Category Archives: coronavirus

How none of it seems to end

The list of things imposing misery right now is quite long. Ukraine is never far from mind. For many of my friends, Russia’s atrocities are personal.

Things I’ve heard in the last month from people I am close to:

My mother grew up in Belarus.

My grandparents are Russian Jews, but from areas now Ukraine.

I just found out that I have a relative from Poland who died in the Holocaust. I was named after her.

I’m have very little family history, which is traumatizing too.

My grandfather grew up in Odessa.

I didn’t realize that H’s mother was Ukrainian.

Meanwhile, it’s Monday and K has gone into the office. He will travel into Boston every day this week. It strikes me as a signature Covid experience how the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes familiar. Example: in spite of this being my husband’s commuting routine for decades before the pandemic, it now feels a little weird, a little dangerous, a little not-normal.

Also today: I get to make a friend lunch and we won’t have to be quiet because K is on the phone at his workstation (aka the kitchen table).

And, I get my second booster this afternoon.

Age, portraits, and Covid

AGE

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?

PORTRAITS AND COVID

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

Handling disappointment

My adoration for the quilts of Bisa Butler and the pandemic began at roughly the same time. If you haven’t discovered her yet, you must, because she is a once-in-a-generation quilter.

Butler’s work is absolutely stunning, in construction, scale, color, and subject matter.

Her quilts document Black life with exuberant patterning and such an incredible ability to render faces and clothing without resorting to paint that she continually reminds viewers that they are 100% cloth. You squint agog wondering, How on earth does she do it?

She’s like Kehinde Wiley on acid.

Not that long ago, I vowed to myself, “When this is all over, I’m gonna see her quilts even if I have to travel to Chicago or Memphis to do so.”

So it might surprise you to learn that I just ordered a book showcasing her portraits rather than truck a few miles down Route 9 to see one of her pieces. A neighbor even lent me her MFA member card so that I could be admitted at no cost.

And still I’m not going.

Is it yesterday’s colonoscopy stopping me? Maybe. At the endoscopy center, there were half a dozen nurses, several doctors, an anesthesiology assistant or two, secretaries, and other patients. They managed risk expertly — everyone wore masks, curtains divided the gurneys, a careful protocol determined who came into the building and when. Still that feels like enough potential exposure for one week.

(P.S. Everything’s fine).

More delays in the editing process mean that I will finally spend two solid weeks polishing a query letter (not like creative writing at all!) and building a functional list of agents. I should have done this a year ago! I signed up for QueryTracker and will look into Submittable and Duotrope, two other literary submission programs. I’m going to be ready to aim and fire the second I get the last batch of edits.

Otherwise, I’ll just kill myself. I can’t keep doing this.

(I’m JOKING).

The situation reminds me of something I read in some book or other on happiness. It has really stayed with me, unlike the author and title of the book. It said something along the lines of this: except for the loss of a partner or a child, almost no disappointments result in significant changes in happiness five years out.

So in other words, if this book never sees the light of day, five years from now I’ll be dead — oops — I mean, my happiness quotient will be roughly the same as it is today.

This reminder is oddly comforting and in no way promotes defeatism.

All of this today makes me feel the fragility of life. It’s so important to breathe, and to be kind to one another, and to make haste slowly.

 

 

Advice from an old lady

Before I get to the more general advice, let me dispense some cautionary advice relative to COVID. I’ve been reading one horror story after another about hospitals being overrun and depending on whom you believe, a health care system on the verge of collapse or already fully collapsed.

In that vein: stay off of ladders; keep your knives sharp; exercise care going up and down stairs and getting in and out of the shower; get your groceries delivered — or if not, certainly cut out all non-essential shopping for a month; do not get drunk (according to my brother some huge percent of ER admissions are alcohol-related); save your heart attack for the summer; take all your meds; shovel snow in brief intervals or hire someone else to do it; get grippers for your boots; stay off motorcycles.

In other words, now is not the time to cut yourself or take a bad fall.

Now for some more general old lady advice. I’d love to hear yours!

Roll spine before getting out of bed

In winter, put hemp salve up the nose to keep tissues soft

Open all mail from Social Security promptly

Buy the nicest face products you can afford

Heating pads are a way of life

Sprinkle critical items around the house: charging cords (plugged in); reading glasses; writing instruments (I like Bic Medium points, blue); dental floss

Make every bath a salt bath — regular Epsom salts for the average day, scented Epsom salts for a little treat, and fizzy bath bombs for a bigger treat (I pull my bath bombs out of the water halfway through their fizz to extend use).

Invest in good walking boots and comfy shoes that have a little style to them.

Scarves and earrings can dress up a wardrobe of plain shirts

If your size or stature is hard to fit, when you discover a pair of pants or top that is flattering and comfortable, immediately buy two more in other colors (I wish I had learned this decades ago)

Enjoy food!

To counter this, I don’t eat breakfast, take a statin, and walk every day. Every once in a while I’ll eliminate gluten, dairy, and/or sugar for a while. Sometimes years.

(I haven’t quite worked this one out and have struggled with an extra ten pounds for about four years).

Dogs! Cats! Need I say more?

A heavy bamboo blanket turns a couch into a haven. Upstairs, I now sleep under a weighted blanket as well. It took some trial and error to figure it out, but now that I’ve got it, I can’t imagine sleeping without it!

Stay in touch with friends.

19 degrees and looking for good news

You won’t find good news in Pulitzer-prize winning science writer Ed Yong’s recent article in The Atlantic. (Short version: the collapse of the health care system is worse than you think and about to get worse yet).

You won’t find good news in my messages with Younger Son whose girlfriend tested positive on Thursday and whose boss is an idiot.

You won’t find it in a recent Boston Globe article about local insurrectionists who’ve been charged with picketing, disturbance of the peace, and trespass.*

But you might find good news in back-to-back speeches this week. I think they signal a new sense of urgency about the rise of autocracy.

Attorney General Garland’s speech on Jan 5 said some of the right things but because it doesn’t appear that the DOJ is investigating any of the insurrection planners/funders, it couldn’t get me too excited. However, coming as it did a day before Biden’s blistering take down of the former guy, it made me think that a change is gonna come.

Lastly, there is still great comedy out there. If you need a laugh, google “Abhor Rent Colbert.” I’d embed the YouTube link but I am starting to wonder what such insertions cost me in terms of memory. It’s easy enough to find the clip.

* * *

* How about conspiracy to interfere with a government process? Or how about destruction of federal property (remember trump upping the penalty to ten years for that when the destruction was Confederate statues?)