Like many people, for the past year I’ve been holed up in my house while the country and its economy has crumbled around me. My income, a survivor’s benefit from Social Security, is small but entirely unaffected by the pandemic. My house is paid for, and I receive enough to pay the bills and feed myself. Safe to say, I think, that I’ve weathered the bitter end of the Trump era better than most of my economic status. My children and grandchildren are alive, healthy, and solvent. I’ve become accustomed to the solitude. I like television and books. My son comes for dinner sometimes, and during lockdown we functioned like a single household. Online friends are as they ever were, and so very little of my life changed. Now I wonder how much of my old life I want back. What do I really miss?
Gathering with friends every Monday night for Mexican food? Okay, yes on that. Having to dress in real clothes every day? Mmm…well, the jury’s still out. Recently I had to tell Amazon to send me some more pajama bottoms and tank shirts because all of mine had holes worn in them. And there was something to be said for being able to get a lane in the YMCA swimming pool once it opened. On the other hand, it’ll be nice to sit down in a restaurant again. For awhile it was hard to find Chinese food, even for takeout. I’d like to go to church. I hear we’ve got a new priest, but I haven’t met him yet. Maybe by Easter this year?
At the risk of sounding political, which isn’t my purpose here, I don’t understand this thing they’re calling “vaccine reluctance.” Really? We’re trying to stop the spread of the most deadly and virulent disease in a century, a vaccine is available at miracle speed, and now people are going, “I don’t know…” All year long I’ve watched the changing of the recommendations, and the wild morphing of what was known of Covid-19 at any given moment. The scariest aspect of this disease (other than the utter incompetence of a president who didn’t know that disinfectant is poisonous and sunshine can’t really be shone up one’s ass) was that when it burst in on humanity we knew exactly nothing about it. Not where it came from, not how it killed people, nor how it spread…nothing. Then, when scientists began to get a grip on the bug, they had to fight the disinformation spewed by a president who was afraid he wouldn’t be reelected if anyone knew anything that was true.
So, one minute masks were out because they were needed for hospital workers. Next minute they were extolled as life-savers because it was discovered they were better than nothing. In fact, the health professionals learned that masks were far better than nothing. But again the disinformation machine was at work. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
For me, that meant being afraid to shop for groceries. Mask? No mask? It wasn’t a question for me. I wore a mask every time I stepped out the door. But for months masks in public were rare in this blood-red state. People here were terrified their rights might be infringed if they were ordered to cover their nose and mouth. I had to explain to a nurse that she needed to wear a mask for my protection, and that she couldn’t know whether she was spreading the disease by not wearing one. A nurse, for crying out loud!
Now that the South Florida Brain Trust has gone back to Mar-a-Lago without his Twitter account, people are encouraged to wear masks and more people are wearing them around here. About time; I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.
And there are three vaccines in the U.S. now, from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. You’d think everyone would want one. I remember when I was a little kid, standing in line with my parents to get the polio vaccine. It was free, and everyone got one. For a child my age, putting it on a sugar cube didn’t hurt, either. To me, it’s just bizarre that anyone is hemming or hawing about the covid vaccine. I don’t just want to not die, I want to not die a horrible death gasping for air.
But I’m hearing “side-effects.” “Reliability.” Risk, risk, risk.
Over half a million people are dead from this virus. More will die, but the rate is already going down because of vaccinations. Getting the shot is a no-brainer. I went today for my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. It was less of an event for me than the polio vaccine, because I’m an adult now and I’m less excited by sugar cubes these days. In the back of the Sam’s warehouse up the road, I stood in line to fill out papers, got my second appointment set, then waited on a folding chair. When my name was called, I went behind a screen to face the needle. I take insulin, so needles are nothing new to me, but this one was bigger than an insulin pen. I closed my eyes, but still imagined this great, sharp tube putting a hole in my shoulder. And once I was injected, a dull ache sort of blossomed in my arm. I went out to wait the fifteen minutes required to make sure I wasn’t going to faceplant in the store, then I got a cart and did some shopping. My son, who manages a pharmacy, tells me that I’m going to be sore tomorrow. That’s okay. It’s a good excuse to leave the dishes in the sink. If I have a side effect, it probably won’t actually kill me.
I’ll still wear a mask until I’m told it’s okay not to. Yeah, it’s my body, but more importantly it’s also other people’s lives. We’re all weighing risks and struggling in the darkness to figure out the best way to handle things. Today I caught sight of that light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m headed toward it.