This Thing Called Courage

Sunday, February 11, 2007


MY DEAR FRIEND DERMOT has what he calls an irrefutable, utterly unanswerable excuse for getting out of something: "Tell them you have the shits," he says. I'm not sure how many times he used this when calling in sick to his job as a judge, but I am sure (after the last 48 hours) there is something in what he says. This comes to mind because on Friday-Saturday (I've lost track of the days) I had that horrible stomach virus that is going around, and was so ill I hardly cared whether I lived or died. For the sake of reportorial accuracy, I will be brief and explicit. It started Friday morning at 7 am and ended at 5 am Saturday morning. In the interval, I had the runs TWENTY times; not nineteen; not twenty-one; but TWENTY. Who ever heard of such a thing? And interspered among that was about seven 'vomiting episodes,' occasionally in concert with the former. Gross doesn't even begin to describe it. Thus said the Boston Globe on January 22:
January 22, 2007
An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness is sweeping New England and other parts of the country, packing emergency rooms with patients stricken with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Disease specialists suspect that most of the illness is being caused by a germ called a norovirus. So what can you do to prevent catching that nasty bug? And if you do come down with it, what should you do?
The Boston Public Health Commission has answered those questions in podcasts -- one in English, one in Spanish -- at
The virus is most often transmitted when infected people fail to wash their hands thoroughly after a bowel movement. The germ can then pass from one person to another through a handshake, for example. It can also be transmitted through food.
Most people recover within 24 to 36 hours with no treatment other than drinking lots of fluids.

Enough said on that. This morning I feel much better, though still a tad wiped out. My sleep is all screwed up as basically I was sleeping for two hours, then up for two hours. And had to cancel a reading/signing event in Cambridge Friday evening, which we will reschedule to May or June.
It's really wonderful to feel well again.

I almost always get depressed when I am this sick. I suppose it's hard to feel good emotionally and mentally when one feels so amazingly hideous physically. As I feel better physically, general malaise remains-- a nasty taste in the mouth, body aches, fatique, and a restless depression. This seems to diminish on its own as I improve, helped along by my list of favorite things, which I seemingly must compose from scratch. Well, I like the birds, I think. There's one for me. Well, I like hiking in the woods. I like writing. I like painting. I like playing my drum. I like swimming. And so own. It seems brick by brick I come back into the business of living, and enjoying this thing called life. George and Bob came by Friday night with soup and ginger ale, and to walk Fionn; Clay came by yesterday morning to walk Fionn and brought two large jars of organic applesauce and a lovely plant of small yellow daisies that just seem to shout out happiness and cheer. God bless them. Understandably people are reluctant to come by, as it's like the plague, and very catchy. I'm very glad it's over. Fionn seemed very distraught and confused by my illness and the fact that Daddy would not/could not get out of the bed. Once he expressed his concern by jumping on my stomach when I was not expecting it. To say the least, this didn't make me feel any better. I am afraid he got yelled at for that, for only the third time since I've had him. He can't STAND when I yell at him. His whole body posture becomes very low to the ground and worm-like, his tail wags like crazy in nervousness and alarm, and he crouches to me, nuzzling and worming his way into my body-- he just cannot abide the fact that I might be mad at him, poor thing.

I plan on laying fairly low today and abandoning my regular Sunday routine of church, brunch, and a big walk in Boston. If I feel up to it, I may scrounge around out back in the woods for some firewood, as we are expecting a blizzard here on Wednesday, and I always like to have some wood in, in case we lose our power in the high winds. It's been very cold lately, but thus far we haven't had any real snow to speak of this winter. Apparently, that's about to change. Like most kids, I so loved it when we got snowstorms when I was a boy; in fact, I once built what I called a 'Snow Machine,' out of my Tinker-Toys, this kind of spinning device; and I would lower it outside into the air from my second story bedroom window by a string, spin it, and intone, "Snow! Snow! Snow!" At the time I told my brother Bobby, and half-believed myself, that it had evocative powers to create blizzards. I wonder what happens to us that these things lose their magic and become things to bemoan and complain about. Maybe some of it is that we don't go outside and play in the show anymore. Maybe on Thursday I'll build a fort or something. But part of the problem of course is that most adults can't find any comperes to play with in the snow, and this of course diminishes the fun.


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