Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear Dad

Things have been pretty dull here at the library, but today we did have some excitement. A woman came in with her daughter and told us they were giving free H1N1 vaccinations over at the health department. So we packed up our stuff and went for a walk.

It took under five minutes for me to get the shot. And now I can go to work, live my life, get books that are contaminated with viral evil handed to me, and shield my face as tiny children cough open-mouthed at me, when they have just insisted that I "Come'ere a minute."

Dad, I know you won't get a flu shot. I know you. I do.

That being said, let me give you a scenario.

Let's say there is a pastor.

We'll call him...Telly.

Telly works a great deal in the community.

He visits hospitals.

He goes to homes of the elderly, while they sit covered in acrylic crocheted afghans, shivering in 85 degree living rooms with stale, recycled air and the scent of too many dinners of meat and heavy gravies hanging in the air, mixing with the chemical tinge of the eternal medications that spread, littered, across counters and tables, concealed in clear plastic tombs marked with dates and hours and minutes, counting down the seconds between doses even as they tick away the last moments of life, capsule after capsule, pill after precious pill, until the last refill ends.

Telly, however, is a healthy man. Unless you count that time with the heart attack, and the wandering of Parkview's halls and varied floors, as he visited his parishioners even though it was he that ought to have been attended, even as the nurses frantically searched him out.

That was kind of stupid of him, if you think about it. Dad.

Telly is vital, often confused for a much-younger man. He is active. He runs, lifts weights, and obsesses about his weight more than most women (BURN!).

Did I mention, Dad, how much I love you?

I really do.

Telly has a daughter as well, a daughter who once had to console her mother when Telly was ill, gasping like a fish, lying on his belly over the humidifier as he gulped air, wheezing it out before taken by racking coughs that shook the very foundations of their blue-gray country home.

Telly's wife almost called for an ambulance, but had Telly really been near death when she thought to place the call, the ambulance would only have arrived in enough time to pronounce him dead, such is the security their distance from the hospital provides.

Let us imagine that Telly has had an average week. He awakens each day at 5:00 a.m. for his devotions, which he partakes in silence now that the gunshot of the recliner springs have been silenced. Now his daughter sleeps through to her alarm, a rare treat she has yet to grow accustomed to.

He goes to work, he visits, he prepares sermons and meets with prayer groups, mission teams, other pastors, and the occasional friend. He sometimes makes it home prior to his bedtime, which is 10:00 p.m. On those evenings he sits, collapsed like a balloon in a chair or on the couch, his brow furrowed, his eyes narrowing to slits as he struggles to keep them open.

Let us say the sermon has just finished.

This would, in this case, be the second sermon. Not the evening one.

Kelly--Telly--is standing in the narthex, and a little child with perfect blonde curls is darting about his feet holding an ink pen. Or perhaps the child is hiding behind his legs, ducked under the tables to hide from a determined parent, holding a jacket in one hand, a Bible in the other.

Let us say that Telly breathes the same air as this child.

Now, let's play Science.

In Science, when a person breathes out, they are not just shooting air out of their nose (or mouth, if you have sinus problems) like the aforementioned deflated balloon.

No, in fact, a person breathes out a mixture of air and particles of what Science calls sputum.

This is gross. It doesn't just sound gross, it is gross.

Because contrary to popular belief, this sputum courses out of your nose and mouth not just when you sneeze or cough, but also when you exhale, sigh, or just talk.

Right now, you might be sitting in a room with another person. Imagine him, sitting at a computer, talking to himself. Now imagine that the room you are sitting in is enclosed. You are breathing is sputum. Yep, you are sucking down his lung-juices with every breath you take, so you better like him, because you're pretty intimate right now. Lung-juice intimate.

This is completely normal.

It is also why hypochondriacs refuse to ride in airplanes. Imagine meeting over 200 new people, because you are practically making out with them, since you are breathing their spit through the air. Every breath you take is like a Lung-Juice Slurpy, coursing down into your lungs and settling deep inside, mingling with your own in a process called...

Breathing. It happens every day.

You never know it, so who cares, right?

Telly should.

Because the cute curly-haired youth stabbing Telly with the pen has H1N1, right then, right at that second.

Oh, she doesn't look sick. Yet. But by Tuesday night, she'll have spiked a fever, her parents will be on the phone with the pediatrician, and the family will be in...


But Telly won't be.

No, Telly will be sitting with the elderly wrapped-in-a-blanket person in their stuffy living room. His lung-juices mingling with theirs in the ever-blending mulligan stew that is humanity.

Telly, being as he is (of course) Strong-Like-Bull, kicks that Oink-Flu's like it's a bratty not-quite-teenage-anymore-in-fact-more-like-twenty-something-even-though-it-will-take-until-her-mid-forties-for-it-to-sink-into-Telly's-thick-skull daughter.

Telly, being the He-Man that he is, will go out with a club and a hunting knife and take down that bear (see, using metaphor). He will triumph.

But what about Mr. Sick Old Guy?

Well, in my fake scenario, since I am in total control, PuppetMaster Supreme, Mr. Sick Old Guy gets a little sick but miraculously recovers just in time to teach Telly a lesson.

Does Telly get the lesson?

Telly's Lesson (in case you weren't paying much attention): Get the flu vaccine not for yourself, you flunkie, get it for the sick old people and tiny little ones and pregnant ladies you see every day, so you are not a walking petri dish of despair.

Here endeth the lesson.

*Yes, I am aware of the MASH tie-in. That is why I titled this post as I did. I love MASH. I really, really do. Hawkeye was a Knitter. Need I say more?


  1. Actually, I didn't notice the MASH tie-in till you mentioned it. Shame on me, I should have caught that.

    Anyway, I wanted to point out that your dad is, in fact, (you already know this) partially-naturally-immune to the piggie flu because of his age. Also, I can see his side of things. I like to pretend I battle it out with sicknesses everyday and win--they will not bring me down!!

    That being said, I started losing my voice today. I'm not allowing myself to talk or sing for the rest of the night. This will be painful. Thankfully I have my sock to attend to, and my MASH :)

  2. You know Laura, I do believe that once Jen regains the use of her voice (and proves she's not carrying something deadly), she should be joining us at Coffe D'Vine. Why knits socks if you can't show them off to as many people as possible?

  3. Also, I wanted to state here (and will probably state later) that this is not something to read while eating, as I have just discovered. This may have just cured me of most of my eating at my desk.

  4. Mmmm...Lung-Juice...

    Also, Jennifer should so totally join us at Coffee D'Vine (and get vaccinated for H1N1); I ought to remember when someone offers me a band-aid to tell them I am allergic to latex and that the band-aid could in fact kill me; and Dad ought to know better than to risk his health, what with his heart condition and his own diagnosed-but-untreated-do-to-extreme-stubborness asthma, and the fact that he will be the one giving the funeral to the person he could potentially infect and kill.

    And why? Why, I ask? Because free is too much to pay?