If you love me half as much as I love you
You wouldn’t worry me half as much as you do
You’re nice to me when there’s no one else around
You only build me up to let me down.
If you’re of a certain age you’ll recognize this old Hank Williams song. It haunts me from time to time. The tune is simple and the words strike a lover as maddeningly true: the inequality of love, with one loving more than the other; the stress of it all, especially if you’re insecure and worry-prone; the hypocrisy of it as well, when like J. Alfred Prufrock, you prepare “a face to meet the faces that you meet“; and the inevitable heartbreak–expectant hope, hope dashed.
This post isn’t about love, though. It’s about a couple of bugs. Only the last line speaks to this week in New Mexico. It’s just that when that line came to mind so did the other three. They’ve had a secure place in my memory for decades. They’re somehow inseparable and sometimes, very seldom of course, they seem more appropriate than one wants to admit.
But today it’s the “you only build me up to let me down” line that expresses my vexation. That’s what Santa Fe did to Joy. She’s been excited about coming here ever since we first decided to give it a try. The town is one of the Southwest’s best-known art centers; it is also the site of “the world’s largest” (though not very big) encaustic art museum. It may be the only one. Since Joy’s a practitioner of this art form, Santa Fe’s the place for her. So it seemed, that is, until the bugs attacked.
But first a word about encaustic art, which you may not have heard of. We hadn’t until Joy took up the habit. It’s painting with hot wax. Joy had to leave this method behind in favor of painting with cold wax while traveling. It’s hard to stuff a pancake griddle, a propane torch, painting boards and brushes and containers of wax into the one suitcase each of us is allowed. Even cold wax requires considerable luggage space, as I reported last week, so she’s not been painting at all for a couple of months. Photography took its place.
That’s why she was so eager to land at last in Santa Fe, where we’ll stay long enough for her to set up shop. BUT, “you only build me up to let me down.” We were settling in nicely when the bug hit. Influenza B, the doctor labels this second one. It’s an exclusive kind of vermin that attacks only humans and seals. You know the symptoms: congestion, cough, runny or stuffy nose, nausea, diarrhea, itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, low fever, fatigue. Joy, who is nothing if not thorough, scored a perfect 100 on the checklist. And yes–before you say it–we both took our flu shots last fall. As a rule they’re only 25% effective anyway. Joy went with the majority.
This flu runs its course in two to seven days. Joy, a perfectionist, appears to be going for the full count.
Influenza B is pretty hard to isolate, since the infected person is contagious a full day before symptoms appear and remains contagious for five days after first coming down with it. You see the danger I’m in?
Two trips to Urgent Care. The first wasn’t for Influenza B but for a different bug, one the doctor thought she brought to Santa Fe with her from Thailand. The symptoms didn’t appear during our brief sojourn in Honolulu, but took immediately to the drier mountain air. The clinic gave her some good medical care and sent her home with several prescriptions and a cheery, “If these don’t work, come and see us again.” They didn’t and she did. The second time she received the Influenza B diagnosis—and the confession that she probably picked it up in the waiting room during her first visit.
It was easy to see how that happened. Even before the doctor delivered the verdict, I sat in that same waiting area dodging germs, cringing at the coughing all around me, and hoping for the best. I was impressed by the democracy of the place. I watched them come and go: the elderly, the little children, the men, the women, the white people, the brown people, all malfunctioning in some way. Since this is the American Southwest, there weren’t any Asians or African-Americans in the mix. But if they live here and they visit this clinic, they’ll probably get the flu, also. There’s no discrimination. There is a kind of quiet, unspoken fellowship among the afflicted. We feel each other’s pain, though we don’t talk about it. We just stoically wait our turn.
I don’t know how most of them got here. We came by Lyft (like Uber only cheaper and certainly less notorious—Uber hasn’t enjoyed good press in the past few months). We’ve been getting around pretty effectively by bus lately, but Joy didn’t warm to the allures of a 30-minute bus trip (not counting the wait at the bus stop) when a 10-minute Lyft ride was available. So her husband, ever the generous sort, paid 10 times the fifty-cent bus fare to insure her comfort.
When our turn came, we were ushered into the examining room. Both the physician’s assistant and the doctor came in bearing some of Joy’s symptoms: cough, watery eyes, hoarseness. It’s the junipers, they explained, not the flu. Apparently the juniper allergy has been hitting with a vengeance of late. My own reactions offer testimony.
And what does the sympathetic husband do while sitting with his wife, waiting for the summons? He reads. And what does he read? Ursula LeGuin’s No Time to Spare, a compendium of meditations on various subjects by this famous author, now a mid-term octogenarian. Her first section is “Going over Eighty,” her perceptive, often cranky, always astute observations on what it means to be elderly. Her musings seemed somehow appropriate to this not-yet-eighty-but-teetering-on-the-brink reader who offers his septuagenarian wife a sympathetic arm as she contends with the weakness of the flesh.
Here’s one sample: “I’ve lost faith in the saying ‘You’re only as old as you think you are,’ ever since I got old.” She makes the valid point that you never hear anybody over seventy say that. “Younger people say it to themselves or each other as an encouragement. When they say it to somebody who actually is old, they don’t realize how stupid it is, and how cruel it may be.” And how completely wrong-headed.
Just one more: “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” Inspiring thoughts for a person sitting in Urgent Care’s waiting room, hoping to get some relief from the flu that, I recently read elsewhere, hits children and the elderly especially hard. It even causes a person to think you are, in fact, as old as you feel.
I’m writing this two days later. The prescriptions are doing their number. Joy’s body is perking up and so are her spirits—she’s pretty certain she’ll be able to attend next week’s painting class. She’s paid for it and she’s not going to waste the money if there’s any way she can help it. I also think she’s eager to return to the kitchen, not so much to take up cooking again, but to escape mine.
ROY’S PICK OF JOY’S PICS
I thought you’d like a sample of some of Joy’s encaustic paintings. Here are a few of my favorites. These are three-dimensional, almost completely painted/sculpted of wax, with some other media lightly mixed in.
CRUISE DATES FOR 2019. Join us for one or all of them!
January 13-21. Celebration Cruise to Cuba in the Caribbean
See www.eo.travelwithus.com for details. In the Search window, type Celebration Cruise.
January 30-February 21. Holland America’s South America and Antarctica Cruise. See www.lawsonslooseinantarctica.com for details.
October 19-27 EO’s Blue Danube River Cruise – The Hat is the lecturer.
Web page for this cruise is not yet available. Coming soon. Watch this spot.