Age, portraits, and Covid


It’s official: I am a GOMER. Look at me with over-the-glasses sunglasses and Medicare card!

(GOMER is an acronym that stands for Get Out of My Emergency Room. Emergency room physicians well know that patients of a certain age can come into the ER with a minor complaint, only to have testing reveal major health issues. Hence, the quaint moniker.)

I start dinner prep at around 4:15. I groan getting up off the couch. I often can’t remember why I went down to the basement: to fetch something from the downstairs fridge, from the dryer, from the pile of used Amazon envelopes?


Two nights ago my phone spit up a series of photos from early 2020. What a stunning reminder of how shocked and frightened we all were at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ll share a few. You’ll see the results of my mask-making and you’ll see expressions both haunted and grim.

April 2020

Because COVID has wrecked our sense of continuity, this review of images helps to ground me. So does the following narrative.

Two years ago, my husband had just returned from China. Mid-February we both came down with what we thought was the flu, or was it Covid? We couldn’t get tested because they said it was too long since exposure, it being a month after he returned. This, even though peers in his office had returned more recently. A dozen engineers were sick as I tried unsuccessfully to round up a test.

I might’ve sprung the $200 for an antigen test but they were too unreliable to make it seem worthwhile. I rinsed groceries with a dilute bleach solution and left mail in the garage for four days before bringing it in the house. The postman to whom we open the door because he’s a nice guy and he loves Finn and Finn loves him became a threat I silently referred to as my “sole vector of disease.” He reported that he’d never smelled so much Lysol in his entire life. I watched the red dots on the Johns Hopkins COVID chart guessing correctly that we were right behind Italy. We cancelled first a trip to Florence and then the compensatory trip to Quebec.

I’m curious what others remember in those early weeks. How long ago does it seem? How strange, still?

We approach 1,000,000 now
Hand sanitizer shelf

24 thoughts on “Age, portraits, and Covid

  1. Nancy

    Oh man Dee! Yes, to all of this. First off, Happy Birthday!! 2 more years for me on the medicare…waiting until medical isn’t tied to a job. You look amazing in that photo. I love your over glasses too. Much better looking than mine 🙂
    Your covid timeline rehash is deceiving in that it feels like a lifetime ago that this all began. I remember leaving work on 3-17-2020…numbers at about 3000!!!! Terrified of ‘bringing it into my senior building’ and not wanting to be the cause of anyone’s death. The wiping, the waiting to open mail…and much later a full on shower with hair washing if I did go out into a public space. The crazed need for cloth masks that evolved into being the poorest choice for masking. All we didn’t know, all we thought we knew…all that changed or we were wrong about. And then all of the unrest and political nonsense piled on top. Every stressor that could be co-existing together – did! What a long strange trip it’s been.
    Yesterday, I saw a pre-pandemic co-worker, who I worked with every day. for 7.5 years…not seen since that day we all went home terrified of what was happening, leaving the classroom as is…to this day. She hugged me and cried and said how “I’ve missed you so much”. The lack of closure, the loss, the confusion of these two years…too much to hold, really.
    I am so grateful to have had this circle before, during and I know, after this time of unknown and concern.
    Thank you for this post Dee. It’s an important one. xo

    1. deemallon Post author

      “All we didn’t know, all we thought we knew…all that changed or we were wrong about.” This would make a great writing prompt. Can I have your permission to use it?

      The summer of unrest is there in my photos too. So much happened, including my father-in-law dying — no memorial or family gathering until much, much later. Glad you could see your friend and I too am grateful for this circle.

      PS do you use a Mac? Still trying to figure out why I can leave comments on other blogger posts but not yours.

  2. RainSluice

    Love your GOMER photo. Helpful to review 2020 in photos. I have a few photos but I don’t know how to post anything back to you (probably a good thing or I would simply post photos all the time). xx M

  3. Marti

    Happy 65 revolutions around the planet Dee. What a fabulous photo of you with hat, scarf, shades, you fetching winter woman!

    Covid memories:

    March 2020 – what? Covid? masks? feel like I have walked into a sci-fi movie. Reading the numbers every night, watching the news, the graphics on the local newspaper huge with numbers that seem to triple every second, case counts, hospitalizations rising, things shutting down, life becoming so very small…

    Governor of New Mexico asks us to limit our daily outings to 2 if possible, groceries or medical visits but even medical starts to shut down…weekly press conferences, talking heads with multi colored charts, diagrams, charts with numbers, technical health info, color codes for counties…the reality of what it means to live in a pandemic brought home as if I am attending a college lecture…yet every week, I tune in, afraid that if I don’t, the world will end…

    Dept of Health and Governor have a sign up for free cloth masks, one to anyone who wants so we get them…husband was a Navy corpsman so is used to masks, me, not at all and being frugal, I seem to think that I can make some but I don’t sew, don’t have a sewing machine but think I am clever by tearing the wide hem off of an old Hawaiian mumu that i used to wear when we lived in Maui: It’s colorful and I need color if I’m gong to cover my face, fold it in thirds and use hair ties to put behind my ears. The gravity of the necessity of masks not sinking in until it does and it becomes a ritual of life saving necessity….

    THE UTTER REALITY of what we are facing, what this pandemic means hits and hits hard when my husband goes to the VA Hospital, June 2020, for a routine procedure, an angiogram and 13 days later is released from the hospital after undergoing a totally unexpected quadruple bypass surgery and I am not allowed to be with him at all during any of those days…

    The cancellation of usual summer trips to visit family…and the following year with surging variants, the need to cancel visits from friends as necessary precautions…

    The jolt of having to leave our rental home and find a new place within a very short time in early 2021 because our landlord needed to sell the rental house and the shock of finding long waiting lists everywhere we look but you cannot go and visit places, only mostly virtual visits until, somehow I come across a rental, 15 miles from our previous rental, still in the same town, I so wanted to remain in the same Prospective landlord is only willing to show us the place if we have had at least one vaccination and are properly masked…

    The brief joy in June when masks mandates are rescinded and one of our daughters comes fro a week to be with us…

    Dec. 2021, vaccinated, boosted we take a chance and our other daughter and her love come for Christmas and for the first time in two years, we venture out to a museum and a few restaurant meals, all the while hoping we are not being foolish and testing and testing…

    2022, third year of Covid and here in New Mexico, many have been vaccinated, many have not, numbers still keep rising,as do deaths and hospitalizations and it feels like we are in a revolving door, spinning and spinning…

  4. Martha

    Did not know your birthday. Now I do a bit….if not the day I can at least work back to the actual year. You were, and are, always 62 to me. So many revolutions of the sun and upside downisms, which auto correct just called prisms—upside down prisms, refracting, refusing to enlighten us, but rather confuse us, so that what we know is what we don’t know. As always, and however, you capture the times in a fabric of cohesion, despite the confusion. Happy birthday. Welcome to the club.

  5. Ginny

    Happy birthday Dee! Happy healthy days ahead!
    How fast the years have flown by! Thanks for sharing your experiences and the gorgeous masks! You look faboo!

    I didn’t know you two were sick at the get-go. I remember going back to work in February, after 3 weeks ++ out sick (and no more sick days left) …being dismissed by dr that I just had the flu, not Covid…my boss mocking me publicly for being sooo sickly. (Uhh, yeah, looking back on it that was an understatement.)…and then NYC shutting down on March 13 2020..the fear and anxiety, but also the realization I had by mid-May that it was the longest period I had spent at home since 1993.

    It was a horrible, terrifying time but also the best two years I’ve had. Even with getting sick from every vaccine and catching each version of Covid. 2022 is a time for reevaluating a work/lifestyle that is worse than a pandemic. Time to recalibrate. What doesn’t kill …hopefully makes us smarter.

    And to hope for better days ahead!

    Enjoy your next trip around the sun. xo Ginny

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thanks Ginny. The way you found gold in the dross is a testament to your character. I’m glad the lockdown became an opportunity to see things differently. I’m gather you are generally artistically prolific — but what a lot of work you’ve produced during this time. So so impressive.

  6. Rose

    Happy Birthday Dee! I had one recently too….and received my ‘Senior’s Card’ from the State Gov. here in Aus. Apparently it’s a discount card for lots of things that……oldies do! That’s me! But we can’t do any of those things anymore (at least not without worry), such as eating out, staying in accomodation, going to cinema, shopping trips, etc.

    I’ve never come across GOMER before….sounds a bit naff. I’ve been having lots of ‘medical check ups’ lately, and apparently I have the eyes of a 20 year old, the heart of a 50 year old and a blood analysis which the doctor said he wished was his! After my recent breast screen my hubby asked how ‘old’ my boobs are! Not for me to judge, said I. So, I reckon I might be in good condition to fight off any Covid that comes my way (arthritic fingers crossed)!

    Here in Aussie Victoria, we had more lockdowns than anyone else in the world these past two years. Three jabs. Still masking and stepping away from people. Friends and family interstate whom we haven’t seen for 2 years, and one dear aunty who passed away at 94 with only 5 at her funeral (50+ of us online watching…..very weird).

    Anyway, thanks for your great blog, it truly makes my day, I love seeing and reading about your Boston way-of-life, your wonderful friends (esp. fellow stitchers Hazel, Jude and Liz).
    Stay well, family safe, happy and loved.
    Rosemary (pixel_plucker).

    1. deemallon Post author

      Naff is a new word for me. It sounds very Australian. Usually people shorten the old age acronym to Gome. Here come the Gomes. Sounds a little better for some reason.

      Good for you on measures of heath, which is to say, health. What is your secret? Maybe a sense of humor? (the boobs narrative above made me laugh out loud).

      The inability to properly grieve was one of the many losses and I’ve seen articles about the disruption and pain of that. We visited my father in law’s grave a year after he died (I think? I’m terrible at counting even absent Covid). He was a veteran. There should have been some very formal ceremony to honor him.

  7. Liz A

    welcome to the Medicare Club … wish I could say it has helped, but our combined medical expenses for 2021 still totaled over $23K due in large part to dental and hearing aid costs that aren’t covered … but I dare say you look younger now than you did two years ago … a testament to the relative decrease in fear and unknowing even though we’re not to the After Times yet, if ever

    to this day I can’t honestly say whether I was more fearful of getting Covid or of giving it to our grandkids … so perhaps it was both in equal measure … I do remember watching Wendy MacNaughton’s Draw Together during lunch every weekday … marveling at how perceptive she was about children’s needs for continuity and purpose, which was exactly what we needed, too

    the omicron variant has felt like a massive rewind to the early days … two of our grandkids have weathered it, fortunately with relatively minor symptoms … KN95 is now a part of our everyday vocabulary and we have rapid test kits in the medicine cabinet … likewise the phrase “vaxxed and boosted” now holds meaning that would have been totally inscrutable in 2020

    I do remember thinking the early-days CDC stand that masks weren’t necessary didn’t make sense to me, but I was too self-conscious to wear one until after the cloth mask recommendation was made … now I think I’ll pretty much mask up whenever I go to a medical facility or fly on a plane, even if Covid is nothing more than a distant memory (wishful thinking) … and I don’t miss shaking hands, although it’s a habit that even now is hard to break

    phew … your posts have certainly been generative lately … thanks for the prompts!

    1. deemallon Post author

      Wow, 23k! I guess that’s one set of hearing aids and a couple of crowns, eh? Course dental insurance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My carrier wouldn’t cover replacing a 30+ year old crown because it still looked functional. Good grief.

      New words. Triple vaxxed is another.

      Your CDC comment reminds me of how very terrifying and painful it was to have trump and his goons in power at the beginning of the pandemic. Jared farming out PPE to an unqualified friend. Jared thinking it was policy to let the blue states suffer,
      proving not only now corrupt he was but how dumb — to not recognize it would spread. Trump dumbing down the CDC, the agency watering down their message in service of partisanship. Remember? Gawd.

  8. Saskia

    dear Dee, a belated happy birthday, looking at the date I was confused until I realised we do it the other way ’round here 1-2-2022, day month year…..I always learn so much reading your posts, the countless cultural differences between your country and ours for one, how this determines how differently we are allowed to live our lives during a pandemic like this; of course there are similarities because I think we’re in the same social sphere and therefore share many privileges, making for a comfortable life where we can afford the luxury of personal space and having goods & food delivered, but apart from the first few weeks of covid when everything felt uncertain, I was never too worried or anxious as I felt secure and protected in my part of the world, despite social unrest and ever-increasing protests….maybe I am naive or overly optimistic thanks to my motto of not worrying about the things I cannot influence…..

    I’m just really glad to be here & alive

    on our walk together with the dogs this morning my husband spotted a bittern, they are very rare, so this was very special and I realised once again: live in the moment

    1. deemallon Post author

      You make the incredibly important point about privilege and the safety that can flow from that. I have been able to mostly stay home. K has worked from home for two years now.

  9. Laurie

    Happy birthday, Dee!
    Early Covid memories – I became aware of the seriousness of it a little earlier than most around here because my friend’s husband died from it in the first big cluster near Seattle. They had just brought home her mother from a rehab facility, where she recovered from “pneumonia”, in late February. It was really distressing as she began posting about it on Facebook. At first it was thought to be pneumonia, then they tested for Covid, then he was on a ventilator, and then we were all sending him the mental message: “Rick, wake up!” He never did.

    A couple of other local friends were extremely sick with a mystery virus in early February and could not get tested. Later one had the antibodies for Covid. I really think it was here in NC much earlier than reported.

    We went out to the oyster bar, our favorite place, for the last time in early March, then we were sent home from work on March 19, I think. Sandy and I had done a big Costco run in late February but at that time we were prepping for the possibility of civil war, not the pandemic. That turned out well because we ran out of toilet paper at about the same time it became available again.

    I remember having this strange excitement about the whole thing during the first six months. I can’t say that the emotion itself was positive or negative – it was more like a constant buzzing. I was vastly disappointed about having my big solo art trip to Ireland canceled. (I told people that I was going to Ireland if I had to swim there – didn’t consider that Ireland wouldn’t let me in.) I was happy that I could work from home. My brain was busy busy busy all the time with INTJ sort of contingency planning. I worried that our marriage wouldn’t survive being together all the time, but we actually became closer. I was baffled that I couldn’t get my art mojo going. Online classes were a flop for me. I took a lot of naps. Later I sank into serious depression.

    The worst part of it for me has been the lack of travel. That and art retreats in person sustained me throughout much of my mental illness. I was fortunate that I did not lose anyone close to me to Covid.

    Thank you for this prompt.

    1. deemallon Post author

      From reading your blog for many years, I can understand how not being able to travel impacted your mood. Also I’m so interested in your description of the hum or buzz. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to describe my response to the pandemic that way, but I get it. I do hope that you get to make a fabulous trip soon — Ireland? Portugal?


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