The day after I brought the children home for good, Craig had a fever. I didn’t know what to do and neither did Joy, my childless sister. So I called my new boss.
“He’s really hot.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m touching him.”
“Do you have a thermometer?”
“Buy a digital one. And get some Pedialyte.”
“It’s a medicine that prevents dehydration. Then take him to the doctor.”
I took Craig to the emergency room. He was so weak, his head bobbed like a toy doll. The admitting nurse said,
“What have you given him?”
“What do you mean?” I wasn’t sick. Whatever he got, it wasn’t from me.
“Medicine, what medicines have you given him?” A few nurses drew closer.
“Nothing. I don’t have any medicine.”
“You’re supposed to give sick kids medicine,” she announced through a 45-watt ThunderPower 1000 bullhorn.
The circle drew in. Should we call Social Services? Who is this idiot?
“I just got him yesterday. I didn’t think he’d be sick.”
I took Craig to the doctor many times over the next months. He was constantly feverish. When he was ill, he slept with me so I could make sure he was still living. His body was no larger than a snow crab and half as strong. I worried that if I put my arm around him, I’d make it hard for him to breathe, so I moved his crib into my bedroom. We’d wait it out in there until he was sturdier.
In the meantime, people at work told me that their two-year-olds could calculate the square root of 169 or design relay stations for the electric company. Craig was behind, let’s say. I decided to teach him numbers and letters. How hard could that be? I drew a 2.
He drew a crooked dash.
I drew a C, the first letter of his name.
He drew two crooked dashes. His brain was scattered. Special ed. He communicated in Morse code like a seaman on the Lusitania, unaware of the torpedoes society shoots at children like him. I worried about his future. Should I work harder to go higher in the corporate world and make more money to get Craig lifelong help?