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Published: Saturday, 3/15/2008

Luck of the Irish couldn't get traveler to Phoenix

If the shamrock pin and earrings surface in my jewelry drawer, it will be the luck of the draw. Green apparel is not a priority this St. Patrick's Day. The green I am looking for is grass, bright and verdant, outside the window. Just one small patch of green grass peeking through the field of white snow would be encouragement enough that spring is on its way and the worst winter many of us can remember is all over but the melting.

If you played the winter game properly you probably slipped and fell at least once on ice, left the ice scraper in the other car, caught a cold, lost at least one pair of gloves, hated wearing a hat, fainted when the heat bill arrived, and made so many batches of chili you can't face another bowl.

I did all of the above, too, but then I cheated, or almost cheated. Just when I had made it almost all the way through February, along came the invitation for a family gathering in Denver. But, my map-oriented brain reasoned, isn't Denver on the way to Phoenix, and isn't Phoenix in the Arizona Sun Belt? Forget the promise to friends and animals that I would stay put for the winter of 2008. A week in Phoenix is just what the doctor should have ordered.

People with enough Irish in their family tree to claim connections to the old sod truly believe in the luck of the Irish. But we also know luck can turn the other way and alter plans. I will always believe that had I packed my lucky shamrock in my luggage I might be celebrating in Phoenix tomorrow.

A flu attack in Denver sent me to bed for several days until I had enough strength to return home just in time for the next "winter blast." Canceling the Phoenix escape was a big disappointment, although the extended Denver visit was not without a bonus and Phoenix will be there next winter. It gave me time to get to know my young cousins outside of Christmas card photos. They well may feel differently about having a sick senior in the guest bedroom for so many days, but sick or not, it was a pleasant reunion.

The return trip home was as comfortable as I could hope for under the circumstances because I took advantage of an airline courtesy that I said I never would use.

I declared myself handicapped and ordered wheelchairs for each of the three segments of the trip. Beginning at the huge Denver airport, again at Chicago Midway Airport, and a third time at the plane at Detroit Metro to the parking shuttle, the wheelchair service was commendable, by caring young men working for tips only. I may have made it without them, but with considerably more stress and worry.

It's not that I am without green for tomorrow's observance. The 10-foot-by-20-foot sun porch is alive with 44 geranium and begonia plants that think spring is already here. After being cut down to the nubbins in late October, most of the plants have grown to be 2 or 3 feet tall. The begonias are flowering, and buds on the geraniums will burst open any day. Most of the plants are 4 years old. Christmas poinsettias were added to the mix in January. I didn't care if they lived or not, but they too believe the sun porch is the right place to spend the winter.

The plants receive doses of Miracle Grow through the winter and are watered about every three weeks, but not as much as expected because of heavy condensation. They will be returned to Mother Earth on Mother's Day.

If one more person asks me if I had a flu shot last fall, I am going to start carrying a sign with the date, the place, and the time.

It's useless to wonder why the shot didn't work, where you contacted the flu, or whom to blame. It could be the person next to you on the plane with the terrible cough, even though you nearly fell into the aisle to avoid him. Once you are stricken you wish you had worn a mask on the flight, as friends had advised. The germ could have been from the supermarket cart handle that you failed to sanitize because you were in a hurry before leaving home. It's just something to get over, like not going to Phoenix.



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