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Classic Flu

TALKING TO MYSELF: 17 MARCH 2013 It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I suppose I should be writing about him, or the Irish, or four leaf clovers, leprechauns and green beer. But I have a confession to make – I’ve always thought St. Patrick’s Day a rather silly holiday to celebrate for those of us who aren’t Irish, or at least have not been for maybe five hundred years. And besides, my family has fallen victim to the flu – yes, classic, certified by a test, H3N2 or one of its incestuous cousins. “The flu” has taken much (not all!) of the joy out of our 4-family-birthdays-in-a-week Week, and left us mainlining Tylenol and shivering under blankets. Despite having had the cautionary flu shot last fall, four of the grandchildren have taken ill within the last two and a half weeks. Two have recovered, but the two youngest babes are still gripped in the virus’s clutches. It’s gone especially hard on Hudson whose fourth birthday is tomorrow. And then there is me. I’m struggling with milder symptoms than the children (I DID have the super-dooper flu shot only available to “seniors”) but I am far from well this weekend. I am reminded that at exactly this same week about eight years ago, I came down with what my doctor called “classic flu.” The notion that flu could be a “classic” like a Humphrey Bogart movie or an old Corvette struck me funny, and I wrote this essay which is included in Butter in the Morning. You might as well laugh Mother always said. What I failed to include in the essay is that when the chills first hit, we were having a birthday dinner for our two daughters at a Cincinnati area Italian restaurant that featured singing waiters – singing opera of course. The surreal combination of opera, spaghetti, and the flu probably deserves it’s own essay.

Classic Flu

Well, I came down with the flu, and I haven’t been the same since. Actually, my doctor called it Classic Flu, which as far as I can tell, has nothing at all in common with Classic Coke or classic cars. I’ve had Classic Flu at least once before, but in my extreme youth. Back then, I nonchalantly drank Classic Coke as though it were nothing special, and my family drove a classic car, too, except we called it our new Chevy. So I guess it’s no surprise that I didn’t immediately recognize this old bug as a classic when it sidled up to me and whispered, “Don’t I know you from someplace?” Day One: After exchanging small talk for about half a day, Classic Flu was itching for a debate. I had other plans, however, and didn’t want to waste my Saturday with any lowlife virus (I didn’t yet know I was dealing with a classic, remember.) I gargled, took some Tylenol, and said, “Shoo, fly, shoo.” My lack of respect apparently infuriated Classic Flu, and without further discussion, it flexed its muscles and slapped me up the side of the head with shaking chills, a high fever and a pounding headache. Since I was sitting in a restaurant celebrating a family birthday, this was an inconvenient time for me to get into an argument with a bug. Not wanting to spoil the party, I wrapped myself in the tablecloth, and hoped no one would notice. This was probably a 24-hour thing, I told myself. I’d feel better by tomorrow. Day Two: I awoke, but began to wonder if I were dead. I couldn’t be sure. There was a bright light shining in my face, and I felt disconnected from my body. With great effort, I wiggled my big toe, then, my index finger. Finally, I managed to pry my parched lips open. Simultaneously, my husband flipped off the adjacent bathroom light, and I decided that yes, I was still alive. It was Sunday, of course, and it would have been easier to get an audience with the Queen of England than to see a doctor. But this was probably just one of those 36-hour things, I told myself. I’d feel better by tomorrow. Day Three: I didn’t feel better. There was nothing left to do but seek professional advice. Swaddled like a mummy, I shuffled off to the doctor’s office. He shook his head, and said, “If only you had come in sooner.” Apparently, a new drug is effective against Classic Flu, but only if you see a doctor and begin taking the pills within the first few hours of onset. Well, fat chance, I thought to myself, but I smiled sweetly instead, and asked what could be done now. Nothing was the answer I think I heard. Drink a lot of fluids. Take Tylenol. Endure. Be strong. Remember that I’m dealing with a classic here. Despite my doctor’s diagnosis, however, I clung to the hope that this was only one of those 48-hour things. I’d be better by tomorrow. Day Four: I discovered the Tylenol high, and felt a tinge of empathy for those sad souls addicted to OxyContin. I could see how it might have appeal. By spacing my Tylenol dosages in a precise pattern, I learned I could count on seventeen and a half minutes a day of up time. It was all about quality of life for me now. During those euphoric moments, I was convinced that this was not Classic Flu but only one of those 60-hour things. I’d be better by tomorrow. Day Five: I grabbed paper tissues from the box by the handful. Let the trees die! Early on, I had plucked tissues one at a time from the container and had tried to use a tissue more than once. You know - I’d sort of worked around its four corners, as a good conservationist should. Now, I used three and four at a time. Still, ever the optimist, I thought this was probably one of those 72-hour things. I’d feel better tomorrow. Day Six: As a perennial dieter, I’ve always felt a tad envious of the last meal served to prisoners on death row, and scripted my own menus in imagination. Now, I found myself in the unfamiliar position of having no appetite whatsoever. Apparently, Classic Flu attacks the taste buds and makes all food ranging from chocolate cake to fried fish taste like cardboard. Cardboard dipped in a chalk fondue to be precise. If this turned out to be only one of those 84-hour things, and my taste returned tomorrow, I vowed to eat an entire pie. Day 12: I’ve come to understand that Classic Flu, like malaria, has the potential to linger for life. If it should sidle up to you, show proper respect. As for me, I’m organizing unilateral summit talks to discuss a peace treaty with Classic Flu. I’d like to feel a little better tomorrow.

©GEORGIA GREEN STAMPER 2013

On Saturday, March 23, I will join Sherry Chandler and Machele Coleman Bess at North Park Pharmacy in Owenton from 10 – 2 for a mini- book fair.