MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - A tale of two colds: his and hers

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Lately The Norwegian Artist and I shared a cold together.

I mean, he had his, and I had mine, but we did it as a married couple.

And, as is the case with most things that married couples collectively accomplish, The Norwegian Artist was very male about the whole thing, while I opted to tap into my interior and external female.

At the first sign of any disease, I morph into Catwoman, stealing to the bedroom as soon as my work obligations are behind me, shutting the door, nesting under the covers, and sleeping. If I can find an actual cat, I bring one up for company and illustration, but the important thing is that I am screened from view and human interaction, blissfully alone with my tissues and my snuffling, and ... sleeping.

Any progeny distributed about downstairs knows better than to expect anything recognizable for dinner, as, when I do descend, I drift to the sofa, collapse, and announce that tea and toast sound delightful, and will somebody who is not ill please arrange to bring me some and don't forget the milk, thank you.

Tired of Being Youngest, knowing from experience that it's easiest to get the tea-and-toast thing out of the way, indulged me, and I was agreeably sipping when the Son and Heir burst in, breathing hard.

"That's a workout," he puffed.

Sip. Nibble. Sip.

"Have you been running?" I asked.

"No, we've been shoveling chicken manure from the coop into the garden beds. We got in quite a few loads."

"We?

"Yeah. Me and Dad."

It's Dad and I, actually, but that's not the point.

"Your Dad has been shoveling chicken manure?"

"Yeah. We've been at it the last hour."

And therein, my friends, lies the difference in how The Norwegian Artist and I approach the standard cold virus.

My theory is that, while the body is under the influence of attacking microbes, the white blood cell cavalry need all the help that they can get, and distractions, such as extra oxygen for physical exertion, should be kept to a minimum.

My snuggle-time on the king-sized battlefield, while seemingly indolent, is part of a calculated military campaign to strengthen and support those valiant white cells.

Perhaps it has to do with years of staying at home with a series of very young children who suck the life and energy out of a female when she is healthy and robust, but when my energy wanes, I long for silence, darkness, peace, quiet, isolation -- actually, the attributes that the average cat seeks all the time, sick or not.

The Norwegian Artist, however, believes that the Enemy Cold Virus needs to be attacked head on: sweated out, molested, assaulted, crushed, mashed, mangled, forced into unrelenting hard labor, deprived of oxygen, marched to the edge of the precipice and hurtled over the side.

Each shovelful of chicken manure is a rusty nail driven into soft warm virus flesh, a cannon ball smashing the outer walls, a volley of arrows and a catapult of boulders harassing and assaulting and assailing.

The Norwegian Artist gives no quarter. After the garden activity comes the daily walk (minus me), if not at full speed in deference to the health hostilities, at no less than 85 percent. If it's still light outside, there's time for a little wood chopping. Maybe the gate on the goat pen needs to be fixed.

At dark he's in, sniffing, sneezing, coughing but abounding with righteous energy, consuming his tea and toast (which he gets himself), casting a calculating glance my direction, but wise enough not to say anything about his co-general-in-life's tactical maneuvers.

In bed, at night, we both toss and turn, each with our private box of Kleenex.

The next day, the individualized health plans of after-work action (or, in my case, inaction) begin anew, until, three days later, the colds have run their course and we resume normal activity.

I, in that three day skirmish, have had a delightful respite -- making allowance for the headache, mild fever, and plugging of the ears -- catching up on light reading, knitting a bit, chatting with the cat.

The Norwegian Artist has filled half the woodshed, prepared two beds in the garden for planting, fixed the gate, walked the dog.

Ying and Yang, Norwegian and Pole, artist and writer, north and south, male and female, husband and wife -- we are different enough to keep the other on edge, alike enough to enjoy being in the same room together.

Gesundheit.

Carolyn Henderson is manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. Find more of her writing at middleagedplague.wordpress.com.

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