Between the Holiday Blizzard and the nasty cold I got for Christmas, I have been under the weather. That blizzard was something extraordinary. I can’t remember ever seeing snow blow with quite the intensity and for as long as it did during that storm.
It did, however, bring back memories of big snows from my childhood. We seemed to get more big snows back then. There was always plenty of snow for building snow families, sturdy forts and for sledding. But I don’t recall the snow ever drifting to the heights it did during this last onslaught. Drifts several feet high still obscure my back steps and hold my car hostage in the shed.
Fortunately the old farm truck, parked in the driveway, was easier to dig out so by mid-week I was finally able to escape the house that had begun to feel like a prison – a well-appointed and comfortable prison, but still the area of my confinement. But after seven days without leaving these walls I swear the rooms were getting smaller, my own company was becoming much less interesting and my tissue supply had vanished. It was time to get out of the house and find some connection with other people, not to mention more tissues.
I’m not sure I have ever been as excited about a trip to the grocery store as I was for that first outing after the storm. I have never enjoyed going somewhere – anywhere – as much as I did that excursion. As I parked the truck I realized my face already hurt from smiling so broadly. I greeted everyone whose path came anywhere near mine with a warm “Hi!” and that smile. I did notice some taking a rather circuitous route to their cars and for a moment thought my enthusiasm might be putting them off, but I didn’t care. I also didn’t care if I knew those I was greeting or not. They were people, other human beings, and I was thrilled to be out and among them.
Even before the storm, I had tried to stay away from groups of people. I believed that those infected with evil germs are more easily camouflaged in large groups of not-yet ill people, therefore more difficult to avoid. This strategy proved successful and I remained a model of good health – until the Sunday before Christmas. That’s when I bumped against one of the largest breeding grounds for seasonal germs. It wasn’t at the work place, or at a big raucous party, but rather at church! By the sound of it the sanctuary was filled with sick people. As soon as I sat down I heard wheezes and sneezes all around me. I could hardly hear the sermon for all the coughing and tissue rustling. I held my breath as much as I could and tried to not touch anything that anyone else had already touched.
And then the most frightening thing occurred – the minister told everyone to rise and shake each other’s hands. My biggest nightmare played out before me as one of the people who was exhibiting the most serious symptoms of coughing, sneezing and potential fever walked over to me with her hand extended. What could I do? To turn away would be rude, so I smiled warmly, nodded and desperately looked for someone healthy with whom to quickly interact. There was no one and Fever Girl stood resolutely in front of me, hand inches away and ready to shake mine. Well, this was one of those times when any God-fearing person might ask, “What would Jesus do?” Since Jesus didn’t turn away from the sick, I weakly shook the hand. I don’t know what Jesus might have done after he crossed paths with the ill, but I did my best to keep that hand away from any other part of my body until I could get home and thoroughly sanitize it, as well as the rest of me.
But it was too late. Within 36 hours my throat was scratchy, my eyes watery and my nose began running a marathon. And that’s why several days later I found myself happy to be alive and once again among people. However, I would like to apologize to the strangers I may have made uncomfortable with my spontaneous hugging in the grocery store.
On the bright side, I’m pretty sure I’m no longer contagious.