The Old Folks' Friend

My father once told me that when he was a little boy in Brownsville, Texas, pneumonia killed so many elderly people that it was commonly called "the old folks' friend."  


In reading my home town obituaries, I notice that even in the age of antibiotics, a significant number of elderly folks still succumb to pneumonia.  I know first hand that not all pneumonias are bacterial or treatable with antibiotics.  Some are viral and others are even fungal.  I've had all three.


When I was 18, I had viral pneumonia and was sent home from the University of Tennessee where I was attending summer school.  There was no treatment other than rest and time.


Three years later, while at the University of Virginia, I contracted histoplasmosis, a fungal lung infection.  That's the only time I've ever had an out of body experience.  I thought I might just as easily die as recover. It was the early 1970s, before the modern anti fungal drugs, clotrimazole, myconazole, etc., hit the market.  My histoplasmosis infection became systemic and I was sick with bizarre symptoms which flared and remitted for years before I was finally treated with a six month regimen of what was then the new and truly miraculous anti-fungal drug called Nizoral.  



Just a couple of years ago, I had a third pneumonia. Luckily it was bacterial and responded readily to antibiotics.  


My mother referred to all sorts of pneumonia as "wet lung fever," which is, I suppose an apt descriptor, as were so many of her quaint, rural expressions from Sugar Tree, Tennessee.  


Yesterday, I learned of yet another Oak Ridge elder who recently succumbed to pneumonia.  As I was thinking about her, this little rhyme (doesn't rise to the level of poetry, really) took shape in my mind, seemingly of its own accord.



The Old Folks' Friend


Wet lung fever, grim as Death

Snares an elder in its net


Rattle, cough, shake and chill

Wet lung fever's bound to kill


Before the sun comes up again

That's why it's called 'The Old Folks' Friend'



I've neglected music and my website of late as I've been working on a manuscript for a writer's workshop I'm attending in January.  My deadline is December 15 and I'll be thankful to put that manuscript aside for a while and get back to my first love, music.  


I hope that everyone is having a splendid December.  Be well, good luck and wishing you and your family a happy and blessed winter holiday.


Martha Maria 

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