There’s a story in my favourite book - Garrison Keillor’s Leaving Home - where the whole town of Lake Wobegon gets the Swedish flu -
It’s the usual flu with chills, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, achiness and personal guilt, but it’s accompanied by an overpowering urge to put things in order. Before you collapse into bed, you iron the sheets. Before you vomit, you plan your family’s meals for the upcoming week.
Dave had a flu-like cold at the weekend. Usually when he’s ill, he doesn’t go to bed. He scorns the very mention of bed. This is his usual mantra: “I’m going out on my bike to teach this cold a lesson.”
But this time he was so ill he did go to bed. I wanted to look after him. I like looking after poorly people (at least I do until it gets boring.) I wanted to make him drinks, fluff up his pillow, bring him treats and a nice cold flannel for his fevered brow, but he spurned all my offers.
Dave: “Do you think I’m going to die?”
Sue: “No, Dave. You’ve just got a nasty cold. Would you like me to make you a drink?”
Dave: “Are you being a bit impatient with me today?”
He said this three times on Saturday and three times on Sunday, and I kept answering – patiently, of course - “No. I’m not being impatient. I think you’re ultra-sensitive because you’re feeling so rough. I’m actually being extremely sweet to you. Don’t I keep offering to do things for you?” (Could paranoia be one of his symptoms?)
This morning he was his usual self again, and even though he was coughing, and his head was aching. and his chest felt as if someone was sticking a loo brush down it, he went out on his bike.
I, however, started sniffing, and then worrying that I was getting his cold, and then manically swallowing aconite every two hours as a prophylactic. And no-one was being very nice to me: Zoe sounded unfriendly on the phone, and the man in the cafe was rather off. Didn’t they like me?
Now Dave is sleeping in the other room so as not to disturb me with his coughing. Or is it because he doesn’t like me? And I am sitting here at midnight unable to sleep, two hours past my bedtime, because my nose is running and my face hurts, and now my eyes are sore.
7 a.m. the next morning. I have got it. And Dave just came in and brought me a mug of sweet tea, without my asking. He always looks after me beautifully when I’m under par.