In 62 years, I’ve never had a cold like this one. For five weeks a gremlin has been moving around my body, pestering me and everyone else who comes within hearing distance.
First it made me cough at night, depriving me of sleep, and then cough in public causing an embarrassing sound during Christmas shopping trips and neighborhood parties. I could only apologize and offer lame assurances that it wasn’t infectious.
After a couple of weeks the gremlin moved from my lungs to my throat and voicelessness was added to my now habitual cough. Each morning I felt better on waking and started the day eagerly, buying the Christmas tree, or baking gingerbread, but every afternoon I lost my ability to speak, although I still croaked and honked like a Canada goose. Week after December week I sat silent while others sang lovely Christmas Carols, silent except for my honking. I felt mocked by the beautiful favourite, "Silent Night". In the audience for a seasonal comedic play I desperately tried to restrain my tendency to laugh loudly lest the goose re-manifest.
Based on my belief that normal colds last about a week, I visited my doctor after suffering for three, scoring an appointment when I told the receptionist that I needed an antibiotic for a lung infection. My doctor wasn’t impressed. After stethoscoping my lungs she implied that I was a sneaky liar (okay, maybe that was my guilty inference) and told me there was nothing wrong with my lungs and no need, or point, to her prescribing an antibiotic.
Back to bed with me.
But it was Christmas time!
I dragged myself out each day to another Christmas event or errand, meeting a friend for coffee, buying stocking treats.
I coughed my way through our traditional Christmas Eve party and staggered to a late church service at 11:00 p.m. because I had promised to serve communion (lucky recipients, mine).
By Boxing Day the gremlin had let up on the cough some and moved to my sinuses. I’ll spare you the details, but if I shared them you couldn’t be more disgusted than I was with my own self. Ugh.
Still, everyone else was off work for rare holidays, so I had to keep going between my collapses. I learned that the air in the Young People’s Theatre is extremely dry (hack, hack) and I gave thanks that musicals for children are very short.
By week four I began a private reflection about the difference between what people call a “cold” and what they call, “the flu”.
I swear that years ago, if one had a “cold”, one had a stuffed nose, a sore throat and/or a cough for a week or so. If one had “the flu”, one was nauseated and throwing up for a few days. Somehow, at some point during the last 20 years the term “flu” changed its meaning and we were told to start getting “flu shots”.
Is this what I have this year, the newly defined “flu” for which people can get vaccinated? But then I’ve also heard that different flues strike each year and so the recommended injection doesn’t even guarantee immunity from this marathon infestation.
It’s now week five or nineteen and today the gremlin is offering a bit of coughing, more nose-blowing and familiar fatigue. At least the demands and lovely opportunities of Christmas and New Year’s have ended and since I’m not employed, I can stay in bed.
Will this evil illness ever end?
The worst part is that I keep remembering a rhyme that my late father gave me for a highschool Health Class poster:
“I sneezed a sneeze into the air.
It fell to earth I know not where,
But shortly after, I was told
A dozen others had my cold.”
Dear Reader, I hope that you are not one of those.