I also seem to have just barely emerged from under the dark cloud in time for my family to visit from out of town. And, like most unpleasant experiences, while itís certainly been no picnic being sick, it has at least been instructive.

It started with Hugh getting sick. One minute he was busy and happy and at least three handfuls, and the next he was flopped on the couch looking glassy eyed and feverish. Heartbreaking for any parent, that moment, and like anyone else I slapped on the TV and started fetching him a succession of requested meals that he wouldnít eat. He looked smaller, hollow somehow, and I was briefly zany with sure- let-me-fetch-it-for-you. The next day I was flopped beside him, using the remote on automatic pilot. The universe shrank to a little zone of pain about a foot or two in radius, and I circumnavigated the house mostly by memory. Thank all the gods for the Discovery Channel, and the seventy hours of varied dinosaur specials Iíve amassed with their help. We watched them all. Twice, I think. It seemed to keep Hugh's mind off the painfully slow speed with which I could crawl off the couch for a glass of juice at that point, like the time-lag in communication between Houston and the Moon. Oh sure, Hugh, let me get...




Keefe only caught the edge of it this time, enough to sound like a long term smoker, but not enough to keep him away from the school play heíd been looking forward to. Jan, surprisingly, kept it at bay completely, more or less, in the midst of late nights every day at work and double duty once she got home. And really, itís the two of them that are the biggest Christmas present in all of this. I got to stop cooking three or more meals a day, doing all the housework, and the rest; got to stop everything, really. I got more sleep in the last two weeks than in any two month period in the last four years, I think. Jan got a bunch of the Christmas cards out without me, and Keefe stayed home a couple of days to fetch and carry so that I could concentrate on moaning and hacking up green oysters. After all of the pitched battles weíve had over picking up a pair of socks or putting away a couple of dishes, he got up to the bat when I needed him and provided real help without any overt icing of resentment. Thereís hope! Hahaha, Iím giddy with it!

And now the holidays. Moving very slowly, Iíve returned doggedly to my goal of having the hallway painted and a gallery of family pictures hanging therein. Jan and the boys dragged out the steam cleaner and guck-sucked all the chairs, and our humble home is looking pretty spiffy. Having been as helpless as an infant for a while, Iíve seen in no uncertain terms that Iím loved, that the household can endure without me for at least a while, and how much my return is appreciated. So what if the only thing Hugh wanted from Santa for six months (a yangchuanosaurus, if youíre curious) was still on back order from the local paleowarehouse come Christmastime? At this moment, Iím sure there isnít much we canít handle gracefully. And Iíve still got lots of cool ideas left over for birthdays to come.


Michael Nabert is a Canadian writer who loves to talk and sing, and writes mainly about parenting, the art of wooing and paleontology. Widely traveled, with an opinion about everything, his friends often describe him as having "a deplorable excess of character." He is currently stay-at-home dad to Hugh and Keefe.  Send feedback for Michael to: poprocks@austinmama.com


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