Running from the flu

Over the holiday break T and I sequestered ourselves, only leaving the house for supplies. It was like living in a mild version of the zombie apocalypse. The newspaper headlines and TV announcers declared this "the worst flu season ever," and we did what we could to avoid confrontation. Echinacea and zinc tablets seem like weak weapons when fever, aches, and nausea are the enemies.

Break concluded, we tentatively straggled back to work only to find half of our colleagues had been taken down by illness. Every cough, sneeze, and sniffle has me running for cover. I imagine my cubicle walls are a fortress shielding me from battle. I maniacally wash my hands and use a tissue to touch public surfaces.

Until this weekend.

We arrived at church to witness the marriage of our daughter's best friend. The ceremony was lovely, the priest both playful and wise, and it was a joyful day watching these girls, friends since childhood, now grown and happy. When it was time to offer handshakes of peace to everyone around us, I admit it, I hesitated. I grew up Catholic, and parochial school kids kept count of how many hands we shook and offered peace to. After Mass we'd compare and the kid with the most "Peace be with you's" won. When I was a child I didn't understand germs, and I certainly didn't fear the flu.

With a smile and a wince I offered my hand to strangers, "Peace be with you."

"And the flu be with you."

I'm not ready to surrender. For now, we are enjoying the peaceful solitude of a flu-free house. I'm popping more zinc tablets and eating lots of oranges. I've got chicken carcasses boiling away practically 24/7 for a sturdy broth that will fortify us in sickness and in health. On a healthy day, chili provides us with strength for the coming battle.

At last week's Called to the Table is a recipe for Bloody Mary Chili.  


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