I always know when I'm really sick. A veil falls between my eyes and the rest of the world; I can see it but I don't care. The usual spark between my nerve endings and my vision is gone, my brain stops working beyond making complaints to myself, and my body moves as though it's made from slapped-together sludge. I don't care whether I eat or not. I don't want to read. Movies go unwatched. All I want to do is sleep and sleep, and then sleep some more.
There was no reason for the sickness that fell over me this week. I didn't have a cold and the nausea I felt was only a result of a severe and persistent headache. Almost every muscle that I could identify was in pain and moving took more energy than I thought I had. On the first day I was awake for perhaps seven of the twenty-four hours. Yesterday I walked to the supermarket for ginger tea and Kleenex and a bottle of Perrier. The walk nearly did me in and just might have if I hadn't picked up Thai takeout from my very favorite restaurant.
The special of the day was palo moo, pork chunks simmered with tofu and a hard-boiled egg in five-spice broth and served over rice with an incendiary sauce to perk things up a bit. Nothing had sounded good to eat for well over thirty-six hours until I learned that one of my favorite meals was available only steps away from my apartment. I came home, gasping a little from the climb to my three-story walk-up, put half of the food in a bowl and began to eat. I think it might have saved my life--or at least restored it.
Today I can see the damp grey-green world that extends beyond my window, and the shiny pavement that shimmers below me has an enticing cast to it. I want to go out--and I will--there will be Thai food in two more hours at Thai Curry Simple. And then I'll do what I always told my children to do when they began to feel better--I'll take a day to be bored before I leap back into life.
I'm approaching the danger bracket that is particularly vulnerable during the flu season--people 65 and over. I'm almost halfway to 65. "Did you get a flu shot?" a friend asked on Facebook when I said I was sick. No, I didn't.
And no, I won't.
In Alaska, when the wolf population goes down, the rabbit population goes up, and up, and up. Then one year the rabbits get sick and many of them die. And then the cycle starts all over again.
There's a reason why natural predators exist. When they're stamped out, nature finds another solution to population control. It's not always pretty but it does the job.
As a country, we are living too long. My mother summed it up when she told me that she stopped living the way she wanted to when she left her seventies. Medical science has given us a vast lifespan, but it is an artificial extension, depending on far too many aids that make life irksome and truncated. I don't want that kind of life.
Gloomy old Parson Malthus had the right idea. Nature corrects population imbalances. It's no accident that influenza is becoming more virulent among the elderly. And that's not a bad thing.
When I can no longer be cured by a bowl of Thai food, it will be time for me to go to sleep. If my body doesn't take over, I hope those who love me will let me sleep forever. That's the way we were designed to go, not hooked up to breathing tubes and liquid nourishment through an IV tube. If it's good enough for the rabbits, it's good enough for me.