ITCHY mood. Stuffed-up brain. Water-logged psyche. These mental symptoms aren’t officially associated with seasonal allergies, whose more obvious signs are runny nose and bloodshot eyes. But they’re there, all the same.
All four members of my family suffer from allergies of various sorts. And while our rampant histamines are not threatening our lives, they sometimes impede the pursuit of family unity.
Experts never mention how irritable you feel when you’ve spent all day clearing your throat, rubbing your eyes and enduring a dry mouth as a result of allergy medicine. They don’t touch on the weeks of weariness or the random fits of yawning. Most of all, they ignore the dimwittedness that allergies exacerbate.
Now, I’m well aware that I have only half my marbles at the best of times. I admit to leaving my keys in the fridge, setting fire to things inappropriately, and getting lost on the way to places I’ve been a hundred times.
Usually, though, I know the difference between an earthquake and an avalanche. Not so the other night, when I repeatedly got them confused and became the dinner table’s laughing stock. A second ago, even as I was writing this, I used the word “hurricane” instead of avalanche. It’s like there’s somebody pouring canola oil into my head through both ears simultaneously. What a mess!
I’m currently so out of it that I even agreed to go with my husband Stanley to see Iron Man 3 and pronounced it “not that bad.” (Ben Kingsley makes a pretty hilarious terrorist. More importantly, movie theatres provide respite from hay fever because they’re fresh-air free.)
I’ve often found myself at a loss for words in recent years, but these days I conjure up memories of the old Bewitched character, Aunt Clara. Remember her? As brilliantly played by Marion Lorne, she was always amusingly befuddled. Her chubby cheeks would sway as she desperately attempted to come up with anything remotely sensible to say. Setting aside her angelic temperament, we could now be twins. I wonder if she had hay fever, too.
Stanley used to be even worse off. His brain would turn into porridge in the springtime. He’d wander around in a fog, practically incapacitated, unable to properly do his work and quite capable of biting your head off for drawing attention to his many bizarre lapses. When he looks back on embarrassing interludes in his life, he now realizes many of them were probably the result of allergies, whether seasonal or food-related.
When Stanley was a university student, for instance, the mother of his roommate called and asked if her son Peter was there. Stanley said he wasn’t, but that he’d let Peter know his parents would be dropping by the next day at around 10 a.m. That morning, only Stanley was home when Peter’s parents, a rather formal pair, showed up. He had forgotten to give Peter the message, so Peter was out.
While the young man’s parents were waiting for their son to return, the ever-hospitable Stanley offered them a cup of tea. He went into the kitchen and made it for them and served each of them a mug. Peter’s father took a sip from his cup, only to find the water was stone cold. Stanley had neglected to turn on the burner underneath the kettle.
There are countless tales of Stanley’s forgetfulness – which have almost always taken place in April or May, like the time he ate a fortune cookie with the fortune still in it, or the time he flooded our house by leaving the tap running into a plugged sink overnight. Allergies can’t defend themselves, so they make ideal scapegoats. To Stanley’s credit, he’s also done something about them.
Last year he decided to get weekly shots to build up his resistance to the allergens that usually trouble him. His doctor said there were no guarantees, but that many patients had enjoyed good results.
So Stanley gave the shots a whirl. To his and our family’s delight, he’s been affected much less than usual this year. While I stumble around like a zombie (I have even developed a hideous twitching eye to complement my Igor-ish lurching) he’s blithely doing yard work without a sniffle.
This, as a Huffington Post headline declares that “experts” predict the 2013 allergy season “Could Be the Worst Ever, Thanks to Climate Change.”
Lord, take me now, as Tony Soprano’s awful mother liked to wail.
We have a friend whose allergies are so terrible, no matter where he is in Canada in the spring and summer, he makes a point of leaving the country for half the year. One day I’ll follow suit. I’ll hop a train like a hobo, headed for parts unknown – although with my luck, my boxcar will be loaded with hay.