Opinion

OPINION | Gwen Rockwood: All that training came in handy, now I can enjoy fall with the best of them

Dear Ragweed,

So you're back. Again. Back to bully me and 50 million other people all over the world.

I'm familiar with your plan of attack because I've been battling it every fall for decades. You're an ugly adversary with hairy leaves masquerading as a harmless fern. You're no fern, you faker. You're a seasonal allergy assassin.

Even your so-called "blooms" are nothing more than yellowish bumpy spikes designed to spray pollen like a machine gun. A solitary ragweed plant can send a billion pollen grains into the air like millions of misery-inducing missiles. Researchers say those nasty little pollen grains have been found as far as 400 miles out to sea and two miles up into the atmosphere.

If I could, I'd pluck you right out of existence with a razor-sharp gardening spade. But that's no easy task because you grow six to 15 feet high. And what you lack in good looks, you make up for in numbers. You and your ragweed cousins stalk every state in America except Alaska. You've even gone international with leafy invaders sprouting up in South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Those of us who have met you on the battlefield know you're a bushy barbarian. Your pollen bombs trigger rapid-fire sneezing, congestion, headaches, and itching so intense it feels like a chemical warfare attack on my eyes, nose, and throat. Even with an army of antihistamines, sometimes it's just not enough.

So, we bunker down inside our homes – with air filters turned on high – and miss fall's rich colors and cooler temperatures because we're trying to dodge the next allergy attack. When we must venture out, we suit up like a Wild West gunslinger, with tissues on one hip and nasal spray on the other, ready to quickdraw before the next round of sneezes. We're so (literally) sick of it.

But I'm here to put you on notice, Ragweed. This time, things are going to be different. This time, I'm ready. I've been training, like Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum. Like Luke Skywalker learning to use the Force. Like the Karate Kid practicing how to kick with only one good leg.

For two years, I've been driving to an allergy clinic every week to get a needle in my arm. And as someone nervous about needles, it hasn't been easy. I can always think of at least 50 things I'd rather do than get another shot. But I'm doing it because it's my only shot at enjoying the fall season instead of running from this relentless raid. I'm done hiding. I'm done blowing my nose until it's as red as Rudolph's. I'm done wishing the first killing frost would hurry up and get here.

This year, my newly acquired immunity is winning the war. Ragweed is taking the fall, not me. I will sit on the deck in a sweatshirt and watch the dogs play. I will walk around the neighborhood as trees flame into fall colors. I may even rake together a pile of leaves.

And for the first time in a long time, you can't stop me.

Rockwood 1. Ragweed Zero.

Game over.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected]. Her book is available on Amazon.