I came down to Philadelphia to watch my three and a half-year-old niece for three days while my brother and sister-in-law went to Las Vegas for the birthday of one of his oldest friends. Yesterday, day one, was easy. My niece was in pre-school most of the morning so I got to go to the gym and run some errands. Today, day two, was another story.
We had planned to visit my parents, who leave for Florida on Monday for the winter and to see my aunt who is in a nursing home. From the moment my niece woke up this morning she began sneezing and I noticed she had a runny nose. I made the decision not to visit my parents and aunt. My mother is a germaphobe and when she heard the word, ‘sneezing’, fully agreed that we should not come to visit. We were able to play outside and run some errands today before my niece began to crash.
My niece began to feel warm after lunch and I went looking for the thermometer. 100.2°F. Not too bad, but I gave her some acetaminophen and we curled up on the couch to watch some TV. After about half an hour she fell asleep and slept for almost two hours. I sat by her dosing. When she woke up her temperature was over 102°F. Clearly she has the flu or something similar.
I spoke to my sister-in-law tonight and briefed her on how her daughter was doing. My sister-in-law is a typical first mother, nervous about almost everything having to do with her child. But today, halfway across the country, she seemed at ease and relaxed. Maybe I radiate confidence, having been a father and an EMT. I do feel like I know what to do in these situations and I am watching my niece closely.
When I came out a few years ago, I wondered how my siblings would feel about me in relation to their children. There has been so much hate speech on the religious right painting gay men as child molesters. I have been lucky to have the family that I have. They have been wonderful and welcomed me fully into their families’ lives. I have thought about the fact that I am a gay man watching a little girl. Somehow it is a bit of a cliché. I am not sure my sister-in-law would let a straight uncle watch her daughter, but a gay uncle, sure, why not. He can cook, shop for food, he is great with kids, knows emergency medicine, and he is not distracted by sports on TV.
I am hoping that tomorrow, day three, is a better day and this was simply a 24 hour kind of virus. Either way, it will be whatever it will be. I am here alone, in a city I have not lived in for thirty years, watching a sick child. I just have to keep watching until her parents return.