Every year, around the middle of April, nature conspires against me with my body. Nature and my body’s immune defenses pair up and turn me into a sneezing, wheezing, snotty, itchy mess that is unrecognizable as a human being.
For approximately six weeks I stumble around, blinded by pollen and choked by mucus. Unable to perform even the simplest tasks, I rely on my family to help me do chores. Instead I get sarcasm and attitude. This for the person that cooks their meals, cleans, dries, folds, and puts away their clothes. If it weren’t for me they would walk around naked and starved. All I ask for is a little help but instead I get, “Did you take anything for it?” After all I do for them.
I am convinced the plants surrounding my home are genetically modified and engineered to weed out the weak and old. Hence, every Spring I am rendered incapable of seeing or breathing.
It’s an absolute nightmare knowing your body hates you so much that it overreacts to something smaller than the size of a pin head. I get being a drama queen, but wow, immune system this is a little much. It should not be possible for a human being to produce more phlegm by weight than the person weighs. Isn’t there some law of equivalent exchange? What comes out shouldn’t exceed what goes in. And yet, every Spring gallons of slime exit my body in the most horrific sounding sneezes every heard.
“The three o’clock train is early today.”
“No, that’s just mom. Oak is blooming this week.”
I attempted to be a fully functional parent last Spring and took my kids to the zoo. After only thirty minutes there we noticed several zookeepers had been following us. We also noticed the male moose was taking a strong interest in our little family group. As I fumbled in my backpack for more tissues I hit my head on a tape recorder when I sneezed.
“Oh sorry, ma’am,” one gentleman wearing khaki shorts and a white button up shirt said. “I was just trying to get your sneezes on tape.”
“Why achooooo do you achooooo want my sneezes? Achooooo!”
“This is the first time Marty has shown any interest in mating,” explained an older lady wearing a white lab coat as she scribbled in a spiral notebook.
“Achooooo! I achooooo don’t understand. Achooooo!”
“Your sneezes sound like a female moose in heat, ma’am,” the female zookeeper said. She shoved a clipboard filled with papers into my hand. “Now if you don’t mind signing these releases for the recordings.”
“Achooooo! I achooooo sound like achooooo a female moose achoooo in heat? Achooooo!”
“Yes,” the male zookeeper said. He wrinkled his nose as he looked at mine. “And when you sign can you use your own pen? You’ve got something hanging from your nose. Did you know that?”
It doesn’t seem to matter what I take. It all just varies in degrees of drugged exhaustion. Benadryl is the worst of the bunch. We call it the Over the Counter Date Rape Drug. One dosage of Benadryl and hopefully, I will wake up before my toddler graduates high school. A few years ago before I knew any better I took two of those little innocuous pink pills. I woke up in time to go trick or treating. Didn’t sneeze once the whole time so an A for effectiveness.
I have many friends on the natural healing path. Having grown up with an Italian grandmother I’ve seen and experienced many home remedies. One my great grandmother was particularly fond of for allergies was the neti pot. This is a little teapot filled with saline and water. You put the nozzle up to your nostril and waterboard yourself by tipping your head back and pouring the water up your nose. You’re supposed to allow the saline to flow up your nostril and wash the pollen and muck from your sinuses and nasal cavity. You then tip your head forward and let it all drain out.
Now as unpleasant as this all sounds it is even more horrifying to watch. Add to this the fact that my dear, sweet grandmother used warm beet juice instead of clear saline water. That’s the stuff of nightmares. Imagine being eight years old and walking into a scene out of a Stephen King book. Crimson liquid splashed in and around the white ceramic sink. Scarlet fluid flowing in ribbons from your beloved grandmother’s nose. And your grandfather sitting at the kitchen table, reading his paper and dipping his cake donut in his black coffee. This is why therapists love me.
Not being a fan of drowning, I searched for other natural methods of not winding up a Gooey Louie come Spring. Through my research (I asked people in Facebook groups) I discovered bee pollen and local honey was the holy grail I was looking for. It souned a little counterintuitive, but I figured what do I have to lose. I found the items at the local health food store and brought them home. I then messaged my crunchy mamas.
“Now what do I do?”
“OK, so, you take a few grains of the pollen and put them in the honey you harvested from the hives on your homestead. You do have your own hives, right?”
“Um, yeah, sure, uh huh, totally. I mean who doesnt.”
“Good. Then you put the honey in your organic, non GMO, gluten free, free trade harvested green tea.”
“Uh huh. And this isn’t going to set my allergies off?”
“No no no this is homeopathy. hair of the dog that bit you in theory. With a few pollen grains your body will stop overreacting and you’ll be right as non acid rain.”
Six hours later I woke up in the hospital with an oxygen mask on my face and an IV in my hand. Ingesting bee pollen is not a good idea when you have super allergies from Hell. Who knew?
When I left the hospital with a prescription for Benadryl (I guess I can hibernate all allergy season) I messaged the crunchies and let them know the results of my homeopathic experience. The number one question they asked: “Are you sure your tea was organic and gluten free? You never know what those GMOs will do or how your body will react.”
Despite nature’s attempt to have my body’s natural defense systems murder me in my sleep and make it look like an accident, there is one thing I am grateful for.
My parents bought their first house in 1991. I was twelve. I was less impressed with the finished basement and wood paneling than my parents. My joy was in the rose bush the former home owners left in the backyard. My mother and her black thumb were bound and determined to kill it. I saved it. I trimmed it, pruned it, treated it for all those dreadful annoyances that come from fungi and pests. That rose bush became an extension of me. No matter what happened at school or what I was fighting about withmy parents, I could go out to the rosebush and experience beauty.
It would be years after I moved out and away to Missouri before I would have roses again. I had three beautiful bushes: two purple tiger stripes and one white floribunda. For three years I had the privilege of caring for these spectacular blooms. I fed them eggshells and coffee grounds. I raised ladybugs to eat the aphids. My husband at the time asked if I loved the roses more than him.
“Well, lets see. You know where the food is and how to cook it. They don’t make me watch Macgyver or snore loud enough to warrant noise complaints. And when I talk to them, they listen.”
“Huh, what did you say? Airwolf’s coming on.”
Exactly. The roses I have now are quite special. They are the memorial roses the Air Force gave my mother in law at my father in law’s funeral in 2011. When I moved to Jomo in 2012 with my non Macgyver watching, snores at a low rumble husband I found this poor looking twig planted in the middle of the yard.
“Babe, someone planting a stick in the yard.”
“Those are dad’s roses. They never seem to grow or bloom. I’m afraid they’re going to die.” The worst sound in the world is the crack in the voice of someone who is trying not cry.
Now, as the new daughter in law in the family I had to prove myself worthy. I chose the mission of the roses. I saw that sad, little plant as a way to show I valued my place in the family. I fed it a steady diet of eggshells and coffe grounds. Leftover coffee went to her. I cut off dead branches and black and yellow leaves. I worked on those roses until I gave birth to my son. Two weeks later, she gave me a reward – three rosebuds that bloomed on Halloween. I think that was my father in law’s way of saying, “Thank you.”
Ever since then Dad’s roses bloom twice a year: once around the first day of summer and once more around Halloween. I think it’s the second bloom I’m most grateful for. Halloween is the time when those that have passed can visit us and even leave messages for their loved ones. I see those roses as Big Rex’s message to us that even when everything is dying there is still life, hope, love, and beauty.
Even though every year nature tries to kill me by drowning me in my own fluids, it makes up for it by giving me roses like an apologetic boyfriend who forgot an anniversary. Then as the heat of summer dies down and the leaves drop from the trees and carpet the ground, I get roses again to let me know that everything is going to be alright and we have someone watching over us.
I hope you find the roses in your life. I hope you find that one thing that reminds you of the beauty of the natural cycles of life. Blooming and dying. Spring and Fall. Growing up and cutting back. These are the things in nature that I’m grateful for. And as long as I have roses I know that I’ll remain connected to those cycles. Everything passes. And that’s a wonderful thing to remember.
I wish roses for you.