My 17 Pound, 28 Inch Tall Gagmeister

Yesterday morning I took Leta to get her six-month immunizations, her third round of torture, her third dance with potentially lethal diseases. During her second month and fourth month procedures she cried for all of four seconds each time, but yesterday she BAWLED open-mouthed, pausing between screams with a silence that made each subsequent scream unbearable, like the eery silence before a tornado picks up a double-wide and then throws the son of a bitch two miles across town.

Tears puddled underneath her head on the white butcher paper lining the inspection table, and I hugged her arms and held her head in my hands as I let go of my own emotion and cried in rhythm with her tears. Even though I knew that every other child goes through this, I felt like they were picking on Leta and I wanted to punch the nurse in the nose. Isn’t there a more gentle way to deliver the injections, perhaps a pill? Or maybe a blessing in the child’s general direction? Whose brilliant idea was it to protect the world from these diseases by JABBING BABIES WITH NEEDLES? Why are we covering light sockets with protective plastic coverings when doctors everywhere are poking infants with sharp, disease-infested objects? Parenthood makes no sense.

These immunizations always mess with Leta’s sleeping habits and leave her aching all night with a fever that hovers at about 102 degrees. I was worried about this round of immunizations because we had worked so hard to get her to sleep through the night, and for almost two months straight she has slept at least 11-12 hours every night without waking up. Last night she was awake at 2:30, 3:30, 4, 5:30, 6, and finally 6:45 bellowing her discomfort in moans and wails and screeches. I know that she is just a baby and she has no idea what she is doing, but this behavior leads me to believe that she has inherited the Hamilton sick gene. This means that when she is sick the WHOLE WORLD must suffer with her.

I got confirmation of her Hamilton sick gene when at 2:30 AM she made a horrible, ground-shaking gag noise when I tried to give her Infant Tylenol. It was a sound I recognized from childhood, a sound that used to echo off the walls in my house and bounce off the inner core of the Earth when my father was perched over a toilet and dry-heaving his empty stomach out his face.

My father never vomited quietly. When he gagged he gagged with his entire body, his whole torso writhing and twitching to the cadence of dead souls coming out of his mouth in booming stereo surround. He would wake up the whole house in the middle of the night because the family wasn’t allowed to sleep when he was sick. That wouldn’t be fair. It was the loudest noise of my childhood, louder than any severe thunderstorm or locomotive engine, until my brother hit puberty and assumed the legacy of the gaghood. There is no louder noise in this world than a 16-yr-old Hamilton pubescent puking Spaghetti-Oh’s at 5:30 AM on a Monday morning. When my brother was sick all of Western Tennessee wasn’t allowed to sleep.

None of us slept very much last night which isn’t that big of a deal when you consider the fact that I already have a sleeping disorder and don’t sleep much anyway. Last night while listening to Leta moan I thought about how she had peed while lying naked on the scale at the doctor’s office — not just a little pee but a gushing fountain of pee, waterfalls of pee, pee that you usually see flowing out of the mouth of a sculpture in the middle of a public town square. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or to throw in a few pennies and make a wish.

And then I thought about how we have this baby who is half-asleep and moaning in the next room, a kid with flesh and blood and hair and a fully functioning excretory system. I have this baby who sometimes looks like me, who sometimes reminds me of my father. I don’t care that those sometimes are usually mid-gag while waking up a good portion of the world’s Mormon population. Somehow that seems fair.