COVID in the House

by Nov 21, 2020

Well. We’ve got it.

We who, since mid-March, have essentially cloistered – masked, sanitized, distanced. We even disinfect our keys and doorknobs. How in the world did this virus find us?

It did.

Our symptoms are quite light. We’ll make it fine. But, like you, we have too many friends who have been seriously affected. Stories of days in the hospital – a few on ventilators – some have died. The fear, grief, and loss are profound. 

We’ve taken COVID-19 seriously from the beginning. Sure, it’s inconvenient. It’s awkward to wear masks, and increasingly we feel starved for social contact. Inside the house it’s too empty of gatherings by candle and sparkle light with friends – you know, the ways we make it through the dark days around solstice.

But no. Patience, the experts urge.

We’d planned to push it just a bit – to drive to spend some time with my mom. She’s 86. Pure love and part grit. Like how every Thursday for months, and until quite recently, she’s driven herself to her church at a busy intersection in Decatur, GA. There, she’s joined a handful of friends sitting in woven beach chairs holding signs. Hers reads, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” Toward the end of July, when Congressman Lewis died, she added to the other side of her sign, “GET IN GOOD TROUBLE.”  She’d still be at it, except for an ER visit that interrupted the flow.

It was that interruption that did it. It was time to find a way to be with her. Of course, it’s always time, but you know how those scares can get to you.

We were on it. Had a rock-solid COVID-times strategy. Our van is 100% self-contained, except for gasoline. We had food for four days and small boatloads of hand sanitizer. We researched public land to park and sleep in along the way. We were set.

Last Monday, just to be safe, we drove the short way from our home in Bozeman, Montana to the parking lot of Deaconess Hospital and sat in a line of cars. We sat and sat. Two PPEd heroes chatted with us along the way. The first had a clipboard and asked after symptoms and such. I admitted to the cough, the light headache, the episodic sore throat, saying they seemed to be allergy symptoms. I mentioned plans to be with my mom and recited her age. Through the plastic and cloth covering her face, that hero said, “I’m listing you as symptomatic.” That seemed ok. After all, we wanted quick results.

Next, we sat some more. We idled, we yielded, we merged and finally arrived at person two – an entirely radiant and friendly human cloaked in a sanitary gown and gloves, in a mask, plastic shield and goggles. She joked with us, and she stuck stuff up my nose, and that was that.

Two days later on Wednesday, I thought to look for the results. It was pro forma. I felt fine. So, I chatted with Gary as I opened the webpage – talked about the nonsense language – SARS CoV2 RNA, RT (for ‘real time’) PCR. Then I saw a word in bold – Detected. Detected. What did that mean? (Sometimes it takes a minute to register.) Detected.

There went the drive to Georgia. Calls happened with family, with healthcare folk.

Yes, all of that. But the reason I’m here with this story now is because of this. If it weren’t for remembering to be responsible, for getting my very first COVID test just in case, I would never have known. I would have continued rationalizing my symptoms as normal allergies. At best, I would have been contagious to anyone who came near. Those chances would have been slim, because of our aforementioned cloistering, but – well – at worst, I would have carried this to Georgia and my mom.

That’s where stuff gets REAL.

I would never forgive myself if I transmitted this disease to my mother. In fact, I would never forgive anything that did that. I would never forgive the disease. It’s a set of feelings too extremely big to write down – to say – even to think.

It’s likely that we’re in this mess because of the ways human acts have brought on severe imbalance in the ecosystems that sustain plants and animals – and us. But that’s for another blog.

The fact is, we’re in it. And this pandemic calls us to be as wise as we are able. It calls us to take the action we can take inside and near our own lives for being part of the solution. Anger and grief are along for the ride, now. We can admit them and, with that, move with even more clarity and actual kindness. At least it’s worth giving a go.

I will see my mother again. Too many will not. And this is where we are. A time fraught with threat and anxiety – and a time brimming with opportunity.

We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening….
                                                                          ~Joanna Macy