February 20, 2008

Thank Goodness for Modern Medicine

Sunday afternoon we were lazing around the flat. I was cooking dinner and the littlest one was sitting in his high chair working hard to dump the contents of his sippy cup onto the table. He's developed a technique of banging the spout just right to bring out a little spill each time -- one of his many lovely talents. The oldest went over to give him a hug and said, "He's really hot. I think he has a fever."

I felt the baby's forehead and he seemed a tad warm, but nothing alarming for one who had been running around and was sitting in a warm room with warm clothes on. At dinner though, the baby did seem a little tired and red cheeked. When I got him out of the high chair he was distinctly hot.

As it turns out, it is a good thing I have an eight year old around to be the parent. He noticed that his brother was sick a full hour or so before I did. I don't like to bring a fever down when it isn't too high, but I did pull out the thermometer I'd packed for the trip and this fever was over 103. So I pulled out the Infant Tylenol and dosed him up.

In the morning he was still very hot, but not quite so hot as the night before. So we hung around home, worked on the kids' journals and I read them several chapters of The Famous Five Go to Smugglers' Top, while the baby slept on my chest.

He woke up much cooler and acting healthy and lively. I didn't want to go far from home, but there was an interesting looking cemetery not far down the road, so we went for a walk.

I know it's a bit gothic of me, but cemeteries are interesting and the cultural differences are sometimes noteworthy.

For one thing, in England they seem to do things a bit differently when writing the inscriptions. In America, after the person's name we usually put the date of birth and the date of death and perhaps a short description of some aspect of their life. Usually one sees one marker per person or a double marker perhaps for a married couple.

In England, at least on the graves from the 1800s and early 1900s that we were walking through, the name of the person is followed by whose child they were (even when the grave is not one of a child) and then their date of death and age at death. Birth dates seem never to be mentioned. Most of the gravestones were covered in writing, because they were marking the graves of several people, not just one or two.

As hard as it is for me to walk through an American graveyard and see a stone with dates on it that tell me a person died very young, this English graveyard made me cry, and cry hard enough that the kids all noticed. How can you not cry when a whole family of children with their exact ages is lined up for your eyes on a single stone with parents who lived to a ripe old age at the very bottom. One such, that perhaps was hardest of all, was the one that started with the name of my oldest son. Their son had died at age four. Their daughter Mary followed a few years later at age two. Their other daughter died at 11 and another son at 17. The parents lived into their sixties and seventies. The stone doesn't tell us whether or not they also had ten other children or even two or three who didn't proceed their parents in death, but it does tell us of parents who lost a lot in their young adulthood and went on for many, many years until finally being laid to rest with the children they had for so long been unable to hold.

Excuse me...crying again.

But it is a beautiful cemetery and one near where Beatrix Potter was born and one in which she most likely strolled. Though we didn't see any of the graves with such names, supposedly a Peter Rabbett, Jeremiah Fisher and Mr. Macgregor are all resting there.

When we got home though, I was back in reality. My baby was feverish again and I was more thankful than ever for modern medicine. His fever shot up past 104 and Tylenol and a warm bath didn't lower it much at all. However, I had also packed infant Advil and that did the trick.

In the morning, he was healthy again and we headed out to see the Queen and other old dead guys. But I'll tell you all about them later.


Wow. We really know NOTHING of suffering in this modern world, do we? Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. But people certainly lived with much more death than we do now. I can't imagine that even though it was more common, that it was any easier to bear.

Posted by: dcrmom at February 20, 2008 07:30 AM

I'm glad the little guy is feeling better - great catch on oldest's part.

A friend and I spent an afternoon wandering through a Moravian cemetery dating from the early to mid-1800's near Raleigh, NC. They bury all the children in one particular area. I had the same reaction - just broke down in tears to see children dying so young.

Posted by: Diane at February 20, 2008 07:31 AM

We have an old cemetery near us that I have had the same reaction in. All those children from one family. It makes you wonder how the parents were able to go on.

Posted by: chris at February 20, 2008 08:25 AM

I don't know how I would go on if I lost one of my children, and those people lost so many.. how sad.
Hope the baby is feeling better soon.

Posted by: KC at February 20, 2008 09:29 AM