MY ANNUAL COLD
13 September 2005
The only person in the world, it seems, who doesn't get concerned when I develop my annual cold is my mother.
Not that she's not a caring, concerned mother. She's the one who brought me hot milk in the middle of the night, smoothed out my sheets in the daytime, pinned bags to the side of my bed for used tissues, ran to the library to get me things to read, and murmured comforting words as she placed her cool hand against my brow.
But she's known me all my life and she knows that when I get sick, there is nothing effective to be done, no medicine that will work, and that even if I sound like I'm at death's door, that's just the way I get and I'll eventually get over it.
And so, thanks go a large dog, who shall remain nameless, who made me leap up at 3 a.m. to call her back inside when she went chasing some unseen ghost and barking her fool head off, I sit here, huddled over a computer keyboard, soggy tissue in one hand, fire shooting through my lungs every time I cough, watery eyes, and aching muscles and I have to admit defeat:
I have a cold.
My annual (or semi-annual, or bi-annual, depending on the year) cold always starts out the same way. An innocent little sneeze, an itchy nose, and the barest hint of a cough which comes from the tip top of my lungs. It's the "tip top of my lungs" which is the dead give-away. If it's a cough that originates in my throat, I can pretty much ignore it. But there's that tell-tale lung involvement that lets me know I'm in for it.
Oh, I play the game. Vitamin C, fluids, rest, and cold medicines, but all are useless. It matters not whether I dose myself with every concoction a pharmacist or an herbalist can come up with, or do nothing. It still runs exactly the same.
I can stave off symptoms for two days and feel pretty smug about it. ("Yes, I really should remember to take cold medicines--they really do work") But on the third day, the nasty little cold bugs move into my lungs and start hanging pictures and rearranging the furniture and laughing at my feeble attempts to put up "no vacancy" signs.
By day #3, with or without medication, my lungs are on fire and I regret not having stock in the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
The dogs are also delirious, because inevitably they will find used Kleenex on the floor and tear it to shreds. It seems their favorite snack is soggy Kleenex. No accounting for taste.
So then I have two or three days of feeling pretty much like shit and doing a lot of moaning and groaning, but trying to be brave about it, like the good little soldier I am.
And by day four, most of the symptoms have pretty much run their course.
Except the cough.
By now the cough is horrible. It will come from the depths of my lungs and people give me a wide berth when I go out in public.
Friends offer me advice on what to take for my cough.
Dr. G once fixed me this fairly good-tasting concoction of which honey was the main ingredient, I believe. Didn't do a damn thing for my cough, but I gained a couple of pounds from drinking it liberally, as he ordered me to do.
The cough will linger just long enough to make people wonder if I shouldn't go in for an x-ray to make sure that I'm not in end-stage lung cancer or something.
And then just about when everyone has decided that I have a death wish because I refuse to go to a doctor, it starts to get better. A little.
Slowly, slowly, slowly, I begin to cough a little less, to produce less gunk when I cough, and to start to sound more normal again.
Of course the "sitting at death's door" actually only lasts two days, the two days when I don't really sound very bad, so nobody brings me chicken soup or stops by to make sure I'm still alive.
By the time The Cough takes over, I'm actually pretty much back to normal, except for a bladder that likes to explode when I get into a coughing fit.
So I'm sitting here at death's door, at 3 a.m., cursing the dog and wondering if I'll be able to get back to sleep, since I've already had about 8 hours of sleep because I went to sleep early because I had a cold. And I know that "The Cough" is only a few days off. I also know that no matter how much medicine I've pumped down my gullet in the last two days, it has really done nothing, but at least it felt like I was doing something constructive.
I realize that I'm sitting in a dry house, with plenty of potable water, food to eat, and a nice warm blanket to sit under while I distract myself with news reports of the displaced persons from the Gulf area on TV.
But allow me a passing bit of self-pity as I give a little shiver, place the back of my hand dramatically to my fevered brow, and swoon--just a bit.
I have a cold, you see.
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