Performer: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Songwriters: Neil Young
Original Release: Zuma
Definitive Version: Year of the Horse, 1997.
One thing that’s been on my mind as I close in on the Big 5-0 is my health. In addition to getting your AARP membership card, a whole bunch of things start to happen to you when you turn 50.
One such thing is you typically have your first colonoscopy after 50. I already have had two—my first when I was 27—so that’s no big deal. Another is that you should start getting an annual flu shot.
I don’t get flu shots. I’m not a germaphobe, but the idea of injecting a strain of something I’m supposed to avoid into my body makes me skittish as a general rule. Avoiding it is all fine and well when you’re a young adult, because seasonal flu isn’t as big a deal as it is when you’re old. Next winter, I’ll stop taking chances.
Another reason that I’ve avoided being inoculated is that I believe my body already built a pretty healthy immunity to it. I get colds almost like clockwork—particularly in the summer, which blows—but last year I had the flu for the first time in a decade and a half.
I caught it from Laurie, and it was a quick bout. I had one day where I stayed home from work and was in bed part of the day. My temperature hit 101, which is bad but nothing worrisome. However, the last time before that that I had the flu, the winter after Year of the Horse came out and the first spent in me and Debbie’s house, was a big deal.
It came on while I was at work. I’d always associated “the flu” with a stomach issue, but I found out the real flu doesn’t affect your stomach at all. Regardless, there was no question something was wrong with me.
It felt like a cold, but I wasn’t sniffling or coughing much. Instead, I just felt … whipped. I was tired to the point where I barely could concentrate on what I was copyediting. I felt achy and hot. I knew I was running a fever but had no idea how much. In retrospect, I should have gone home, but I didn’t because, well, I was already there, and I wasn’t throwing up like I had years before. It was just a bug.
I felt a little better the next day, but I still felt groggy, so I stayed home from work, and it’s a good thing I did. By the time Debbie came home from work, I was really suffering.
I put my head in Debbie’s lap on the sofa, so she could give me pets, but I just felt exhausted and achy all over, like the day before. I was shaking and my head felt as though it was on fire. Debbie took my temperature, and it was 103. (Too bad I can’t stand Foreigner, amirite?)
I’d taken Advil, but my fever wasn’t breaking, and that concerned Debbie. She thought the thing to do was to take a bath, not in cold water but lukewarm.
Bad idea. From the moment my left foot hit the water, I began shivering almost uncontrollably. I was in the tub for a minute or two, and it felt like two hours. It was miserable, and Debbie apologized profusely. I forgave her; it seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t feel better after I got dressed, but at least my shivering stopped.
She took my temperature again; it was 103.5. I’d read that 104 was when you had to start worrying about pneumonia. At 106, you were dead. I told Debbie if it hit 104, you have to take me to the hospital, and she promised she would. I then went and collapsed on the bed. She lay with me, worried and unable to do anything but comfort me as what I had ran its course, and I felt the last bit of energy leave my body.
I don’t know how much later it was when I came to. Everything seemed to be as it had been: The overhead lights were on in the bedroom. I was lying face up; Debbie was next to me. But I was sweating, not shivering. Debbie, hearing that I was awake, felt my forehead. I think your fever broke, she said.
I did a quick self-diagnostic. I did feel a little better. Debbie took my temperature. It was 100, still above normal but out of danger. Maybe the bath had a delayed effect after all. No, she said. I’m just an idiot. It didn’t matter. My body won the battle. By the next day, I was fine and back to work, albeit a little bit tired.
I don’t know what got a hold of me that winter, but I’m convinced that whatever it was built up my body’s defenses enough so I didn’t need a flu shot for the next 15 years. The touch I had last year, though, was the canary in the coal mine, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe my defenses still are pretty solid, but I’m not going to find out. Next year, I’ll get with the program.