The weekend before this one just past my husband and I took turns with the flu. Kindly, he went first. Not so kindly, he made a couple unsuccessful trips to the bathroom, leaving behind a very unpleast mess to clean up. He managed to spew on every wall and fixture.
Fast forward to this past weekend. Saturday night our thirteen year old grandson went to bed early, complaining of a queasy stomach. He made one trip to the bathroom, seemingly emptying his belly completely, he flushed away, and put the lid on the toilet down (as is the rule at his house). The problem came when on his second trip he could not get the lid up quickly enough or even have time to turn and aim for the sink or tub.
May I just say, I have never seen such a mess, in either quantity or dispersement. And I have no words for the smell.
Then, I was awakened Sunday morning by one of dogs wretching off the foot of our bed. He made a rather thorough mess of things, too.
All I could think was, “Really, God. I need this, why?”
This morning, after dropping my grandson off at school, I headed to my favorite coffee spot and writing place. I no sooner had my coat off when my phone rang. Sigh. The grandson. What did he forget this time?
When I answered the phone, I knew I was on speaker—I could hear the laughter and noise in the background. Through laughter my grandson finally asked “Mema, legit, did I puke all over the bathroom this weekend?”
“Yeah, buddy, it was the worst puke I’ve ever cleaned up.”
“Thanks. See…” And the line went dead as hysterical laughter broke out.
Only a group of 13 yr old boys could enjoy a story like that and be congratulatory. He was so proud of himself. And for one moment I forgot how awful a mess it had been to clean up.
I will confess, I was laughing, too. I quickly texted his mother and let her know what a hoot her son was. She responded right back a message filled with laughing emojis. He had been bragging to his gamer friends about the event as well.
The whole thing reminded me of a conversation I had with Eddie Jones (writer and CEO of Lighthouse of the Carolinas at a writers conference. I was telling him how much I appreciated his books for middle grade boys. He waxed a bit philosophical, and then said making sure each story included farts, puke, and practical jokes was his ticket to success. “You have to know your audience.”
So, dear audience, what can we take from this gross, yet for some hysterical set of circumstances. I can think of three things.
First, puke happens. It’s not pleasant in the moment, but we always tend to feel better when it’s over. Sometimes we need to let the roiling fear, anger, or grief out to feel better and be able to move on.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. The laughing group of thirteen year old boys reminded: you can even laugh about the grossest stuff of life. There will always be enough sadness to go around, but learning to find the humor is a solid way to pull yourself out of the downward spiral sadness tries to suck us into.
And remember to thank (profusely) the person who has to clean up your mess. Over and over my grandson apologized to me. And over and over I tried to assure him that I knew he didn’t plan on the mess. I believe his contrite and sincere apology was what enabled me to laugh after his verification phone call. His previous appreciation for what I endured in the extensive clean project enabled me laugh along with him and his buddies instead of thinking that he was making fun or laughing at me.
Who knew you could learn so much the negative consequences of the stomach flu?
But really, I think I learned enough to satisfy me for a very…very long time.