It was 359 days ago that we were told to stay inside for two weeks. Businesses were quickly shutting down. Our senior living community canceled all activities and closed indoor meals; the campus was closed to visitors. Now, 359 days later, the community is still closed to visitors and there is still no indoor dining; all group activities are either virtual or nonexistent. I remember thinking in the beginning that it would be longer than two weeks, but I never dreamed it would be more than 359 days.
We stayed home, going out only to get groceries and a few other things. We would order ahead and wait in the car while they brought our purchases to put in the car trunk. When the rate of new infections eased, we went into the grocery store, trying to go when it would be less crowded. But we were anxious about that and soon reverted to ordering ahead.
At some point last Spring I realized we would be wearing masks for a while and that it would be worthwhile to spend the money on a set of masks that would be comfortable, effective, and stylish. I’m beginning to think perhaps they have been washed enough now that they have lost some of their effectiveness and I should get new ones, but I’m not quite up to that point.
During the summer we drove north to a park halfway between us and where my daughter lives, to visit with her for a few hours, masked and socially distanced. But we were anxious, and it wasn’t satisfying to be close but not close enough. We haven’t done it since. Actually, for me visiting with her on Zoom is better. There is less anxiety of infecting her and I can see her face.
The civil rights protests downtown persisted, but since most of downtown was closed because of the pandemic, we stayed away.
In September, nearby wildfires drove us out of our home. We sought refuge with our son, who lives farther from the fires and has a good filtration system on his HVAC. We all got Covid tests and hunkered down inside for more than a week, until the air quality improved to “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” And then it was back home to wait for when we could go out, or for the next disaster, whichever came first.
Sometime around then, Andrea and I deleted Facebook off our phones. We could tell the world was in shambles and didn’t need to be reminded of it constantly. We’re still off Facebook.
Then came the election and all the lies and turmoil and hate. It was a tough time for all of us, I think. Then came the insurrection on January 6th. It was as if we were living in a dystopian novel. I felt slightly protected with my age and my pale skin, but I wondered if the Enforcers — you know: those who have narrow ideas of how we should all be and feel entitled to enforce those narrow views on the rest of us — would break into our house and cart us away.
Last month we had the pleasure of residing in the border between a heavy rainstorm and a snowstorm. A thick coating of ice covered everything and we lost power. Through the night and the next morning, the house got colder and we put on more clothes. In the afternoon there was a lull and it seemed the roads would be as clear as they were going to get, so we drove to Andrea’s brother’s house, five miles away. He had no power either, but he has a wood-burning stove to heat the house and a gas range to cook on. We stayed with him for four days until power was restored. We enjoyed our time there, but it was nice to get home. We showered at last and threw out most of what was in the refrigerator. There was a lot of tree damage in his neighborhood, but here, just a few miles north, it was more snow and less ice.
There were times in the last 359 days when it seemed like the movie “Groundhog Day” — every day was the same. And there was a period of weeks when I was depressed, not wanting to even walk outside. But gradually we adjusted.
The previous Administration oversaw the rapid development of vaccines to fight the pandemic, but they did little to try to keep us alive until the vaccines were available. In fact they often worked against keeping us alive, politicizing mask wearing and fighting against the simple measures we needed to keep us safe. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the non-white population. One wonders if the official stance would have been different if the white population was bearing the brunt.
In the past 359 days we have led the world in disease and death. With only 4% of the world population, the US has had more than 25% of the Covid cases and more than 20% of the deaths. Over half a million Americans have died. Currently, an American dies of Covid every 36 seconds.
But we go on. Andrea and I are lucky to live where we do. Most states have infection rates above 8%, with South Dakota winning the honors with over 13%. Oregon is around 3.5%. And we live in a community with a dedicated staff that works hard to keep us safe. When the staff was getting their shots, there were some doses left over. Andrea and I won the lottery and we both got our shots. Andrea’s brother has had his two, and we’ve begun spending more time with him. Our son and daughter have each had their first, due to their jobs or living situations. Perhaps we’ll be able to see them again in a month or two.
The alert level in our area has improved, and some commercial indoor dining is now open. We have gone to a few stores — I bought new slippers in person after getting some delivered that were too small despite being my size. And we have even gone out to eat a couple of times. Our favorite breakfast place closed permanently last June, but the two nearby neighborhood hangouts have hung on and are again open. We went to one, but the other can get crowded and we don’t know how they are managing to limit the number and density. We’ll wait for a while before we go there.
We’ve thought a lot about what we want to resume and what we might not, how this time has affected us and affected our world. We haven’t come to very many conclusions, although I think that between my glasses and my hearing aids and the mask loops, my ears perhaps stick out a little more than they did. And we still haven’t cleaned out the bedroom closet, despite all the time we’ve had on our hands.
We have begun talking about taking a road trip. We thought we could drive to Colorado to visit a cousin next month, but now we are not sure. With the Covid variants starting to surge, and some places opening up too much, we don’t want to push it. We’ve made it this far. We can make it further.
Wishing all of you safety and health,