Tis the cold and flu season, often a cruel double-whammy in this part of the world. You catch a cold or the flu and mutter to yourself, “I wished I flew the coop when I had the chance!” But by then it’s too late and too darn cold out to go outside with such a nasty cold.
There’s been an extra-evil cold going around lately, a vicious virus that hits you hard enough to make you wish you were dead, but not so hard that it kills you.
This cold causes every single bone to ache. Your head feels like it’s in a vise and there is hardly any time to breathe between nose blowings and coughing jags.
As you may have surmised, I recently caught this cold.
Most of the past 10 days has been spent on the couch, trying to alleviate my symptoms with various remedies. But as an old friend pointed out, most colds last roughly two weeks if treated aggressively and generally afflict you for about 14 days if you simply let them run their course.
Our kitchen table now closely resembles the “cold and flu” section of a modern apothecary. I’ve taken so many drugs lately, I bet if I donated blood it would be declared a Class 3 pharmaceutical.
I normally don’t catch many colds, and when I do they normally don’t last very long. Part of the problem, I think, is that I’ve let myself get soft.
I recall catching the croup when I was a little kid. Or maybe it was full-blown pneumonia, or malaria, or perhaps dengue fever. In any case, I was pretty sick and was coughing almost constantly.
Dad came in from doing chores during one of my many coughing spells. Wanting to eat breakfast in peace and without a certain kid hacking all over his oatmeal, Dad said, “Go outside if you’re going to cough like that!”
I was sent out to the porch, which had a roof but no walls. It was basically the out-of-doors, where the mercury hovered at 10 below. I was wearing just my jammies.
As I stood coughing out huge clouds of steam, a wondrous thing happened: I began to feel remarkably better! After perhaps a minute of hacking that super-chilled air in and out, my fever had miraculously abated! Dad was a medical genius!
Glancing up from his breakfast when I came back in, Dad remarked, “Looks like you lived. Cold air is good for you. Opens up your lungs.”
Well, yes. Either that or it’ll kill you. In any case, my coughing would have stopped.
This latest cold virus struck in a way that caused a perfect storm of suffering at our house. Specifically, my cold was at its worst on a day that was so cold and snowy that my wife decided the better part of valor was for her to stay home from work.
No sense in trying to drive to your job only to become marooned in some godforsaken snowbank, she said.
My wife and I usually get along extremely well. When we go on extended road trips we can spend days and days together with nary a cross word between us. But the 24 hours cooped up at home with her felt like a week.
The trouble began with one of my innocent questions.
“What did people do B.K.?” I asked as I blew my nose for the hundredth time that hour, “You know, before Kleenex?”
“They used hankies, of course,” she replied.
“No, I mean even before hankies. Like back in cave man days. Did they use jars? And what was the standard size? Pint? Quart? Hey, take a look at this. Is that a chunk of brain?”
“You’re more disgusting than a box full of slugs! And speaking of gross, you need to do a better job of tossing your used Kleenex. It looks like a snowdrift is forming by the garbage can!”
“Those can’t all be mine, missy! You’ve been honking like a Canada goose this morning!”
Our frank exchange of views was cut short when we both lapsed into severe coughing jags. By the time we recovered, we were weak and panting and sweating and had forgotten what all the fuss had been about.
The snowstorm died down that night and my wife was able to make it safely into work the next day. She called to report that she felt much better and that she doubted she would ever again spend an entire day home alone with me.
Wow, that cold air really works wonders! I’d better pry myself off the couch and try some. But first I’ll have to shovel a path through this Kleenex drift.
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