Did you get the flu shot yet?

It takes more than a bad cold to keep an upbeat writer down.

Syringe shot 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Syringe shot 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As much as I’d like to believe that this “aging thing” is all in my head, a clear seismic shift is taking place in my never-before-fragile immune system. Gosh darn it, I have the flu again!
As I lie here trying to come up with something cheery to say in this column entitled “On a Lighter Note,” the husband-side of my bed (sans husband) is stocked with two weeks of still-to-be-read newspapers, three older issues of Oprah magazine, a thermos of hot tea laced with organic honey, and a bed tray stocked with all the necessary supplies for a professional style French manicure.
The electric heating pad underneath my aching calf muscles feels so delicious that I’m fighting an urge to weep.
I’m also fighting a poorly conceived urge to call my mother in Florida to say, “I’m sick, Mommy.
Come take care of me!” My mother – may she live and be well – is an 81-year-old walking pharmaceutical manual.
There isn’t an ailment on earth that she cannot diagnose even when the information is paltry or unavailable. Considering that she never went to medical school, her wealth of information is quite impressive and broad-based. Still, mom’s specialty areas lie in growth deformities and dementia. Too ashamed to tell her that I was sick again, I’ve kept to the e-mail method of communication, along with sending her copies of my recent articles. But there was no avoiding a live phone call when she wanted to know how my first Shabbat spent with my future stepfamily went.
“It was good,” I answered, trying to sound more like Tiny Tim and less like Tallulah Bankhead. ”The weather was cold, and I didn’t have the proper clothing. I might have gotten a cold. The grandchildren were pretty sick.”
The silence was deafening. The silence before the storm, that is.
“Children carry germs. I bet you had them all over your lap trying to make a good impression, thinking that you are stronger than Samson.
Have you gotten the flu shot yet? Why are you so stubborn? There are people counting on you.
You have enormous responsibilities! And you go jogging at the most ungodly hours in the chilly morning with your delicate lungs, and you know the doctors said that you’re susceptible to infection after the last bout. And why are you jogging, anyway? You will never lose that weight because you are so solid! The weight can’t come off. But who am I to tell you what to do? Are you taking the vitamin C? I know that it has grown out of fashion, but what works works. They can come up with new ideas all the time, but the things that are time proven don’t need to be improved. How are the children? Drink tea and inhale steam and treat yourself kindly. And stop exercising! Who ever heard of a 55-year-old woman running in a marathon? Does your fiancé know anything about nutrition? I don’t think so. It’s up to you to set an example.”
This one-way conversation made me feel a little tired, and the worst part of it is that I agree with her (except for the “stop exercising part. Don’t tell.). When I’m feeling well, I forget about those common sense tactics for avoiding illness. Tfu, tfu, tfu, my constitution has always been knock-on-wood terrific. Evidently I’m stuck in a life progression time warp and, unlike my wise mother, I refuse to recognize that some things change.
Last month I finally relented and saw a sports orthopedist about my aching knees, thinking he was going to use words reserved for athletes like “replacement,” “cortisone” and “meniscus” Instead, I was utterly stunned to hear him utter the term “osteoarthritis” and begin to spew madly about treatments like physical therapy and X-rays! Hello? These are “old people” words.
For people who take Metamucil. Senior types who wear prescription insoles and take afternoon naps so they can stay up to watch the 7 o’clock news. Not me! Which brings us back to the sick-in-bed method of writing an upbeat article about life in Israel.
As I was beginning to hallucinate from the fever and the desire to eat something more than chicken soup with rice, the phone rang next to my pounding head. My Hebrew is barely adequate when I’m feeling robust. Face down with ague, I can only string together a few choppy words to make myself understood. This did not stop a cheery Israeli mobile phone technician named Tal bellowing in the Holy Tongue, “Hi, Andrea. You are having a problem with your BlackBerry?” Oy. It was true. I had made the call the day before, pre-prostration, and forgot that in a parallel universe some companies actually are helpful.
But who actually expected an Israeli provider to be helpful and get back to me before next Succot? My eyes were burning by now, and I wanted to talk later but feared that if I let this unprecedented moment pass by, it would never be repeated.
“I can’t get any SMS messages. People are angry at me for not getting back to them. Can you help me?” By Western standards, I was put on hold for an inordinately long time but it was, in fact, their shekel. When Tal came back on the line, he said, “All fixed.”a “What?” I muttered. ”What country are we in? Don’t I have to ship the unit to Beersheba and wait until three strikes have ended, only to get it back in pieces next winter with a letter from a lawyer telling me that I owe BlackBerry $1,000?” “No. Everything is all right. No charge. Have a nice day.”

About to hang up, I heard Tal shout one more thing: “By the way, you really should take better care of yourself! My grandmother can bring over some kubbeh soup and hilbeh that will cure you. And make some tea. But before you drink it, toss in a shot-glass filled with arak.”
I may just get that flu shot yet. But not before I have one more consultation with both my mother and Tal’s grandmother. Neither one of them requires a co-pay fee. And both, it seems, are available for house calls.


Tags flu