It’s been more than a week now, so I figured it was high time for a break-up. I knew it was coming, I could feel it building, yet when it arrived I found it no less unpleasant for having sensed it. And no matter how old I get, break-ups are still messy and uncomfortable.
Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me assure you this break-up has nothing to do with my current domestic situation, which is nothing less than blissful. What I’m referring to is that point in the chest cold that has been dogging me lo these many days when it starts to break up. Like ice on a frozen river in spring, having done its vile work, the congestion that has been accumulating in various parts of my respiratory tract has decided it is time to vacate, scoot, scarper, get out of Dodge.
This has reduced me to a coughing, hacking, occasionally sneezing machine. Various fluids are emanating from any number of egresses, some at my behest, others all on their own. The dry hack that shook me for several days is gone; replaced by its colleague the run-on coughing and choking fit.
I checked-in with my doctor Friday morning, told him I was afraid I was going to cough up a lung. He assured me my lungs are “crystal clear”, no infection, no need to worry. Just ride it out. He said I could take over-the-counter syrups if I find they help and lozenges for my throat that feels akin to having had a branding iron rammed down it. All fine and dandy. For him at least. Of course he doesn’t have to get up several times a night to a) try to put a stop to a session of run-on coughing before losing consciousness and, b) maintain the above-mentioned domestic harmony by not waking my significantly better half.
Sometimes during my nocturnal hacking sessions “phlegm” crosses my mind – and my mirror to be truthful. When I looked it up I discovered it is defined in two very different ways: firstly as “the thick mucus secreted in the respiratory passages and discharged through the mouth, especially that occurring in the lungs and throat passages, as during a cold”; but also as “self-possession, calmness, or composure, having or showing a slow and stolid temperament” as in a phlegmatic person. How in the name of St. Expectorant of Hackensack did we get from violently coughing up God knows what, to being calm and stoic?
If a former figure skating champ was calm and stoic, would she be Peggy Phlegming? And if a certain area of New Jersey reported an outbreak of chest colds, would it be Phlegmington, N.J.? And I have to believe that chest congestion was the driving force behind Sir Alexander Phlegming’s discovery of penicillin.
Most of the time I try not to think about phlegm, but when I do it often brings me back to when my Grandfather was coming to the end of his time. This was in late 1979 and he was at Ste. Anne’s Veteran’s Hospital located just outside Montreal. In those days, like my Grandfather, there were still several veterans from the First World War. It always hit home with me the effects, even sixty years later, of the gassing they suffered in the trenches. No doubt many, again like my grandfather, had been lifelong smokers, but these were not your normal smokers’ hacks, I’m sure these fellows were horking up parts of Vimy Ridge and Ypres!
Sure puts my congestion in its place!