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Suburban Island

School Clinic
Thursday, Mar. 13, 2003, 8:14 p.m.

Question: What is the cumulative effect of one sick kid calling from the school clinic?

What I Learned: The road to the big city is strewn with everyday obstacles.

Yesterday was a downtown day for me but it took a while to get out of the house and head for the city. Because I knew I was attending a conference that would only require me to rotate as I wished through a string of kind-of-boring/amazingly-not-boring-at-all presentations, I may have gotten a little too flexible with my schedule. Maybe I asked for it by driving out of my way to stop at my favorite little mom and pop coffee shop to start. Maybe itís just the part about having kids. I am not sure.

All I can say is that I was feeling pretty good as I drove down the highway listening to talk radio and sipping on a nice large coffee. I was almost into town when my cell phone rang. Who could it be? My dad Ė heís a morning person. Itís always nice to hear from Dad. But itís not Dad. My best friend - maybe she thinks sheíll catch me on the road. She is such a good friend to think of me this morning. But itís not her either. My local best pal Ė checking in for a chat about whatever is interesting to discuss at the moment. That could keep my mind well occupied. But no, it was not to be.

Who was it then?

My son. More than that, it was my son calling from the school clinic. Even worse, it was my son calling from the school clinic because he is not feeling well and needs me to come get him.

I find phone calls made from school clinics to be tricky things. Is the kid really sick or is the ever prevalent garden-variety big-test-day-stress effect making him feel unwell? How sick? Sick, but can make it through the day orÖ sick, and must come home immediately? What are the symptoms? And always - can you explain that again? The symptoms as described on the phone by a kid in the clinic can sound kind of vague and benign on one hand and yet have the potential to be wildly alarming on the other. I need to run through them several times to get a true picture of the illness factor involved.

For instance, ďI feel sick and I think I need to come home,Ē might mean: I may have a stomach ache or conversely - I think itís the plague. The unspoken bottom line of this is always the same - I am not sure and you know what Ė youíll never know for sure either unless you come down here, sign me out, and bring me home. I may need some major sick care including temperature taking, pillow fluffing, soup making, and doctor calling. I may suddenly perk right up, plop myself down on the sofa, ask for some lunch, and declare I feel a whole lot better now and can I have a friend over when school letís out.

And itís true. I will never know the real deal until I pick up and deliver the invalid back to home sweet home.

Itís a coin toss and I know it but I hang up my cell, find the nearest exit off the road to the grown up world beckoning just beyond the bridge and head out to the school to retrieve my kid.

I am sworn to do my motherly duty Ė and do it I will. The conference could wait another hour or two but the coffee Ė it didnít hold out the length of the drive back home.

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