I was sick like I haven’t been in about 40 years or so.
Two Fridays ago—February 20th in the evening—I started to feel flu-like symptoms. I came home (SkyTrain and street bus) at the usual late hour of midnight from my evening job at the Group Home.
Next morning I had my weekly one-hour phone call with my son Cohen in Saint John, New Brunswick, followed by breakfast, and then met up with three colleagues of the Britannia Writers Group. We meet every three weeks. By then I was feeling weaker—I could feel the fever rising. After lunch my wife wanted to take advantage of the sunny weather. We walked Commercial Drive for a couple of hours. I became increasingly tired and weak. Finally, we returned home.
Next followed five days of frequent fevers, especially strong in the evenings and through the nights, rampant with hallucinatory dreams and repetitive thoughts I was unable to dislodge and release, sweating until soaked, much tossing and turning. I was physically weak and dizzy. I crawled to and from the washroom. My head was spinning. My body was sore, my bones ached. Bedridden, I slept a lot. And I had a very rare lack of appetite. The deep cough was firmly lodged. The headache flared up every time I coughed. This cough had trouble breaking despite my usual regime of homeopathic medicines, hot baths to force the sweating, and Tiger Balm on my chest.
By Wednesday afternoon I decided to see a doctor as my symptoms were not improving. My family doctor is way over in North Vancouver. It is at times difficult to get in to see him. My wife was at work with our car. I couldn’t drive anyway. But, I carefully, slowly hobbled the four blocks up to the neighbourhood walk-in clinic. An hour of dizzy agony until I could see the on-call physician.
She soon determined I had a heavy case of bronchitis bordering on pneumonia. She said, “I’ll give your body the benefit of doubt that it’s not yet pneumonia. But come back tomorrow, and, if things haven’t improved, you’re going to Emergency for an IV.” She prescribed me a hardcore antibiotic (1000-mg Biaxins for seven days). I’m allergic to penicillin—that’s why this one instead. Now, I usually don’t touch antibiotics, but this was a serious case—a last resort. Things started improving the next day, Thursday.
Now, the point of this posting is: when I find myself sick, rare indeed, maybe once a year, even only once every two years, with the flu (I don’t count the seasonal colds of runny nose and stuffed sinuses that don’t keep me from work), time seems to slow down, many sensory stimuli recede somewhat into the background. I have the lights off, no TV, no radio, no CDs. I read a lot (although this time not even that was possible). Our bedroom sits at the front of the second floor, a centre dormer between the barn roof joists, under the gambrel roof (a small 1919 Dutch Colonial Revival house). I lay in bed, gazing out the window up into the sky and at the still-barren branches of the Linden tree at our sidewalk and the barren maple trees across the street. I saw one or two crow’s nests. I admired the contrast and illusion of black branches set against the clear winter-blue sky. I let my mind wander as the occasional propellor airplane or airliner hummed across the sky in the background. The first returning birds twittered and chirped. I saw many wonderful images in the intertwining black lines of twigs, branches, limbs, and trunks. An imaginary world of animals, dwarves, gnomes, faeries, sprites, sylphs, undines, salamanders, a sombreroed peasant following a mule and cart up the hill of a branch. Traffic noise became extinct (it’s fairly quiet in the side streets at the best of times). I travelled back to childhood where I had the same toned-down sensory experiences (measles, mumps, hernia operation at age four). Yet, at the same time, I experience heightened consciousness—I meditate, ponder life at a deeper level. It is always a wonderful opportunity to realign once’s life and thoughts, get back to basics. I am aware of how much I appreciate the small, beautiful, wonderful things in life. Nature at it’s complex yet simple existence. I am happy to be alive. I have an opportunity to revel in awe and veneration. “Small is beautiful.”