Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Bug

I'm running a bit behind this week because I caught a bug.

A bug? You mean a ladybug or a gnat?

No, I mean a bug which put me in a whirlwind for about three days. Call it what you will, it was horrible and devastating and nasty. Turns out it was probably a mild strain of food poisoning and, if you have suffered through such an episode, it is fairly disconcerting.

I am fairly certain about its origin which was likely a local eatery. But these things are had to pinpoint exactly, apparently, because the dormancy period can be weeks (imagine that) so people have to scour their memories about anything suspicious they may have eaten.

Most of what I eat, I cook myself. In the past week, there was one exception and that was a lunch shared with a friend late last week. When it came time to order, I remember the waiter asked if I wanted beef or chicken. When I said chicken, he had a rather puzzled expression and repeated my order.

"Is that a problem?" I asked.

"No. No problem."

I don't know if that request set into motion unusual circumstances. I'd rather not know. The food was eminently forgettable but acceptable. After all, it was lunch with a friend. It was almost certainly the culprit or at least the catalyst for what was to follow.

On Monday morning, things began to happen. I was sick all morning but made it to an appointment. When I returned in the afternoon, worsened sickness put me in bed where I more or less stayed for two days. Today I am settled and with the help of buttered toast and ice tea, will stay that way for a while.

At the very least, I have to think -- thank goodness! -- I have lost a couple of pounds and certainly am turned off of food for the present.

But as I wallowed in my misery, I got to thinking about what it would be like to be really ill, battling something truly scary. It was one of those moments we should all keep in mind -- that no matter how bad things look, they could be a heck of a lot worse.

We have become so used to resolution that we often lose sight of the big picture. TV dramas are resolved in an hour. Some people like to know how a book comes out before they read it just so there are no surprises. We like it when the bad guys get arrested and we can all move on with our own petty worries again.

When I was quite young, I remember my mother going to see our doctor (which, indeed, was rare) because she had shingles. Another patient was waiting for an appointment, a young, vibrant mother of several small children.

"Oh, hello," the lady said to my mother. "I see you are visiting with the doctor today."

"Yes," my mother replied. Despite being an extremely private person, she whispered, "I have shingles."

"Oh, dear. I hear that is a dreadful condition."

"I'm improving." My mother said. "Hope all is well with you."

The other lady smiled but said nothing. Soon afterward she died of leukemia which she had been battling quietly.

My mother used to reflect on that exchange. If only she had known what the other lady was suffering from. Why would someone so seriously ill give sympathy to someone suffering from a more treatable condition?

Sometimes suffering in silence is a courageous act.

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