Jessie Raymond: Tempting fate — and stomach bug
In December, rumor had it that an intense stomach bug was leveling large swaths of Addison County residents with a double whammy of upper and lower GI distress.
I prepared for the worst.
The last time I got hit hard by such an illness was just before Thanksgiving over a decade ago, after a week when I’d been trying out new winter squash recipes.
It was no 24-hour thing, either. I spent five miserable days on the couch, lost 11 pounds and didn’t touch coffee for two weeks. As for squash, it was over a year before I could even hear the word “delicata” without gagging.
Having braced myself for this recent wave, I wasn’t surprised when it showed up at our house on Christmas morning. Our daughter, the sole victim, shambled out of bed briefly to open a present or two but lurched back into hiding, greenish-gray, when I served up eggs and bacon.
That was just the beginning.
A few days later, two of our grandchildren spent the night. At 3:30 in the morning, the four-year-old, who had been sleeping between us, sat up, turned to consider his pillow and then unburdened himself of his dinner all over the bed. (This is the kind of thing that keeps me from saying, with a wistful smile, “I miss when the kids were little.”)
The next morning, his baby sister — who copies everything her brother does — toddled into the living room and gave a hearty tribute performance on the rug.
As the days went on, I counted among the victims 13 close friends or relatives with whom we had shared Christmas cheer. The word around town was that no school or workplace had been spared.
But somehow, to this day, Mark and I have remained untouched.
I hope we’re in the clear; there’s nothing worse than lying on the bathroom floor, weak and shaking, feeling like you’ve literally been turned inside out.
I just can’t figure out how it missed us. I, at least, should be a prime target.
For one thing, I don’t use hand sanitizer. In my scientifically unfounded (but anecdotally valid) opinion, the worrywarts who are constantly slathering it on are the ones who always get sick.
I figure for all the bad bugs trying to get into my body, there are at least as many good bugs trying to stop them. (You can tell them apart because the good ones are wearing tiny, white, single-celled cowboy hats.) Hand sanitizer, in my cartoon vision, zaps them all, except for the toughest bad bugs, who huff the fumes and grow even stronger.
I don’t take fancy immune boosters or supplements, either. It’s not because I don’t think they work; I’m just too cheap.
I take risks. For instance, when I go grocery shopping, I don’t wipe down the handle of my cart before using it. I never give a thought to who might have used the cart before me. Or where their hands might have been.
Ew. Forget I said that.
I do, however, generally go easy on myself. Some people are heroes who work full-time, manage young families, volunteer on the weekends and say, “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.” Others stay out late partying every weekend.
I, in contrast, lack ambition. I’d stay up past 9:30 if I could, but according to my body the experts who recommend seven to eight hours of sleep a night are wildly lowballing it.
Mostly I aim for a life of quiet moderation in which no one ever says to me, “I just don’t know how you do it all” or “Ma’am, I’ll need you to step out of the car.” Not to brag, but on an average day my most stressful moment is noticing we’re low on toothpaste.
I do wash my hands a lot. But I also go outside with wet hair, fraternize with sick people (if cuddling someone who just barfed on your pillow isn’t fraternizing, I don’t know what is) and — in a brazen move — am tempting fate by declaring that the most recent local epidemic may have skipped me.
Whatever I like to think, however, in reality there’s only one thing keeping me healthy right now: luck.
If mine holds, I can keep pretending I’ve outmaneuvered the stomach bug this time around. If not, well, I’ll never know if I could have avoided it, but I’ll know I could have at least kept my mouth shut.
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