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Stocking up for sights, setbacks of spring

Springtime dazzles me. Every day brings more green lushness and a rainbow of color. I would wax rhapsodic over the beauty around us, but I think a bunch of Hallmark poets have probably beat me to the punch.

However, a handful of my friends with bad allergies don’t enjoy springtime at all. Forget the gorgeous pink magnolias, daffodils and hyacinths. Their lives are filled with dripping and sneezing, eyes that swell and itch, and a general feeling of drowning from the inside. Who would care about forsythia when you feel like that?

I did have some allergies as a kid, which I luckily outgrew. Back in third grade, I had intense itching of the hands and feet, resulting in heavily scabbed fingers and toes. The severe dryness required multiple daily applications of prescription creams. My strictly budgeted mother was not thrilled. I also needed extra pairs of white, 100% cotton socks and wore white cotton gloves all day, every day. I carried three extra pairs of gloves to school to be changed after lunch and trips to the necessary. No hand washing – just creams and gloves. The kids in school called me Minnie Mouse. The only really good thing about it was that I was not allowed to get my hands wet other than bathing. So, in addition to hand-washing small white gloves every night, my hard-working Mom was forced to resume the daily dishwashing I could no longer do.

I thought that was my worst case of allergies in this lifetime – no drippy springtime suffering for me, or so I thought until this year.

Actually, it was a bit before spring, January-ish I think, when I noticed a change in my old body’s daily disintegration. As with anything that happens now, I initially attributed it to my intimate relationship with Covid.

Sometime after Christmas, I began waking up with puffy eyes that looked like fluid-filled sacks. Puffy, bulging, ugly. I tried tea bag compresses, and then the eye doctor suggested warm, wet cloths. OK.

By February, my swollen eyes started to burn, and many days I wept my way through the morning newspaper. Tears and Sudoku aren’t a good mix.

Then last month the itching started, and I realized I was rapidly joining my friends in their annual allergy miseries. In a few short months I went from simply aging eyes to aging, puffy, tearing, burning, itchy eyes. Was it just the emerging trees? Or pollen? Isn’t it too early for pollen?

And my nose was running a lot, even moreso when my eyes were tearing. If I’d known I was going to consume Kleenex at this rate, I’d have bought stock in Kimberley-Clark.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the eye doctor with a lot more than puffy eyes. After his examination, he asked if I sneeze. “Absolutely — probably three or four mornings a week, usually ten to twelve times,” I answered.

“Well from what I’ve seen in your eyes, added to the sneezing, I have a question. Do you have a cat?”

Wh-a-a-a-at? A cat? OMG, did he really just say that?!

Most of my readers and all of my friends know that one of the most important creatures in my life is 3-year-old Finian, the adored feline member of our family.

“But doc,” I said, “I’ve had eight cats over the last 49 years. I have never been allergic.” I was devastated. This can’t be happening. I thought about it for three seconds. “Well, the cat stays, so what do I do now?”

He gave me prescriptions for drops. Lots and lottsa drops: anti-itch drops, anti-inflammatory drops and soothing evening gel drops. And recommendations for over-the-counter allergy medicines. Hoo-boy.

I’ve had other friends who suddenly became allergic to cats in mid-life, but it wasn’t a major tragedy for them – they also had dogs. It just doesn’t seem fair that this allergy syndrome waited until I entered Seniorhood. I had plans.

I had envisioned myself reclining with a good book in hand and a silky, warm critter in my lap. And not just any critter, but the prized Maine Coon kitty I had coveted for years.

Miserably irritated eyes, sneezing, and an interior Niagara were not part of my ideal retirement picture. But ever the optimist, I’ve decided that Finian and I will survive.

Spring might be a bit bleary this year, a little less dazzling. But I’ve got my Kleenex, my drops, and a full canister of Whisker Lickins. Life is almost perfect.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their beautiful Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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