Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Virus Karma, and the Update on Grandma Bonnie Peters

Candidate Clinton's pneumonia, and the way people are reacting to it, are bringing up three memories of different virus episodes in my life. (If you don't want to read these memories of illness and a writer who has yet to post any actual writing here, the summary is that after one day I've become very, very tired of reading snarky blog post headlines that make fun of a tough, brave, sick patient.)

The most recent one is what was happening around this time last year. I was working out of Grandma Bonnie Peters' house...and a few local lurkers know what that means. She has the big store/age room, the itty-bitty kitchen and minibath rooms, and the apartment-size living room with the office set up in one corner and the bed alcove in another corner. I was looking across the top of the computer screen and seeing my blog buddy lying miserably in bed, not sick enough to be sleeping all that time, but sick enough that talking made her cough, moving about raised her fever--and still conscious enough that TV or movies bored and irritated her. She spent two weeks like that, getting up to go to her part-time job and either to drive me home or to haggle about it: "You're not on the insurance policy and my old clunker needs special handling, so I don't want you to drive my car. I don't feel well enough to drive. Why can't you just spend the night here?"

She really wasn't well enough to drive. She wasn't well enough to walk half a block to her part-time job helping one of her geriatric friends with an hour or two of chores. I'd walk with her to and from work, trying to act like the sort of gushy female who grabs people's arms as a show of emotion, which I am not and have never been, because two or three times GBP did seem faint. Falling on the Body Shag carpet in her friend's house didn't scare her, but falling on pavement might have broken a bone. So she kept working while she was unfit to walk down the street. She doesn't like to be waited on, but having water bottles set by the bed and things cleaned up in the kitchen and bath seemed to help her.

All her life GBP has been one of the world's best drivers. After her eightieth birthday her reflexes and night vision finally started to decline. I'd spend one night, two nights, without going home to feed my cats. When I went home they'd all have gone off foraging in different directions, and I'd spend half of my sleeping and private time tracking down my cats. I couldn't even call them on the notes they recognized; I had bronchitis too. I'd croak "Here, kitty, kitty," and start coughing. I was fit to walk one mile, maybe--not nine. It got to the point where I'd take her keys, and the bag to which they were clipped, and say "You can be the driver or the passenger, and you're welcome to spend the night at my house, but I need to go home, by car, now."

During the third week GBP went to the doctor and was told that she had viral pneumonia, with a few complications and no cure but to live through it--or die of it, as the case might be. I merely had "more of a cold than a flu-type virus," so flu shots or Tamiflu wouldn't have helped me either. I'd start to feel better on Saturdays at home, then pick up more virus from GBP and feel my temperature climbing again.

So she made a tough decision. "Either move in as a full-time caregiver, or go home and don't come back. I'm selling the car; if there's enough money I'll pay the company to try to put in an Internet connection at your house." Neither she nor her car was up to any more "commuting." Since I wasn't up to any more ten-mile hikes as long as I was coughing or running up fevers, there was no alternative...although I didn't want, and of course didn't get, an Internet connection at my house.

Technically I wasn't leaving GBP alone. She has a renter upstairs: hearing loss is only the beginning of a long list of reasons why I wouldn't trust the renter to look after a goldfish, but the renter has looked in on GBP every day or two. But it was a Long Hard Winter. I'd get through a couple of nights without coughing, then get chilled or exposed to some sort of germ and start doing those deep, painful, bronchitis-type coughs again. GBP became unable to work and used the car money to survive the winter, during which she fell and broke bones at home, twice...but in spring she went back to her part-time job. Everybody was up and down with the virus, active people for only a few days at a time, but most of us several times, all winter long. After one year I think we've finally recovered from that "cold."

We had a similar virus in my part of the world in the early 1980s. I had had "just a cold" in December of 1982. Then the Big Wet Snow fell. In 1982 my neighborhood was full of very old people who were snowed in without electricity. Schools and businesses shut down because every able-bodied active citizen needed to shovel paths to the senior citizens' doors, make sure they had wood fires and food and so on. Oh, how joyful I felt, riding a surge of adolescent-convalescent energy, chopping and shovelling and taking great deep breaths of crisp, clean, ice-cold air, all day long. Around midnight I started to feel as if that icy air had turned into fire. That round of bronchitis lasted into June of 1983. Age determines how people react to flu, but not how they react to some other kinds of virus.

Now that third memory...that one was flu, in January of 1989. George H.W. Bush had just been inaugurated as President. He was slightly younger, slightly taller, and physically tougher than Ronald Reagan, but, due to American stereotypes about blond men with tenor voices as distinct from dark men with baritone voices, President Bush had become defensive about "the wimp factor" during the election. Then, just after the inauguration, he had to cancel a speech! In spite of all the doctors who fight over a chance to consult with anybody in the White House, "old" President Bush was reacting to what was inevitably tagged as "White House Flu" in Washington. Oh, what a wimp, jeered the mean people.

Not that we had to have been in the White House to come down with it. For about two weeks after President Bush cancelled that speech, Washington was one sick city. Offices were lucky if one person staggered in to work each day. I was lying on the couch, fighting the flu, when my housemates and I heard that a local "personality" was going to replace the President's speech with a snarky little act about sickly, wimpy, "old" Presidents...and, next news break, that the local "personality" was going to do no such thing, because he was down with the flu.

From the couch, we gave feeble, fluzly little cheers. One of my housemates was a yellow-dog Democrat, but this wasn't about politics; it was about tackiness. Good ol' Karma, that well-known she-hound, had caught up with him!

Karma should only bite everybody who makes fun of older people who have a worse time with the flu than...y'know what, by all reports, President Bush shook off the White House Flu faster than several of my generation did. It would be pleasant to report that there was a noticeable correlation between the severity of our symptoms and whether or not we'd sneered at President Bush, but actually it was flu, and the correlation did go by age. Washington is a young person's town, chronically undersupplied with elders, and it lost a lot of the elders it had in 1989.

Now, Candidate Clinton admits she has pneumonia. As mentioned in yesterday's Link Log, everything I read about this pneumonia, yesterday, sounded more like what GBP and I had. Washington is not all of five hundred miles from Kingsport. Virus travels. I feel for Mrs. Clinton. Somehow I'm imagining her entire staff, campaign, security, and domestic, doubled over with deep painful coughs; most of them are younger than she is, but with this kind of virus teenagers get bronchitis; if they don't pay attention to their bodies' warnings, teenagers can get pneumonia.

Bill Clinton, with his heart? Candidate Trump, at his age? News people who are managing to look the way my generation grew up expecting them to look, on TV, but they're between the ages of 40 and 70 too? I'm not thinking about politics here. I'm thinking that, if Candidate Clinton's pneumonia is what went around my neighborhood last year, this is going to be one sick election, literally, on all sides. I'm feeling sorry for all of'em. Campaigns, by definition, allow a sick candidate or campaign staffer to spread virus all over the continent. Corrupt as they are...guilty consciences do not boost immunity, and who knows how many extra coughs guilt may inflict on people in political circles, but they're all in for a Long Hard Winter.

Arguably the Trump family, and/or whoever actually bought my e-mail address from however many Republican e-friends and have been spamming me with the bills in their names, deserve pneumonia...let's not go there today. Elizabeth Warren, or whoever had the gall to send me an e-mail suggesting that I send money to the Great American Faux? If any of the Trumps, or Elizabeth Warren, or even the better funded Tea Party 'zine editors, had any sense of honor they would have sent me some money by now, but that's a separate rant.

The good news: Anybody out there who's making fun of anybody else's pain...will deserve whatever this virus has to offer them. This one doesn't even go by age. Sic'em, Karma!

Karma's a Witch: Karma's Witches #3 by [Jordan, Lanie]

(Poll: I've not read anything that Amazon offered when I searched for a "karma book" to link to this page. Do you have an opinion about which link best fits this post?)