Winter_ Influenza and Painless Flu Shots Essay

Thanks to the thoughtful planners in town and the skillful inoculations from Sharon Daley of the Seacoast Mission, a record number of people received painless flu shots in November in the Cranberry Isles. It’s a darn good thing too, since those of us who came down with the two-week worst cold-virus-ever in December and January could at least be reassured and grateful that, though it really felt like it, we did not have the flu.

When I don’t feel well, I don’t feel good about anything I do. This makes facing the deadline for my first 2013 Cranberry Report a bit of a challenge. I have been trying to develop a description of how winter feels on Little Cranberry Island and what a special time of year it is, but I’m not having much luck. Instead of finding 1,000 words of wonderful, I’m afraid I’m going to grumble my way through several hundred words of woe in an account of what it was like to leave the island for the holidays.

In the gale-festered week before Christmas, the Beal and Bunker boats and the commuter boats were canceled on three separate days, messing up work, shopping and travel plans for quite a few residents. Bruce and I were lucky to leave for Baltimore on a day when all boats were running. We had clear weather to drive to New Haven, where we spent the night with the parents of our daughter-in-law, Stephanie. We indulged ourselves with enthusiastic talk about the desire for grandchildren, getting it out of our system before arriving at Robin and Stephanie’s new house where it was wise to not yet mention the topic.

We left New Haven in a downpour, with written directions to the Tappan Zee Bridge and an older model GPS that suggested we take an alternate route at every exit along the way. Although Bruce and I are the best of friends, who have been together for 36 years, we still manage to have the hardest time getting along when we are traveling together in the car. I don’t know why it is, and it’s not a constant thing, but on any trip we will each experience that “I really can’t stand you right now” feeling for moments at a time.

I admit I add to the challenge by drinking more tea on such journeys, which necessitates more comfort stops along the way, prolonging our travel time. In one such stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, the bathroom’s hand dryers had been installed directly over the sinks, rather than on a different wall. The high speed air that quickly dried clean hands was also blowing down hard on the surfaces of wet taps and faucets, vaporizing and spreading God knows what kind of germs back into the faces of people who were hurrying to get back on the road. My moment of hesitation came about two seconds too late. I was already standing there drying my hands. Thirty-six hours later I said hello to the nasty norovirus.

The worst of the bug was over before Christmas Eve, but my stomach and appetite did not return to normal until the day we were heading home. We had our son Fritz and his brother’s dining room table added to our car after the holiday visit. With a very full car we made the trip back to Portland without incident or argument. We were fortunate not to have driven through much more than light rain, but were greeted by a foot of snow on the ground when we crossed the border into Maine. At the hotel I mentioned to Bruce that my throat was kind of sore and he said, “I’m sure it’s nothing more than dry air from traveling. You’re fine.” I had been sucking on zinc lozenges all the way back from Baltimore trying to ward off what felt like the start of a cold.

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We picked up Bruce’s mom the next morning and headed for the island. She had also been in Baltimore for Christmas, but had flown in to Portland the day before we arrived. She had a slight cough and said she thought she might be getting a cold. By the next morning, Bruce said he felt like he was getting a cold and I didn’t feel any better. “Could be the dry air from traveling,” I said. In my mind I was muttering the words, “man cold,” a term with which most wives are familiar.

At first we did okay, each managing to rally a bit when the other was sinking. It felt good to be home after eight days away and we had no immediate plans. We hunkered down and watched movies and football and hoped to recover quickly enough to have a few friends over for dinner on New Year’s Eve. By that Monday our friends were calling us to say they had made other plans.

If long travel by car brings out the worst in us, several days of being sick simultaneously ranks almost as high on the bad behavior meter. I wanted quiet when Bruce wanted the distraction of TV, and vice versa. I know we each celebrated the first days of the new year with intermittent thoughts of “I really can’t stand you right now,” and as of this deadline we’re both still feeling pretty yucky. (Apparently this really is a two-week cold.)

We also know that with just a tiny bit of gratitude we can put our minor suffering into perspective. We are grateful to live in a beautiful quiet place that really is restful when we need to rest. We appreciate that our self-employment is slow right now, allowing us time for creativity in the kitchen and in the studio. We are especially grateful for the sense of community on our small islands where friends and neighbors help shovel walks, run the snowplows, pick up mail for each other and basically help keep an eye on things. By next week we hope to be back to normal, once again part of the community. I truly believe that winter on the islands brings out the best in people who live here; just not when we’re feeling our worst.

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