The poor boy inherited his mother’s bad throat.

A crummy night’s sleep, an overtaxing day, a demanding week, and there they go: the tonsils. Swelling, scratching, kissing, and aching–tender tonsils manifest the stress.

My life has been peppered by throat ailments. They must have become more persistent in adulthood, as having my tonsils removed was never a conversation until I reached the age of 29 and talked to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor about the possibility. Her advice was to live with the grotty tonsils, if I thought I could weather it, as getting one’s tonsils removed as an adult is a particular kind of hell that often involves three weeks of recovery on the couch accompanied by vomiting various foodstuffs out the nose.

I decided to live with the tonsils.

Now I have this delightful pip of a son who is plagued by frequent throat complaints. To give him full credit, he upped my throat issues by also having myriad ear infections in his first five years, so many that he ended up with two sets of long-term tubes. These days, now that he’s eleven, the ears are more of an adjacent complaint when the throat turns red.

Every few months, his voice will become thick, he’ll have trouble swallowing, and it’s off to the clinic we go. There, a nice lady takes a long Q-tip and swabs his tonsils. Invariably, the quick test results indicate that, indeed, he has strep throat. This happened a couple months ago after Paco had a weekend away at a friend’s cabin; as soon as he came home and noted that the tubing on the lake had been a bit fast and rough for him, I went out and fired up the car, readying it for the drive up the hill to the clinic.

Then, this past weekend, he was invited to a sleepover. Excitedly, he packed up his overnight bag–remembering his toothbrush while vetoing the suggestion of a hairbrush because why would a person need a hairbrush at a sleepover?–before he started worrying that he would be the first one there. Then he recalled that sometimes he wakes up at sleepovers and can’t get back to sleep, so he packed a book and a headlamp. After that was some talk about who else would be attending (hopefully not too many boys he didn’t know), what they might have for dinner, if they’d watch a movie. Eventually, it was time. Bravely, he shouldered his bag NO HAIRBRUSH and set off for the party. A minute later, he had covered the thirty-five feet to his friend’s house, and the sleeping over commenced.

The next morning he returned home, tired and wan, recounting how they’d taken turns playing Minecraft on the computer, had pizza, stayed up until almost midnight, and he hadn’t had a pillow, so it was hard to sleep. Listening to this rundown, I realized suggesting a hairbrush had been silly when, instead, I should have insisted he pack his health insurance card and money for a taxi to the clinic.

Yes, his voice was thick. His throat was really hurting him. He had a fever of 100.6 degrees. He just wanted to lie down on the couch and let the ibuprofen kick in. He knew his grandma and grandpa were stopping by for a few hours on their way through town, so he would just rest until they got there.

Once they arrived, however, he stayed on the couch, eventually calling me over to whisper, “How long until we can go to the doctor?” With that, it was clear: we should just go.

Leaving Byron and Allegra home with the grandparents, Paco and I drove to the grocery store that houses a clinic with weekend hours. Knowing that the wait can sometimes be hours, we took our books.

Fortunately, there was no line. Paperwork completed on clipboard, insurance card and photo ID scanned, co-pay shelled out, rating of pain on a scale of 1-10, questions about allergies answered, it was time for the swab. Paco braced himself for the gag, got through it, and then we both marveled at the deep golden color of the gunk on the swab. My, my, but Paco’s tonsils were doing some fine work down in the mines.

Minutes later, we sat in the waiting area, biding our time until we were called in to see the doctor and get the results. Hugging his book to his chest, Paco croaked out, “My friend Ty’s mom is a doctor and won’t ever let him get his tonsils out because I guess if strep can’t go to the easy target of the tonsils, it will go into the chest, which is even worse. So that’s interesting, right?”


Continuing to wait, I reminded him that a sick kid gets any treat he wants, so while his prescription was being filled at the pharmacy, we could go get a milkshake or a smoothie or a blended unicorn or a hot cup of magic.

The boy next to me, the boy who almost looks me in the eye these days but who has the softest skin I’ve ever touched, shook his head. “No, thank you. Nothing sounds good right now.”

Then I told him I had more ibuprofen in my purse and that he was due for another dose.

The boy next to me, the boy who offers back rubs to his parents and makes fried-egg sandwiches for his sister, shook his head. “No, thank you. I want to wait until we get home so I can use a cup to drink from when I wash it down.”

Wanting to make him feel better, to take the edge of a pain I empathized with, I offered, “I can go buy you a water right now, and you can use that. It’s like drinking from a cup, and the sooner you can get ibuprofen into you again, the sooner you can start to feel a little bit better.”

The boy next to me, the boy who just learned to throw a frisbee this summer and who works very hard on folding origami figures of Star Wars characters, shook his head. “No, thank you. I just want to get the test results, get the antibiotics, and go home. I just want to go home. I would like to be home now.”

My heart crackling a tiny bit, I hugged his head to my shoulder and said, “Oh, pup. You’re just barely hanging in there, aren’t you?”

His head nodded against my shoulder, and his hands–managing somehow to look woebegone–slowly stroked the cover of his book as he whispered, each syllable dripping slowly out of his thick, red throat,













12 responses to “Waning”

  1. Joanne Avatar

    Poor, poor Paco. I was felled by strep as a child; I remember it as lying unconscious in bed for a week, my mother occasionally rousing me for orange juice and a pill. The last attack was my second year in college; I lay in the clinic for a week and didn’t go home for Christmas. That was it; I guess I outgrew it. I hope Paco does.

  2. Pearl Avatar

    Aww, poor boy. I had my tonsils out when I was 20. Best thing I ever did for myself outside of buy the awesome dark green suede heels I’m wearing.

    Take them out. Before they had been removed, I had missed at least a full month of work, off and on, for a year. Since then? I am, truly, rarely ill.


  3. Julie Avatar

    My Paco, my sister’s husband, just got diagnosed with stage 4 tonsil cancer, so just hearing about your Paco dealing with tonsil issues, I think, “get it out, get it out now!” It’s been a crazy few months as they begin the process of figuring out and getting treatment and hopefully it’s all heading in a positive direction.
    I feel fortunate that my boys have never tested positive for strep-throat and knock on wood, stay relatively healthy throughout the years. It is hard to see your child not feeling well and nothing that you offer makes them perk up.

  4. kmkat Avatar

    Poor baby, I hope he is feeling better now. Thank FSM for antibiotics.

  5. Murr Brewster Avatar

    “The boy next to me, the boy who almost looks me in the eye these days but who has the softest skin I’ve ever touched.”

    I had strep every year until I was well into my twenties and had added alcohol to my treatment options. I was famously (in my family) described by my doctor as having “tonsils the size of hamburgers” but he refused to rip them out because he had a suspicion they were probably good for something. Maybe: that I never got anything else, and the tonsils took the brunt of everything. Who knows? They’re still there. I never get strep anymore.

  6. Lil Avatar

    Oh how happy I am to have gotten mine taken out at about 6.

    Poor Paco – sounds like hell “I’m disintegrating” Ouch.

  7. alexandra Avatar

    I disappear into your writing.

    I really do.

  8. Maria Avatar

    I had my tonsils out at 8 and what I remember the most is that my parents bought me a box of chocolate covered cherries to eat when I was better. SO, two weeks later…I ripped off the cellophane and found a box of stale candies….Ugh.

    My Liv never suffered from sore throats much. With her, it was stomach aches. Every day on the first day of school, I would drive her there while she silently gagged in the back seat, looking balefully at me. She still has a sensitive stomach. Don’t know where she gets it. Mine can tolerate nearly anything except antibiotics. I puke them up immediately, break into hives or faint. Allergic to almost all of them. And of course, I handed this down to her. It is the job of us parents to hand down the disgusting things. My parents gave me really bad teeth and my Da gave me type 1 diabetes and premature gray hair. When Liv was a toddler and I’d take her to the playground, all the other Mothers would talk about how great the lovely pink bubblegum antibiotics were! So easy to get their kids to take them! Not Liv. She’d throw it up immediately, usually on me. Hope Paco is better soon. Strep sucks. The big one.

  9. chlost Avatar

    Oh, I just want to hug that boy and make it better! Our boys both had ear infections, strep throat and combinations thereof throughout their childhoods. For some reason, our daughter did not. They both had tubes more than once. Finally, the youngest, the one with tonsils the size of golf balls-and which also kissed each other in the back of his throat, had his adenoids removed. Not his tonsils. He is now one of the most healthy young men I’ve known. Now he is the father of three little girls….two of whom have tonsils the size of golf balls. It makes me wince in sympathy. I hope your sweet boy is feeling better now.

  10. oreneta Avatar

    Poor thing, terrible stuff strep. I’m assuming he’s feeling better by now, and it is nice to hear from you!


  11. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar

    I have had strep throat once. I think I was 46.

    Poor baby!

  12. christopher Avatar

    He’s a wonderful boy with great patience and fortitude.

    I lean away from surgery unless clearly necessary.

    A couple more disintegrating episodes may bring that clarity.

    Hope he’s feeling better now.

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