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Writing under the influence is not good

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If you’ve beat the virus, you’ve got some grit. You deserve a badge for life. Only those who had it know how sick you can be, and what it takes to get well.

It all started on the 10th day of recovering from the virus. I arrived at the clinic with a bottle of cough medicine under my belt, and medicine prescribed from the emergency room staff.

The man at the admission counter was too, too, pretty. His flowing, palomino white mane and mustache to match caught my attention. I made a mental note. I need to write about him when I get well. The lady at the first desk recognized my name and said, “I know Sweet Al.” And, immediately we bonded. I found a friend.

I sat down to wait. My daughter said, “Mother, you’re sitting on the wrong side. The sick patient side is over there.” I thought it was funny they had a well patient side. As I blew, sneezed and coughed, the well patients all gladly moved to the sick patient side.

I said to her, “I don’t know their routine. I think I better stay here. The well patients won’t appreciate me following them to the sick side.”

“Mother, put on this mask.” Angel, my daughter, handed me a mask and a germ-free tissue. “Wipe your hands.”

I did what she told me to do. My body was so hot my glasses were fogging up as I tried to breathe into the mask. I couldn’t see. Steam was coming off me like a cup of hot coffee. I could’ve cooked an egg in the palm of my hand.

All I could think was, I’m going to die. I was waiting for the big white light to lead me down a tunnel. In that moment of total despair, Cindy appeared in the light. She explained what I needed to do. “We’re going to give you stronger medicine. Your liver is abnormal, your white cells are too high, and your blood pressure is way too high. This virus has been brutal to your body.”

I understand now why a sick person will deed everything they have over to a nurse. When you are that sick, you are so grateful for anyone who will protect you from yourself or the world, because you feel so helpless.

Cindy tried to explain what I needed to do. Nothing she said registered. “Get more tests. Go there on Thursday and here on Friday, don’t take any more of that, take this.”

I couldn’t connect the dots. Finally, she recognized I wasn’t there. She wrote everything down, she guided me in and out, and took my hand like a little child.

I wanted to assure everyone I was sick and I didn’t normally act this way. I said, “I usually have a quick mind. I’m aware that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer at the moment. I can’t connect.”

Everything had gone into slow motion. I felt like Tim Conway in the dentist office. The nurses’ staff all nodded their heads and looked at me with pity. That was my sickest day, the scariest day, and the beginning of my get well day.

David, Al’s brother, called every day to keep me in touch with the death rate; he said he didn’t think he was going to make it, either. He was tough, but this one almost done him in. This virus had kept the Old Grey Wolf out of the chicken coop for four weeks. Those little chicks were fluttering around and were frustrated and they wanted him back in the chase. They were calling him again. I was thinking, “Give the poor old man a rest. He’s been near death. Isn’t this a wakeup call?”

Operating under codeine, everything became funnier and there was another and another story to write. My mind was checking back in.

I thought I was getting better and I wanted to get back to doing what I needed to do. This is when writing under the influence is not good. I sent off a couple of scorching letters, but I added, “I’m sick, too sick to deal with pleasantries.” I figured that was my disclaimer and I got to write what I wanted to say.

I had put my newly appointed office with our Southwest Writers Group on hold. One of my jobs was to schedule speakers for the year’s calendar. I was going on the third week of this wicked virus, and I was beating it, especially with more cough syrup.

You got it. I wrote to this international speaker, who I don’t know, but who I found very warm and open. The more I wrote, the funnier I got. (Of course, that was in my own sick mind.) I had written pages to her and waxed eloquent in humor. I had never been so clever.

The next morning, I realized I was under the influence of codeine and I had shown her the treasury. It was a case of King Hezekiah. He was given another chance to live and became very generous. Not wise, but generous to his enemy.

I knew I had to apologize for myself and to tell her that my actions shouldn’t be a reflection on this group. I blamed it on the codeine. I had to undo what I had done. When I began to write, I wrote even more humorous and couldn’t stop typing. For this speaker who I don’t know, who flies all over the country speaking in conferences, I wrote volumes and volumes.

She wrote back: “And, just between you and me, when I take certain meds, my husband takes away the car keys and locks down my computer.”

I think she was telling me something, but I thought she was being funny. So, I wrote funny back, “Wise husband. I’m going to have to duct tape my fingers together so I won’t type. My Sweet Al says, ‘There are only two tools you need in your toolbox, duct tape and vise grips.’ If I don’t quit writing it will be vise grips for me.”

Final Brushstroke: When I’m back in my right mind, I’m going to have to survey the damage. It’s dangerous to write under the influence of cough medicine. You’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer and you think you’re funnier than you really are.

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This story was posted on February 20, 2014.