“What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” is idealistic clap-trap. No offense intended to Mr. Nietzsche. Probably the original phrase, “was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn stärker,” simply loses something in the translation.

At any rate, a lot of things that might kill you might also just beat you down and leave you wrecked. You get the pneumonia, like I did, and you’ll be weaker for a long time. Even if you survive and get your strength back, you’ll be gun-shy of every cold from then on. That’s how it is for me now. I used to pretty much ignore colds, would just go about my business unconcerned about the sore throat or the snot or the mild headache, which is great when that works, until that doesn’t work. Until that shit gets into your chest and makes every breath you take feel and sound like it’s the death rattle of a walking corpse, the air creaking up with revolting ululations as it winds its way among the strands of phlegm and mucous hanging from every nook and cranny of the worn-out, gunked up dish sponge that used to be your lungs. Fucking sucks, but that’s life. For a while there I wouldn’t have been surprised whichever way things went.

Whether I picked it up in early November while visiting a family friend in the hospital (who, days later, passed away), or from the girls (who also came down with it shortly thereafter) is impossible to say, but that’s about when it started. I like to guess at disease vectors just as much as the next guy, but that’s all it is: guessing. What’s clear is I’m mother fucking forty-four years old now, and that’s crystal. And that “cold” with the unusually bad cough kicked my ass.

Three months and three rounds of antibiotics later I’m well enough to resume my routine as the husband of a wonderful woman and the father of two small children. I work in the yard, cook meals, enjoy a whiskey after dinner, but I’m still coughing up bits of phlegm ’round the clock. I haven’t used the inhalers in a few days, which is nice as one of the potential side effects of Q-Var, a steroid, is a yeast infection in the mouth. Now I can get back to complaining about the pain in my knees and shoulders and telling myself I need to get out and exercise more.

I shouldn’t complain: I’m alive. Or maybe I should complain instead about the usurious fees I’m paying for health care, but at least I have it. I know others can’t even get it, who actually need it more than I do. And that’s some seriously fucked up shit. But without it, I’d probably be dead now.

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