Riley recently woke up with a stuffy nose and a cough, then John started sniffling, then I started feeling a scratchiness in the back of my throat, and I really and truly thought maybe we all had COVID again. It definitely seems like we just had it, but that was actually back in January so I suppose it’s feasible to get re-infected a few months later? It didn’t seem LIKELY, but it also didn’t seem, you know, completely outside of the realm of possibilities. Luckily we have plenty of tests on hand (and probably always will, after the yikes experience of needing a test and not being able to find one or even get into urgent care for testing) and the negative results indicated we’ve been sharing: a cold.

Great, except that regular old colds — and seasonal allergies, for that matter — kind of feel like a whooooole new thing now. (Swistle wrote about this recently; it must not be an uncommon experience to be dealing with colds again and wondering about protocol.) Obviously the best choice is to seal yourself in an impenetrable protective bubble and keep your snotty contagion to yourself for the entirety of your sickness … but what if you have, you know, Stuff to Do? Or your workplace/obligations aren’t so accommodating as to make space for every sneeze and sniffle? Or what if it’s just sexy, sexy tree pollen and that’s why your entire face is exploding?

Honestly every day that I was sick with this cold felt like an outrageous, if involuntary, act of hostility: not me coughing over here, what the fuck. Why not get up and spray the room with bullets while I’m at it! Why not just raise inflation more, somehow, asshole.

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It’s not all bad, here in the end of my forties.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of complaining to do about the grab-bag of indignities being foisted upon me, from the weird ridges in my fingernails to the way my belly sits fleshily upon my own lap now. Plus the hormonal brain fog which may or may not be pandemic fog or just plain middle-aged fog, but at any rate it’s like this all the time when I try and remember things? Or the way I have to frowningly adjust my focus for small print now, holding it farther from me rather than closer. Let’s not forget about the chin-area hairs, which offer the near-daily answer to a question I’d never before considered: how does it feel to confront a set of sturdy steel cables erupting out of the sagging disaster that is your neck?

I mean…not always great, Bob.

Still. There are upsides. Maybe you’re with me in the aging Gen X experience, caught somewhere between bleak cynicism and slack-jawed awe/disbelief. Not to get all attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, bright as magnesium over here but at this point we’ve all for sure been dragged through some shit, lived through beautiful and terrible days, seen seasons of life come and go.

There is a complex richness to that. The way a long-simmering stew can get deeper and better over time.

We have a lovely weeping cherry tree in our front yard (not to brag but it is a double weeping cherry, which I had always assumed meant it was twice as awesome but apparently it refers to the doubled blooms). Every April it briefly transforms from a regular droopy tree into this delicate and spectacular thing: a fireworks burst of pink, a frothy held-aloft wedding bouquet trailing towards the ground.

The people who stop on their spring walk to look at this tree are almost always older people, I’ve noticed that. They’re the ones who take the time to stand still and tip their faces towards the temporary flourish of the petals. Doesn’t it seem like that means something?

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