Thursday, February 11, 2010
Cold and Flu Season and Max
Like a lot of folks this time of year, I have had a cold. Just your normal run of the mill head cold that started with a sore throat, then progressed to a cough and finally into my sinuses. I still have it a week and a half later, though there have been definite improvements. The first two days I spent in bed (mostly), taking it easy. In fact I even missed a home game of the Halifax Rainmen, for which we have season tickets. I didn't go for any walks for a couple of days, but even when I began my exercise regime again, it was like I had been down for a year. I only did short walks at first (and just as well as it was minus 20 degrees with a wind chill some mornings) but by last Friday I was back to my normal walking distance. And it pooped me out like I had just run a marathon.
I did a couple of more walks over the weekend but I'm still kind of weak. This morning, I did a short walk, came home, and then biked around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes. I have another bike ride to do this week to make up for last week (remember I'm doing the 52 Week Biking Challenge) and happily my legs weren't as shaky as last month. But, man, this cold has knocked me for a loop.
During the first 7 years of my life with MS, I didn't get so much as the sniffles. But for the past 5 years I have had to put up with one ear infection the likes of which I haven't experienced since I was 10 with tonsillitis, a bout of laryngitis, a couple of colds, and I think one bout with a flu (even though I've been getting flu shots for several years). I haven't felt so weak in.....actually, I don't think I've ever felt this weak before.
Is this MS? Or is it.......gulp......age? Sadly, I have to admit it's probably the aging process. And maybe it was a harder hitting cold than others I've had. Other people I've talked to have remarked how their cold seemed to drag on forever. Whatever. It's working its way through me.
There's a local coffee shop in my neighbourhood that I frequent and since the fall I have gotten to know one of the regulars, Max. Max is almost 85, retired, and a world war 2 vet. He was in the merchant marines during the war and joined the regular army in the 50s. I have been getting some great stories out of him. He grew up in foster homes but had a bad case of wanderlust as he ran away a couple of times before he was able to sign up with the merchant navy. I don't believe he had a hard time in the homes, just that he wanted to go places. He had a twin brother who died 5 years after the war because of injuries sustained during the war. He had two other sets of twin siblings (out of 15 children in that family, 6 were twins). Max told me that his father was only ever home long enough to get his mother pregnant, then took off again. Max and his twin ended up being raised together in foster homes and both joined the merchant navy. Max's brother was on a ship that was sunk by a German U-boat in the Caribbean in 1942. Accounts aren't quite clear as to the number of men on the boat, 36 or 37, but only one was a casualty of that sinking. That sailor's name is on the monument in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. Here's what Max told me about the sinking as relayed by his brother when he got back to Halifax:
"All the men (except one) made it into the lifeboats. As they were sitting there contemplating what they were to do next, a German U-boot surfaced right next to them. The hatch opened and the captain came out to speak to their captain. He asked if they had water. They did. He asked if they had food. They did. He then gave them their bearings, latitude and longitude, pointed them in a direction and said they'd get to land if they rowed that way. Then he was gone into the sub and the machine itself disappeared into the sea.
The men rowed and three days later they saw land. They had arrived at the Turks and Caicos islands and a few days later, they were picked up by a passing American ship enroute from Curacao to Halifax."
Cool story. And Max showed me a picture of (most of) the men taken at a gathering in Nova Scotia when they arrived. His brother was only 17.
Max's brother later went on to take part in the Murmansk convoys. And Max himself sailed on Norweigan ships aiding those convoys.
My next Max story is about how he met his wife. That's cool, too....