Sunday, January 8, 2012

Annual Misery

Every couple has differences they head butt on from time to time. We are not excused from that reality here at the Pond. Sad, but very, very real.

One of the issues we can never  resolve is about colds. I come from a family with multiple kids. When one of us came down with a cold our Mama was tough enough and smart enough to place the sick one in isolation to prevent the spread throughout the family. Blowfish is an only child. When he had a cold his mother  moved him to the living room sofa so  grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins could all  dote and wait on  the poor little sick man. Thus, before we even get to the reality of dealing with the actual cold you can see where we are poised for conflict.

It is complicated.
I have over the years provided Blowfish with reams of data on how colds are spread, what are the best protocols for not  spreading a cold , not catching a cold, the ways the cold virus becomes airborne,  the typical contagion periods, the best ways to manage a cold once you become afflicted and how to shorten the duration of a cold.  I must have shared all of this data in some foreign language because not one syllable of one word, nor any knowledge,  has stayed with the man.

This conflict is an annual event at the Pond. I have not had a cold in years. I employ protocols into my daily routine to reduce my susceptibility to catching illness from others. Blowfish refuses to.  Even Santa Claus  tries to help Blowfish by placing things like hand sanitizer or immune boosting supplements in his Christmas stockings. They all pretty much live in the graveyard of his bedside table drawer. He often mocks me for the fight I wage for my health but fails to notice it is the mocking  man who falls. Not me.

Back to my mother. She made our time in isolation as pleasant as possible, there were coca colas, our favorite jellos with fruit, applesauce, homemade soups, crackers, Luden's wild cherry cough drops, boxes of kleenex, and a personal trash can. There were plenty of books to read, lots of crayons and coloring books, paperdolls and an etch-a-sketch to keep ourselves entertained. Mom made sure we understood the reason for the isolation was for the well being of the many,
" Fishy I know you don't want the baby to get sick".
She was also smart about changing our sheets daily and making us get up and take a hot shower to help drain the gunk out of our sinuses. There was a vaporizor and smelly rubs and while it was not pleasant, it was not punitive.

Blowfish has a cold.
He has one this time every year.
I know he will have a cold this week so I prepare.
I get books for him to read, make soups, stock up on juices and kleenex.
On Thursday he began with sneezing. He is not necessarily the sort to direct that into his sleeve. On Friday he started sniffling and shuffling. I gave him Tylenol and vitamin C. By afternoon he was complaining of a scratchy throat so I gave him some honey and lemon drops with a topical anesthetic to soothe his throat.

Friday night I kept to my plans of attending a gallery opening. The subject  of the show is "Images of France" which  showcased the works of   a group of folks who went on a tour of France with a Photography Instructor from a nearby university. The tour  had permission for the participants to take pictures inside museums and galleries which normally strictly forbid photography with any kind of flash.  There were two great things about going to the opening. I bought a framed  photograph and I missed the onset of the oh-woe-is-me-stage of  the man with a cold.

When I returned home Friday night  one look told me Blowfish would not be spending Saturday with his son as planned. His son has MS. Which means  he has a compromised immune system and therefore not a good idea for his virus stricken  Dad to go breathe on him.

Blowfish slept  hours later than usual on Saturday morning.  He came into the Kitchen to start a pot of coffee. I was already making soup and  had started taking down and packing up the Christmas decorations.  He looked miserable. Droopy posture, gray color, shuffling foot work, shaky hands.

" Good morning. Would you like some breakfast?"
" I think I will just have a bowl of cereal"
" Are you sure? Milk tends to increase mucus production which is why it is not  recommended  when you have a cold".
" I'll take two eggs over easy, toast, a side of bacon and orange juice."

( I may have mentioned this before...
I do not love it when Blowfish speaks to me like I am a short order cook positioned in his Kitchen to
service his culinary needs. )

I took a deep breath, tried to hold onto my compassion and not give way to irritation and  with reasonable cheer said ,
" I can do that."
So Blowfish went to sit in his favorite fireside chair in the Keep to read the paper.
He was sniffling.
He was coughing.
He was sneezing.

(He was touching the furniture and the paper and blowing his virus across the room.)
" Blowfish, did you take your medicine this morning?"
" No."
" Well you have time to take it before your breakfast is ready"
" It's on my bedside table.  Where you put it for me.  So I would not forget to take it.
You want to go get it for me?"

(There's an invitation a girl just cannot resist)

" Sure"
I fetched the meds and some orange juice and chatted a bit about the morning editorials before resuming my duties at the stove.
Blowfish continued to sneeze, sniffle, cough.
" Do you have some Kleenex?"
"No, I don't need any".
" I sure don't want to get your cold so how about you do a few things to moderate my risks?'
"You believe in that malarky, I don't"

(I did try to keep my tongue in my head but .... really?)

" What ?"
" If you get a cold, you get a cold. It has nothing to do with me."
" Do you want me to pull up the website from the CDC on how colds are spread?"
" Why? So you can tell me you are right and I am not?"
I pulled  a placemat, some  silverware, and a  napkin from  various drawers.
I marched into his Study, moved things aside on his desk to accommodate a place setting.
I opened the window a crack, fetched a box of kleenex, sprayed the trash can with lysol and located his book before returning to the Kitchen to finish making his breakfast. When it was ready I proceeded right past him and into his Study.
" Fishy, what are you doing?"
" Serving your breakfast".
"Well I am not eating in my office"
"So you think you should camp out in  the main rooms spewing your cold on everything and everyone? I think not."
"I have told you I do not agree with you or your damn CDC on how colds are spread!
Bring my breakfast in here."
"Right! I will not be adhering to the wisdom of a man who still thinks you catch a cold if you don't wear socks to bed!"

And so the day went. Blowfish hung out in his office, reading a little, watching a little tv,  doing a little surfing, and later, taking a nap. We had arrived at a truce. Sort of.  He will never do all the  recommended things  science directs one with a cold to do. Never. I could provide him with every medical directive, every internet video, every scientific graph on this issue and he would still cling to the same beliefs he held at 5.  He believes he should be in the center of the sofa, in the center of the house, being the doted on center of attention of all because he has a cold.  He will miss his mother. A lot.

So the compromise is he will do what he pleases.
In his suite of rooms.
He will not do  as he pleases all over me.
I will accept he is doing all he can.
I will do his laundry and make his food and fetch his medicines and bite my tongue to shreds.
I do this every year.
I always feel sad and guilty.
Because Blowfish is an only child.
Because January 7th is his mother's birthday.
She has been gone now for 19 years.
The year we lost her we celebrated her birthday on the 7th.
On the 8th she went into the hospital, succumbed to coma on the 9th,
went to Heaven just after midnight on the 11th.

For every one of these 19 years, in this same week, Blowfish gets sick.
Not "sick with grief" but sick with an actual cold, or flu,   in addition to his grief.
There is a medical explanation for this phenomenon.
Blowfish rejects this too.
He prefers to believe it is just the reality of colds happening  in January.

I loathe we cannot do a better job of handling this annual event.
I loved my mother in law dearly. I still miss her.
I try hard to comfort Blowfish.
I cooked  potroast for him yesterday.
I cooked it the way his mother cooked pot roast.
For her son, on her birthday.
I cried for them both.

I cannot fathom how hard it is to be Blowfish this same week every year.
I cannot fathom how hard it must be to manage life in general without the ability to
communicate how you feel. Whatever Blowfish experiences about  the loss of his mother,
he has never been able to express. All of his  suffering stays within.
This makes him sad.
And it makes him ill.

On the 12th, he will be better.


troll said...

Hmmmm. I wonder if there's a correlation between kids with no sibs and obnoxious public germ spreading behavior?

fishy said...

There is most definitely a correlation between kids with no sibs and awareness of how their choices effect others.

On many an occasion I have thought Blowfish would not have survived had he grown up in my parents house.

Pam said...

Oh Fishy, this is so sweet on several levels. First, the interaction between you two. But most of all, that you have figured out that he gets sick the same week every year and it is the anniversary of his mother's birthday/death. I have always heard that bodies have an emotional calendar of sorts and this story is proof enough for me. Blowfish, go get you some Nyquil and sleep it off, sweet-thang! And that hand-sanitizer? Use it please.

Jenny said...

First, really, really, waiting for the reality show. Just sayin'. ;-)

Interesting how your Blowfish "breaksdown" during a difficult time of the year. Wow. Good for you for connecting those dots, but of course you did. You're a woman and that's what "we" do.

Soooo glad you attended your event and even picked up something. I would have been sad to read that you stayed home rather than go to something that clearly speaks to your soul. AND trip you made to France. Yay!

also happy you're not coming down with whatever ails your Blowfish.

and BLESS you for your patience with your man. He's a lucky duck. er, I mean fish. ;-)

chickory said...

wonderful slice of pond life - examined on the glass slide of a long term marriage. very good writing. I feel ya -totally - on the terror of clueless plague spreaders! On new years eve our guests from ATL arrived at chickory with "sinus infections". When they started blowing their noses as the night grew long, i pulled V into the back room and told him that what they had were COLDS and that he should start mainlining ionic silver immediately. I put it in my ears, i snort it and i spray it on the back of my throat. like every 30 minutes. predictably, the couple left on new years day (thank GOD) and I wiped literally every surface down with pine sol. I washed every fabric thing i could and bathed the dogs in a silver solution. It worked -we are well and the couple went and got antibiotics (WRONG!) I gave her the silver and told her how to use it but I dont know if she believed me.

Chickory's cold stopping tips:

if you think you are getting sickor have been exposed to sick people, immediately start taking zinc and drop down to clear liquids only. if you can get some silver, I highly recommend taking it. also "thieves" essential oils. take a drop or two in water.

rest and change your sheets daily

starve it

no dairy

keep your hands off your face

do not have tissue you have blown into "laying around" empty trash often

is that OCD enough for ya?

One thing I have going for me - I can terrify the crap out of my husband. We are the exact same people and if i even hint that we have been exposed he whirs around like the tasmainian devil in a home detox with me.

Poor Blowfish. Missing your mama sucks and sucks bad. give him an 'elbow hug' from me.

Aunty Belle said...

Quick, Fishy, you need a howling laugh:

Have BF watch the newly released movie CONTAGION.

@ Chick9
yes! change sheets and PJs / nightgown daily and pillowcases twice a day while cold is active. Wash yore hair everyday, and do not touch yore face.

BTW, Fishy, in Charleston thar's a hospital thas' tryin' a new thang--COPPER push plates, faucets, bedrails--why? Cause bacteria cain't live on / in copper.

Jenny said...

all good advice from Chickie and I would only add one more thing; put a capful of hydrogen peroxide in each ear when feeling even the smallest inking of a cold. BAM! It's gone. Our entire shop was infected a few weeks ago and I followed MY OCD checklist:

1. Sinus wash with saline
2. Hyrdogen peroxide gargle and in the ears.
3. hot bath.
4. vodka
5. repeat.

For the record?


fishy said...

Thank you for that bright outlook.
"Anniversary syndrome" is a psychological-physiological phenomenon which is real. In Blowfish's case it is a mercy. If you cannot allow yourself to grieve then your body gets sick and gives you the necessary acceptance to have a time out because you "feel terrible".

They only do reality shows about dysfunctional families! I get it, we Pond People are not right but I don't think we are entertaining.
Although wasn't Archie Bunker on tv for a decade?

I try to detox the Blowfish office when he naps. I have tried and tried to teach him about how mucus is a delivery system and once dried out the virus becomes airborne and ..... I am not heard. So I sneak around to flush his trash every hour or so.
I change his pillowcases every morning and after naps. I wash his clothes if he changes them.
I also believe in using colodial silver but I cannot get Blowfish to. It's tragic. The man has a a neat, well groomed mustache and beard so every exhalation he is trapping virus. I cannot, cannot, cannot convince him to spray his facial hair with silver or keep his hands off his face. It makes me crazy!

I agree. To miss your mother this much, this hard, for nearly two decades to the point of illness is horrible. The good news is he keeps the candle lit for her in his heart.

Still laughing about this,
"I can terrify the crap out of my husband"... oh how I wish I had that tool! I don't think there is anything on earth Blowfish trusts more than his own body. And he would never in a zillion decades starve a cold. He eats volumes!

This week of every year the man is intractable, stubborn and completely uneducable. I however bathe myself, my hair, my clothes in an anti viral, anti-bacterial, anti -everything solution. It is a desperate week at the Pond. He lives on the ground floor, I live upstairs. It is true the Kitchen is on the main floor but I banish him from that room. He will grudgingly stay out of there if I am in there but he goes and stands in there when I am upstairs. He doesn't do anything, or fetch anything he just stands in there in an act of childish rebellion. Every year I swear I will leave home for the week but then compassion takes over and I stay.

In three of these years I not only caught his illness, I landed in the hospital. I even asked the hospital to ban him from visiting me because he had the nerve to imply I was ill because I was inferior stock.

Boxer 2,
Thank you!
I have done all of your recommendations except the vodka.
I did give serious thought to putting a lot of vodka in his orange juice so I could have a few hours of peace. The truth is this, as the week grinds onward my patience and compassion wear thin.

moi said...

I used to have terrible colds as a child—and my mother basically did what yours did (only I got whiskey, too)—and as an adult, when I smoked. I haven't been sick since I drop-kicked the last of my Camels in the garbage can 15 years ago, though.

But for the past 4-5 years, every spring S.B. somes down with this weird cold/allergy type thing that lasts about two weeks. Won't go to he doctor about it, doesn't believe in "drugs" so he won't even take an aspirin, won't get allergy-tested. You know the score. Luckily, he's a stoic invalid, so I don't have to do much above and beyond what I usually do. Although I do feed him lots of soup.

I think you hit on something interesting re Blowfish and his mom's passing. That's never easy, but Italian boys and their mamas tend to be extra tight-knit. The good news is, if it's pschyosomatic, you're probably not likely to catch it.

fishy said...

At other times, if Blowfish is ill,
he is actually pretty stoic: complains little, sleeps a lot and hunkers down to weather the illness.
January is just a hard time of year for him. The illness is real, not psychosomatic and therefore contagious. I have been told by several docs the mind-body connection in anniversary syndrome is sort of like the psyche shutting down the immune system for a brief period of time.

Anonymous said...

Wishing you patience and excellent crud resistance. Hope Blowfish recovers quickly.


fishy said...

Seredipity !
LOL on the "crud" protection.
Thank you! Thank you! From your keyboard to God's ears :-0

Blowfish will recover from his cold.
He will never "recover" from losing his Mom.

moi said...

Darn. For your sake, I was hoping it was only all in his head. I hope he recovers quickly.

You are so very right: this is not something one "recovers" from. It's something one deals with. Sometimes, better than other times.

Scout said...

Fishy! Great writing....I was riveted! And then when I got to the ending about poor gone Momma....well, I cried too. maybe someday you'll have a big ol' jewel in your crown for all these years of "sick week". I learned a LOT from this post and also from everyone's comments. I will incorporate my leanings ASAP. I travel a lot and usually catch the crud on an airplane filled with yuckiness.

fishy said...

Thanks .... one of the great things about blogging is you can share a
"slice of your life" with immunity!

I have learned volumes from this blog group over the years! Not to mention my vocabulary has been expanded from playing haiku with this crowd. You are going to be so glad you joined the fun!