Have you ever committed to a particular course of action only to have the universe unleash such a hot blast of calamity that you have no choice but to imagine the gods enthusiastically pissing all over your plans?
It started last Sunday.
Let me tell you how last week panned out.
As you know, Llew’s job ceases to exist this Friday. We’ve decided to take what is effectively his Long Service Leave entitlement (in Australia, you become eligible for LSL after 10 years of service to the one employer; LSL entitles you to 3-months’ paid leave), which forms a significant part of his redundancy payout. This decision is considered quite radical in some quarters; the ‘sensible’ thing to do is have Llew start pounding the pavement looking for a job while we subsist on packet soup and water crackers, using his payout to keep the mortgage ticking along while spending as little of the rest of it as possible. Now is not the time to be taking a trip, so goes the strident naysayer argument. And it’s a compelling argument – I hear it in my own head, quite insistently at times – so we do see the sense in being financially conservative when our future is uncertain.
But there’s also the argument that says we need a break – and we genuinely do. It’s a valid counter position. We’ve not had time off together for a year. I’m exhausted and I know Llew is too. As a couple, we’re shadows of our former selves – we need it. Also he’s been accruing this leave by working for the man in battery hen conditions for NINE AND A HALF YEARS, and personally I feel he should be allowed to take it (okay, so my own interests are served here too, no question, but regardless he’s entitled to this time off as stipulated by the laws of the land). And he’s entitled to take it without copping flak.
So. We’re taking it. We’re doing it. We’re going. We’re hoping to rent out our apartment for six months, travel for three to four and then contemplate our future from the granny flat below Llew’s parents’ house.
Sounds great? Well yes, it is great and I can’t wait, but on the road to last Sunday, I was getting pretty antsy about the plane ticket situation. My thinking went like this: we want to use all our Frequent Flyer miles, we haven’t left much lead time for booking, and we’re heading straight into the northern hemisphere peak season… so, um, don’t we need to move it? My anxiety kept compounding because I also couldn’t understand Llew’s reluctance to book. We had a date that didn’t seem to be changing (mid-May for leaving Australia) and the first part of the itinerary agreed, so what the fuck was the impediment? Emotionally, I think Llew’s refusal to commit quickly and comprehensively eroded my confidence that the trip would ever happen – and I think that in amidst all the uncertainty, I was looking for something solid: a departure date, a flight number, a confirmed booking. Something definite to counteract all the unknowns. So when Llew started manically drawing up a world map on a sheet of paper last Sunday morning – ostensibly so that he could study all possible routes, something he has never, ever done before – I just plain lost it. He was still stalling, and I couldn’t take it anymore.
It was one of those arguments (Master J mercifully slept in his room through the whole thing) that are almost surreal. You can’t believe the other person is serious and you just can’t seem to get to a place where you’re at least speaking a common tongue. Everything escalates because it’s so easy to feel hysterical when nothing that’s happening makes any sense.
“What’s really going on here?” Llew probed, in his particularly infuriating, condescending camp counsellor voice. “Is something else going on here that I don’t know about?”
“YES,” I screamed, slapping my face and pulling my hair. “I’M FUCKING FRUSTRATED OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND – FUUUUCK!!!!”
And then I burst into tears.
“I just feel like it’s not even for real,” I blubbed. “Are we going or aren’t we? I can’t take it anymore. I need to be able to believe in this holiday. I’m trying so hard to stay calm about everything that’s happening, I’m doing the best I can not to stress out, but I’m a total passenger at the moment. I’m trying – and it’s completely out of character for me – to sit back and allow you to do whatever it is you need to do, but I needed this one thing, to book the tickets, and instead it’s like you’re dangling this carrot, the promise of this trip, but is it really happening or isn’t it? Because I feel like any minute now the rug’s going to be completely pulled out from under me. I’m exhausted. I can’t take it anymore.”
You have to imagine all that tumbling out in a blur of snot and tears. I really crumbled. Llew quickly rushed to assure me that yes, the trip was real, we’re taking a long family holiday, and he hadn’t known I felt that way, and okay, let’s book the tickets today.
Great! Except then we went to book the tickets online. Now, because of the conditions around transferring Frequent Flyer points, it turned out I had to transfer all my points to Llew, so he naturally enough became the one to do the online booking, since it was happening through his account. I don’t know if this is the same for other couples, but we both HATE watching the other one use a computer. For my part, I can’t stand the mess he makes. Pages and tabs open all over the shop, some weirdly convoluted, nonsensical way of navigating around them – I genuinely can’t handle it, it makes me want to club him to death. And something ALWAYS goes wrong. Like I’m surprised. It’s always really tense, because he can hear my silent scream. He rightly assumes I’m casting aspersions on his methods, so we both sit there fuming and sort of loathing each other. And naturally last Sunday Llew couldn’t get the Qantas website to cooperate. Eventually I snatched away the laptop and tried it myself, with the same result. Llew decided to phone them. I huffed and puffed but for some perverse reason couldn’t tear myself away (like the roiling storm cloud of my presence was helping matters any).
Excruciating. That’s the only word for what transpired and how long it took and how overcomplicated it became. Just excruciating. We were both completely spent by the time the tickets were booked, too deflated to care about let alone celebrate the seats. Whatever.
Llew’s parents had already called, hoping we’d take Master J to their place for a visit, but by now the day was half gone and I needed some time alone to lick my wounds. I daresay Llew needed the exact same thing, but being a dutiful son he went on ahead with Master J anyway.
Llew’s parents worry about all their kids, and they’re certainly worried about the redundancy. They’re also worried about the trip, so I doubt they greeted news of confirmed tickets with enthusiasm. So Llew’s day did not improve. Then there was Master J, whom we now know slept throughout our argument and most of the punishing online booking experience because his first raging fever was brewing. At his grandparents’ place, he was listless and without appetite. He’s typically voracious in all things. So by the time Llew limped back through the door with our sick child in his arms, he was a broken man. The day had not gone well.
Master J started crying the instant he saw me. I started playing the Wiggles to cheer him up, and like the sweet little guy he is, he tried to rally, even managing a few dance moves before his exhaustion devoured him. Having eaten nothing while out, he refused his dinner. He was by now burning hot. After a bath and some milk, we sat down for story time. And then the volcano erupted. I was holding him when the first projectile vomit hit. He started crying but was stopped by the horrible force of the second wave. It was a profound spew, really of another order. Linda Blair style. Leo the lion copped it, I copped it, the floor was slippery with it and my poor little man was covered in it and howling with fear and distress. When Llew took his temperature again, it had spiked to around 39 degrees.
“That’s it,” I said. “Let’s go.”
After a quick change for those who needed it, we got in the car and drove up the hill to the local hospital. Master J was very unhappy at this point, and burning up. The triage nurse registered our details straightway; Master J obliged with a small vomit and lots of tears. They took us into the paediatrics room and were there attended by a couple of nurses and a lovely doctor over the several hours it took to bring down his temperature, administer some medication, take a urine sample and generally manage the whole situation until it was back under control.
No one had any dinner, though Master J did manage to polish off two electrolyte iceblocks. We managed to exchange a couple of tired, slightly bruised smiles but really the mood was pretty flat. What a day, we said, shaking our heads. What a day.