Last Tuesday a nurse practitioner tested me for COVID and flu. She also checked my lungs for pneumonia. In her medical opinion, I have a bad case of something else.

I wouldn’t bother mentioning my ailments, except to say that five days in bed does not give me much to write about. With my eyes and head hurting too much to read, I can’t even comment on a recent book or newspaper column. If my weekly blog was an assignment for a class, I’d ask for an extension. I do have two groggy thoughts that came to mind during my illness, but even they are interesting only in the fact that I never would have thought them as recently as five years ago. They are the aimless asides of a fevered old man.

First of all, I came to the realization that I will not go gently into my final years if my brain is significantly diminished by age. This week I’ve been in a mental fog reminiscent of the long-term COVID symptoms I had last spring. In both instances, I was continually frustrated. Fortunately this time I knew the problem would be temporary. I was not so sure last May when the physical symptoms of COVID went away and I still wasn’t thinking straight.

Secondly, I was unusually aware of my own mortality. I was never so sick that I feared I wouldn’t recover, but I had a strong sense that a week in bed was cutting into the days I have left. I have known for some years that I cannot wait long if I want another adventure in this lifetime. The feeling last week was something different. In fact, it was almost the opposite. Last week I lamented that illness was depriving me of the things I enjoy every day. In the past, there was always tomorrow for working on new book chapters, reading novels, exercising at the gym, fishing, walking my dog. Last week I realized that tomorrow is a finite concept. I compared my current illness with the time I was seven or eight years old and had mumps over Christmas. As a kid I probably was angry about being sick over the holidays, but I doubt I ever thought to myself, “Well damn, there’s one Christmas I’ll never get back.”

I write this week’s blog knowing it is not one of my better contributions. Young healthy readers may not understand what I am talking about. Anyone with a chronic disease, regardless of age, will understand very well, but think me a whiner. It is the best I can do; my brain still is not working quite right. 

Steven Simpson