Typhoid Mary, Covid Carrie

I have somehow become suspected of being a walking Covid factory; the Wuhan Market in human form.

It would appear that I, quite innocently and without any evidence whatever, have become the Midwest’s greatest vector for disease transmission; the Typhoid Mary of Covid. To this I can only say that, not content with scything down a large portion of the population and rendering the rest ill for months with the long form of the disease, Covid has made people downright freaking crazy.

The first indication of my unwitting selection as the Great Disease Vector came in January, 2021. The vaccine had just been released, but was in short supply; only specific populations–the most elderly, those who looked after them, health workers, etc.–were given first shot (pun intended!) at vaccination. Several members of my family fell into those categories, though, and were promptly vaccinated. But I, plenty old but not quite elderly, was caught in a holding pattern, waiting for my chance at a shot to save my life. (It’s really a great pun.)

Now, some of our family members being Asian American, we have for many years celebrated Chinese New Year together. In 2021, that holiday arrived in January. Unfortunately, one of those family members had been ill with an undiagnosed mystery illness (think, possible long Covid following asymptomatic disease; think, with far less charity and a touch of irritation, just plain hypochondria). So when the celebration rolled around, the vaccinated family members were invited. I, however, was warned by the most officious member of the family that I was a danger to the sick person, since he, along with his wife and three children, were too young to be vaccinated. Don’t come! I was ordered.

I did as bidden and stayed home, heartbroken. Only much later did it occur to me that, as a lifelong asthmatic, I was in a great deal more danger from two unvaccinated adults and three unvaccinated children than they were from me. But, hey, who was I, Covid Carrie, to quarrel?

Finally, the vaccine was released to those of my age category and (after a mighty battle with the website—for the love of heaven! Despite having come to tech so late that I actually learned to type on a manual typewriter, I could and did design numerous databases during my final two decades at the office, all of which functioned one helluva lot better than the joke perpetrated upon a helpless populace by the Indiana State Board of Health! But I digress….) I finally received my first vaccine and began the tortuous waiting period for the second shot.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, Easter rolled around. A gathering was planned once again with Mr. Mystery Illness and his kin, and I was warned, “You’re a danger to him. You’ve only had one shot. Don’t come.” You’re a walking Covid factory. You’re the Wuhan Market in human form. Stay away, Covid Carrie. I sighed and spent Easter visiting a homebound relative.

The world kept turning, and I, now both fully vaccinated and extremely careful, did not fall ill of Covid. In fact, when boosters became available in October, I rushed to get one, standing in line for over an hour despite having arrived early to my appointment. Nothing was going to keep me from that booster! When Thanksgiving landed, by God, I was going to be ready: vaccinated, boosted, mask-wearing, crowd-avoiding and hand sanitizer using me!

I hadn’t counted, though, on yet another family member. Despite every argument we flung at him, despite seeing that the vaccine had done the rest of us no harm, my son-in-law was adamantly an anti-vaxxer. Once more I was given an ultimatum: I could come to Thanksgiving dinner, but my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter could not, due to his unvaccinated status (the possibility of his testing negative using one of the now readily-available home tests was not even discussed). Choking on my tears, I made my Sophie’s Choice, deciding, of course, in favor of my daughter and her little family. I had, after all, promised my baby granddaughter when she was no more than twelve hours old that I would always protect her, even to giving my life for hers. Giving up Thanksgiving seemed quite minor by comparison.

After all this, then, it came as no surprise to me this summer when I was barred from yet another gathering, this time of friends. I’d been exposed to Covid several days before our luncheon was planned to take place, and was upfront about that with everyone. But, I offered, I would test both the day before and the morning of the luncheon; I would wear a mask, and not order or eat, so I would not have to take it off; I would just join them at the table to bask in the joy of being with friends.

We can’t risk it, I was told.

Accustomed at this point to my status as a pariah, I was saddened, but neither upset nor surprised. My friends met for luncheon in an enclosed restaurant space, surrounded by strangers of uncertain vaccination, health, and testing status, and I remained at home.

Still, I find it odd that, having not yet (I will not dare say never!) fallen to Covid despite being directly exposed to it now over four times, I should somehow have acquired the weighty status of the Great Midwestern Disease Vector. As I say, looking at the anti-vax and vaccine wars, the lockdowns and protests, the attacks on mask wearers and mask refusers, as well as what I have experienced, it would seem that Covid’s true legacy is not actually death and destruction, but simple, plain, insanity.

For another viewpoint on my experiences with Covid, you might appreciate “No Pleasure in Being Right”, which you can locate by scrolling down to the Archives. It was published September 1, 2021.

The Jonah Thanksgiving

Jonah Days. We all have them: those days when everything goes wrong.  L.M. Montgomery, eloquently described a Jonah Day in the second book of her Anne of Green Gable series, when the plucky red-headed heroine reaches the end of her tether on just such a day and – in a complete reversal of every tenet she has ever expressed and holds dear – spanks one of her students.  The scene itself and the passages that follow are delightfully written, completely evocative of the frustration and chagrin that all of us have experienced on our own Jonah Days.

On the night before Thanksgiving two years ago, I recalled that book and laughed ruefully. I’d just had my own Jonah day, and if I’d had a student to spank, I’d have been reaching for a paddle. If a day itself could have been whacked, I’d have done it. I’d reached the end of my tether and a bit beyond.

The morning had begun gloriously. It was very warm for November, and the day was sunny.  Newly retired, I knew had plenty of time for the cooking I would be doing for our family Thanksgiving.  So that morning I’d prepared the pastry shells for four pumpkin pies and, as I usually do, carried the huge bowl of filling over to where the shells waited, coddled in their pie pans, on the oven racks.  This was the way I’d always filled the pie shells — carefully dipping out the filling into each shell with a ladle.

I dropped the whole bowl of filling. Four pies worth of filling.  Onto the oven door.

Later that day, the bread I was baking rose over the pan, spilling onto the oven floor and beginning to burn. The house quickly filled with smoke, triggering four smoke alarms.  Those alarms are, of course, set too high on the walls to be reached without a stepstool. I ran to grab my stepstool…but a friend had borrowed it. Frantic in the midst of shrieking klaxons, I found myself hauling a heavy wooden kitchen chair up the stairwell to turn off the upstairs alarms.

The chaos of the morning and afternoon seeming to have subsided, I decided that giving myself a manicure would relax me. The bottle of nail polish tipped onto my white leather hassock, but I congratulated myself that I’d covered the leather with wax paper before starting the manicure.  Once finished, I carefully tidied up my basket of manicure supplies, putting them back into perfect order, and admiring how well organized the basket now was  Then I carried the basket upstairs to put it away.  And at the very top of the stairwell, I dropped it.  Bottles of polish, emery boards, pumice stones, scissors, cuticle oil, clippers, cotton balls and swabs, bottles of remover…all went tumbling down the stairwell, bouncing and scattering, the bottle of remover opening and splashing acetone all over the carpet.

I sighed, cleaned up the mess, and unceremoniously dumped everything any which way back into the basket.

The stairwell was apparently my greatest nemesis that day, however, because a short while later, as I started down the steps, I tripped. I fell and slid all the way to the landing, twisting my ankle and wrenching my back.

I cried, clapped an ice pack on my throbbing ankle, and finally hobbled upstairs for a soothing hot shower.

While I was in the shower, my phone rang. I decided to let the answering machine take it and finish my shower.  I didn’t listen to the message until I’d gotten into my pajamas.

My Dad had called. His friend was taking him to the hospital. He thought he might be having a stroke.

I threw my clothes back on, called other family members, and raced through the night to the hospital.

Dad had not, after all, had a stroke; he’d suffered an anxiety attack and his blood pressure had spiraled out of control. He was going to be just fine.  That was a great comfort as we all wearily wended our way home shortly before midnight.

The holiday was not, as I recall, the most scintillating of Thanksgiving days, given that we were all exhausted and drained. But I knew I had much to be grateful for, not the least of which was that Dad was okay.

And that my personal Jonah Day was finally, finally over.