Friday, June 22, 2012

"I Once Had Mono"

This one is not easy to write about.  Not because it’s sad – well it’s a little sad – but because the person who was the least aware of what was going on at the time was me.

Mononucleosis is called, at least I have heard it called, “The Kissing Disease.”  People get it from kissing.  Usually when they’re young, a time when, theoretically at least, some considerable amount of kissing is going on.  People historically get mono in college.

I got mono when I was sixty. 

I can’t say for sure, but I believe I got it at Anna’s college graduation.  This hypothesis makes sense to me.  There was some congratulatory kissing going on.  And we were in a college setting. 

This is generally not what they mean when they say, “People get mono in college.”  You’re not supposed to be sixty when you get it.  And you’re supposed to be going to college yourself. 

Of course, this is all just speculation.  I could have contracted mono somewhere else.  But it felt like I got it in (my daughter’s) college.

The specifics of its onset are predictably hazy.  We were back home, a few weeks after graduation.  I recall feeling shivery.  I recall Anna being over, and her asking me what’s wrong.  I recall wanting her to take my temperature. 

What I could not recall was the word for the thing that you put in your mouth to take your temperature with.  I could only remember the word “thing.”  And that’s what I kept telling Anna,

“Get me the thing.” 

To which she reasonably inquired,

What thing?”

To which I unhelpfully replied, 

You know.  The thing!

I could not access the word.  It’s like my brain was a library and “thermometer” had been permanently checked out.  There would be no help from the Dewey Decimal System.  That baby was gone!

Anna, understandably, became concerned, and she called her mother at work.  Her mother told her to take me to the Emergency Room, and she would join us there. 

At the hospital, they asked me a bunch of questions.  I got them all right.  Until they asked me what hospital I was in. 

It seems that Saint John’s Presbyterian had also been checked out of my library. 

There were tests – numerous blood tests, a CAT Scan.  I was there nearly five hours.  And not because the Emergency Room was slow.  They got me in right away.  Which should have scared me; they only get you in right away when it’s bad.  I remember feeling more giddy than scared.  Which should have disturbed me even more.  Who feels giddy when they’re supposed to feel scared?

Messed up people, that’s who, of which, at that moment, I was definitely considered to be one.

After the tests had finally been evaluated, a medical person stepped into our cubicle and told me I had mono.  I laughed.  Teenagers get mono.  I was sixty.  Though, truth be told, I have always been a late bloomer.

It felt like I had gotten off easy.  Mono was better than a stroke.  And I didn’t need surgery.  Or hospitalization.  Or even a prescription.  The treatment for mono is nothing.  You lie down a lot.  I already lied down a lot.  I would hardly know the difference.

I left the hospital, I went home, and, for a year or so, I had mono.  And then, it was over, and I didn’t have it anymore.

Except, to a some extent, I still do.

Which is the only thing that makes this story worth passing along.  Why is it worth passing along?  Because, to some minor but still present degree, you, my blog readers are the…what’s the opposite of “beneficiaries”?  Victims?  That’s not right.  “Negative recipients”…is terrible.  I have no idea what the word is.  Although I am almost certain there is one.

What I’m revealing is, my residual symptoms affect you.

For you see, patient readers – or, if you’re in the hospital, reader patients – ever since the onset of my mono – when I could not access the word “thermometer” – words – sometimes very simple words – are entirely unavailable to me.

This is not helpful for a writer. 

Sometimes, to fill the gap, I make up my own words.  Sometimes, I insert a “bookmark” word, or a blank space, and continue on, hoping that, in a moment of relaxation, the word that’s eluding me will come floating back to my consciousness. 

You are probably asking right now, “Can you give us some examples of those words?” To which I must apologetically reply, “I a'm sorry, but none of them currently come to mind; if they did, they would not be examples of “those words.”  I can report, however, that there are three instances of “word unavailability” in this story. 

I mean, come on.  Do you think I wanted to say “word unavailability”?

This is not Alzheimer’s.  Nor the inevitable consequences of aging.  This is a specific, diagnosable illness with a name and a protocol for treatment – “Wait a year, and you’re better.”

Which I am.  Just not entirely.  I see this – in my reliably upbeat way of looking at things – as a rehearsal for the bad stuff.  My possibilities are downsizing before my very eyes.  I was never at a loss for words.  And now – on occasion at least – I am.

It is not getting worse.  But if I had to be honest,

I preferred things before. 

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