We laid waste to another holiday meal. Then like all other Thanksgivings before it, bodies lie strewn about sleeping it off and contemplating whether it was worth gorging ourselves over. It felt like the refrigerator was resting on my chest. I figured if I lie there on the couch long enough the indigestion would work itself out. Yet every breath I took felt more and more compressed like I was trapped under a rock, in the confined air of a cave, in outer space.
Something was different. What was happening? I had visited my parent’s house many times before but never felt this way. I stepped out for fresh air. The walk with the kids down to the duck pond helped. I liked the theater room air. Surely it was just too much food: turkey, stuffing, cranberry, mashed potatoes, orange rolls, pie, and more. Maybe it was too little exercise or this was how getting older felt, but no one else looked to be struggling quite the same. The shallow breathing made me more tired. I survived the evening and felt better on the drive home.
Then it repeated at Christmas time. What was going on? I couldn’t understand it. No one else was experiencing this dragging feeling at all. It progressively got worse through the night. What was it about holidays? I had enjoyed many football and basketball games with family without this reaction. I couldn’t think straight. I needed oxygen. I retired to a bed for the evening. I insisted I just needed some rest but my wife worriedly watched my breathing closely. Then my brothers insisted I go to urgent care. I was breathing much better once we got there and they had no explanation. It was almost asthmatic, yet apparently symptomatic of the house.
The next time I visited I located the problem while retrieving a vacuum from where we get extra chairs. A strong smell of straw in the cold storage walls was accompanied by an allergic reaction of my lungs closing up within minutes. We don’t open that door anymore whenever I’m around.