Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Illness Lesson

In a very smart move for our emotional health, Tim and I scheduled our annual trip to sunshine. This time, we were headed to Puerto Rico to add our dollars to their hurricane- and earthquake-ravaged economy. For its part, Puerto Rico would add its many hours of daylight to our psyches.

So why did I pick a three-leg return flight with an 8-hour layover in Philadelphia?!?

It could be any number of stupid reasons:
  • It was the one that “popped up” on the website
  • It was cheaper or took less miles
  • I thought, “Oh, we can take the SEPTA train into Center City and see a museum. I can check out Philadelphia for an urban infusion month. It’ll be like two vacations in one.” Was I delirious??
So after we were blissfully relaxed in Puerto Rico, we had to be at the San Juan airport at 4:30 a.m. for our 4½-hour flight to Philadelphia. An irritating little cough started on the plane, the kind that just tickles and doesn’t go away. A “non-productive” cough. We got off in drizzly, gray Philadelphia, got onto the train, made it easily to the Museum of the American Revolution. But somewhere around Washington’s Tent (the actual!), I was flagging. Sagging. We bought cough drops.
And then we had to get back on a plane for another six hours to Seattle. By now, the whole plane was coughing. I kept thinking of Japan, of people kindly wearing masks so they wouldn’t infect others. And then, at a pivotal point in my misery, I thought, What would I pay to not be on this flight?

Later, Sophie would tell me that she’s figured she’d pay $200 to get out of a horrible itinerary, but when she’s purchasing her ticket, she’s pleased with herself for “saving” $200. Note to self: I’m not 25 anymore. A penny saved may be a torture created.

In Seattle, I paid $1 a pill for Advil (because I’d checked medications so I wouldn’t have to carry them around Philadelphia museums…) Way back when we were taking Lamaze classes many years ago, I thought, “I’m a distance runner. I can handle anything if I know there’s an end in sight to pain.” Then the instructor gave us clothespins to clamp on our ears, and I thought my head would spin off from the pain. That flight was like those clothespins.
I am a wuss. This is only the second time I’ve been sick. The other time was when I caught bronchitis 25 years ago. Mostly, I think sick people failed to get their flu shots or … lack some moral fiber. Yes, I know that is totally ungenerous and lacking in compassion. It’s a serious deficiency in my human development, but I guess my current state is a reflection of my own lack of moral fiber.

Twenty-five hours from when we started in San Juan, we made it home. Since then – many days – I’ve been on the couch. My cough is now very “productive” and my body aches so much even my skin aches. If my hair flops from one side to the other, my scalp hurts.

Puerto Rico is a distant memory. I’ll have to reflect on it later. I’m not sure I remember it. So what have I learned?
  • I am very, very lucky to have a home that comes with a husband, a couch, a heating pad, a big blanket, Netflix, many library books, a teakettle, and a medicine cabinet.
  • I shouldn’t plan something that requires marathon strength. Planning should default to a higher comfort level; save the marathon strength for an unanticipated emergency.
  • I am very, very lucky to have a home that comes with a husband, a couch, a heating pad, a big blanket, Netflix, many library books, a teakettle, and a medicine cabinet.
  • Don’t put the Advil in the checked baggage.
  • I am very, very lucky to have a home that comes with a husband, a couch, a heating pad, a big blanket, Netflix, many library books, a teakettle, and a medicine cabinet.
So I guess I got more out of a trip to Puerto Rico than I thought.


  1. Another brilliant post! What? Your Lamaze coach did what? Some people will go to any length to hide their torturous nature behind a benign or even beneficent flag. Coaches of all kinds, I'm talking about you. I tell younger women who wonder that labor isn't really painful. It's just the most extreme exercise you will ever do, and to wear some snorkel goggles because your eyeballs may pop out before a baby does. When you feel better, maybe you can tell us a few memories of PR, food, lodging, music, water, birds, flowers, hurricane damage, people? Until then, have a Happy Valentine's Day with Tim, now that you have again established that home is not only where the heart is, but the hubster, a couch, a heating pad!, a big blanket, Netflix, books, tea and the medicine cabinet. Cheers, KJ/OR

  2. Somehow we are connected over the miles between us. I think I have the same cold! But I didn't take a coughing flight (8-hr layover, NEVER!) so who knows. But I am also glad you cherish your Tim, what a wonderful guy. I haven't seen or talked to my roommate Tamara in 3 days since I assume she doesn't want to catch it (but a What's App "get well" wish would be nice) and my girlfriend Mechthild calls a couple times a day (I mean, I am easy to reach!) but is also laying low. Maybe Germans are just more reasonable when it comes to health. Anyway, just wanted to send you a "get well" wish and we all realize how great Tim must be since you even mentioned him TWICE :-)
    love, Allison

    1. Three times. But really, it's having a home and a couch that makes all the difference. Doc says I'm negative for flu; it's pneumonia. Not contagious.


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