Wednesday, September 29, 2021

March madness

The first week of March started off like any other in the pandemic. We went to work, we came home. Restaurants were beginning to open up, including one of the local joints down the street from the house. My husband, Charles, and I have been going to this particular restaurant for decades. We usually share the combo fajitas for two, have Queso or guacamole as an appetizer, and when the mood strikes, a couple of frozen margaritas.

We were looking forward to being able to patronize this particular establishment. We worried that they wouldn't survive the pandemic; a few of our other favorites have had to either downsize our outright close. Saying goodbye to a twenty plus year routine was not high on either of our lists. Hell, we've had friendships that haven't lasted as long. 

Charles was working an assignment that took him out of town for a few days. He returned home early Sunday morning, literally sick and tired. He felt a bit rundown and had a slight fever. He took some acetaminophen, drank some water and went to bed. Never one to sleep for long, he woke up and fell back asleep off and on for most of the day. His fever broke during the night and the following morning it hadn't returned. I felt fine but checked my own temperature before heading to work to be safe. 

When I returned home, I realized that his fever returned and we started the process over. Acetaminophen, water, food, rest. Again, I felt fine but kept an eye on my own temperature before going to work. Tuesday evening when I returned from work, Charles still wasn't feeling any better. His fever would break but kept returning. Finally, around nine in the evening, I started getting chills. I checked my temperature and found that I had a slight fever. We decided to go to the hospital. 

Like most of America, we had heard of the challenges that the healthcare industry faced in the wake of the pandemic. Seeing it first-hand was eye-opening. Like any business, when short-staffed, normal processes, regardless of their importance, are compromised. 

Have you ever walked into a hospital that was hot? For some reason, the ventilation system either wasn't operational or wasn't being used. Patients in the emergency room had on masks but weren't properly socially distanced. No one was wiping down wheelchairs or the waiting room chairs after use and gloves weren't provided to patients.

It took hours for us to be seen. At one point, my husband began to pass out. He didn't lose consciousness altogether but wasn't fully coherent. While nurses scrambled, I ran over to him, called his name until he focused on me and came out of the stupor. Worried now, we were escorted into ER rooms with a bit more urgency.  Tests were run and we waited patiently for the diagnosis. Charles was pronounced to have pneumonia and I had the flu. The hospital performed COVID-19 tests and we were sent home with antibiotics.

To this day, I don't know where we contracted the virus but I wonder if going to the hospital that night was a good idea.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Two funerals, one lesson and a final gift

Funerals are a necessary evil. They provide a chance for closure for those who need it and an opportunity to share memories for those who are so inclined. While a lot of work goes into them, they can be quite beautiful. My stepmom, husband and I went to two very different funerals within the course of a few days.

One was held in a little church in the city. The minister was either not the deceased's pastor or he didn't know her well. He spoke in generalizations and was only able to personalize his speech  by parroting stories shared during the personal remarks. It made him seem disingenuous. Nonetheless, the ceremony was emotional, everyone was in their Sunday best and the funeral home staff put on quite a show. At one point, in what I later learned was a Creole tradition, they carried a jeweled tiara on a velvet pillow down the center aisle to place upon the deceased's head while singing "She will wear a crown." It was poignant and heartbreaking. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

The second funeral was a couple of days later in a larger church out in the country. The minister and my father had a relationship through Christ and were even, dare I say, friends. His speech was full of little anecdotes that clearly communicated a shared history. It put smiles on the faces of the bereaved and filled many an eye with tears as stories of times gone by were shared. The ceremony was video taped and shared on YouTube so that those unable to travel to be in attendance could still participate. The video tribute was a mix of pictures and PowerPoint slides filled with the one-liner nuggets of wisdom and humor that my father shared with me. One such nugget was when my father would say, "I am in shape. Round is a shape."

My least favorite parts of the process are the body and the display of the family's grief as the attendees are paraded past. While the funeral home team did a phenomenal job with my father's corpse, to me, it was clear that everything that made my dad who he was, was no longer in there. At least, it looked like him, especially once I had them put his glasses on. 

My favorite part was the last video of my father singing a solo in the church choir. Dad had a way of ensuring that he looked directly into the camera when he sang. So there were moments when it seemed that he was looking straight at you. The song was one of his favorites, it is titled "Midnight Cry" and it talks about joining the Lord. Considering the time of his death, it was not without a bit of irony. and was totally something that daddy would have appreciated.

He had a military burial as a result of his time served in the Air Force. This too was poignant and heartbreaking. Daddy wouldn't have had it any other way.

The final lesson that my father taught me was preparation. He knew that his time on this earth was dwindling. He prepared for it as much as he could. He wrote down usernames and passwords, pins and account numbers to cell phones and emails, bank and bill pay accounts, everything that my stepmom would need to go about the business of transferring things into her name upon his demise. He even had more than one life insurance policy to ensure that his treasures were maintained, namely his wife and me. The last gift that my dad gave me was the ability to get out of debt with the money from his life insurance policy.
While my husband and I recognized the benefit of preparation as displayed by my father, we can procrastinate with the best of them. This unfortunately came back to bite us in the butt when COVID-19 came knocking on our front door.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Hello 2021

Just before the 2020 Christmas season, I remember being excited about the upcoming year. So many of us were looking forward to New Year's day. Our eagerness lay more in seeing the previous year end than in witnessing the start of the new one.

2021 started out like most new years, with a celebration to commemorate the passing of time, albeit virtually for most of us. This was followed by work/school and a mutinous riot in the country's capitol. I, like so many others, watched in awe as hundreds of mostly non-brown citizens stormed the nation's capitol provoking fear and causing harm. We, the brown citizens of the US, stood transfixed before our screens witnessing both the audacity of the rioters and the restraint of the police force. That such a large crowd of people made it all the way to the building without encountering human barricades in full riot gear, canine units, water hoses, batons, tasers and fully loaded clips unloaded in fear into the chests of the not-so-peaceful protestors was utterly amazing to see. While this event was upsetting, it was little more than an inconvenient detour as my husband and I traversed I-95 in our SUV through Virginia. 

They say that death occurs in threes. So, you can imagine that when a friend and colleague died in the first week of December 2020, I was a bit trepidatious. When my stepmom's sister passed suddenly, two days before the new year, I began to prepare for the worst. In spite of the doctors' best efforts and countless prayers submitted by dozens of friends and family members, dad was declining. After having heard the rumors about the odds of diabetics with COVID surviving intubation, dad decided to sign a DNR. He told me his truth in a very matter-of-fact tone while he still had command of his lungs. Unless God saw fit to heal him, his time was coming to an end.

A few days before, my dad said that with so many people praying for his recovery he couldn't see how it could result in anything else. Can you imagine how it feels to believe in the power of prayer and realize that you might still die anyway? Can you imagine the faith it requires to come to terms with that?

Right on time and according to schedule, the new year was ushered in at midnight. I had tried to video call my father earlier that evening before leaving work. He answered the phone, put one finger in the air to signify the 'one moment' gesture and the phone disconnected. He didn't call me back. I called again before midnight but couldn't get through. Around two in the morning, I received the phone call from my stepmom. At midnight on New Year's Day, my father drew his last breath. 

As her words penetrated my sleepy sluggish mind, I curled into a fetal position. Voice thick with the tears coursing down my cheeks, I barely recall trying to make it through her speech without falling apart. I hope that I responded appropriately. I remember being relieved when she stopped, mumbling my love and dropping the phone before succumbing to the grief that expelled itself through shaking and sobs when silent cries no longer sufficed. Supported in my husbands arms, I purged everything that wanted out, swallowed the rest and got ready to face a new year and a world without my father.

December 18th, 2020

On December 18th, 2020, the universe decided to give me a closer encounter with Coronavirus. No longer on the distant horizon, it showed up in my back yard. I received a phone call from my 69 year old father. He and my stepmom had tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily, she was okay but he was in the hospital with pneumonia. 

Pneumonia in someone almost seventy was already a cause for concern. However, COVID-19 in someone almost seventy, with a history of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, coupled with pneumonia...

Around that time, the country's leaders and doctors were warning against travel, particularly by plane. More concerned with our safety, my father and stepmom requested that my husband and I remain home. Part of me wanted to get on the first available flight, consequences be damned. The larger part of me did not want to stress their recovery with worries about their impulsive child. So we honored the fourteen day isolation period. 

My father and I were repairing a relationship that suffered a few trials and tribulations early on. With time and a few tough conversations, we had successfully bridged the chasm between us and had become close. He was the person most like me on the planet. Same smile, similar senses of humor, same cleft chin. A cousin once looked at me wide-eyed and exclaimed that talking to me was like talking to a female version of my dad. While I suspect that it was not meant to be a compliment, the more I got to know my dad, the higher praise those words became. 

Thanksgiving of 2020, my father and stepmom came down to visit my husband and me. We spent a very lovely week together just hanging out. We talked, played Beat Saber-a game my dad loved, cooked, ate, fellowshipped and loved on each other. Before the end of the trip, my dad declared that it was the BEST VACATION EVER!!! For someone who had been to Aruba and countless other vacation destinations, that he considered chilling with the wife and kids in our home the best said a lot about the things he treasured.

A science fiction fan, he and my husband shared a love of Star Wars. My husband would excitedly speak about the animated Clone Wars series and my father would listen as he tried to summarize a half dozen seasons worth of storyline into their conversation. I found this beautiful, glossy, colorful book detailing the who's who in the Clone Wars series. Initially, I thought to purchase it for my husband but in the end, I gave it to my dad. My hope was that if he never watched the animated series, he could look through the book, and start to identify some of the characters that my hubby tried to bring to life in his retelling.

As it turns out, my father never got to see the book. It arrived at his home the evening that he was admitted to the hospital. Fourteen days later, on the day his isolation period concluded, my dad died as a result of COVID-19 related pneumonia. 

Introduction: An offering

COVID-19, a.k.a. Coronavirus, began its direct impact on my life on December 18th, 2020. Prior to that day, I suspect that I thought about Coronavirus the way many people did. No one known to me had been seriously affected by it, and those who had contracted the virus felt bad for a few weeks before returning to their usual lives. The horrors of the pandemic seemed...distant. Like a storm on the horizon, it was something to keep an eye on but too far away to be of any real concern. 

While I wore my mask, washed my hands, wiped down with disinfectant whenever I thought about it and limited my outdoor activities to only what was necessary, it was all beginning to feel like overkill. Through articles and news stories we were informed about how COVID-19 was affecting some people, and how the rest of the world was responding to it. There was so much misinformation that the gravity of the situation was lost on many of us. 

In the absence of truth, fiction reigns supreme. The resulting conspiracy theories showcased our citizens' blatant distrust of our leaders' willingness to tell the truth. Uncertain about the future and concerned about the present, many looked to the past for answers. Considering the country's previous actions in the handling of Syphilis, HIV/AIDS and even Ebola, some conspiracy theories no longer seemed that far fetched. 

When only a minority seems to be affected, the seriousness of the response seems muted. It is as if the human component is diminished when the affected are only the old, poor, gay or brown. While this may not be the absolute truth, when looking to our past, the tales tell us to be wary and to question more. 

Not an overly curious person by nature, I do not question much. I offer. I expect that other people will offer in return. I am often disappointed. Regardless, that is the purpose of this blog. To offer my experiences with COVID-19. To tell my truth...

March madness

The first week of March started off like any other in the pandemic. We went to work, we came home. Restaurants were beginning to open up, in...