“People think Covid is over. It’s not. I had someone die in the ICU last night.”
“Yes, and your brother had two Covid patients last week.”
I understand that Covid is still floating around, and we have been pretty strict, but I wanted to go see old friends and family, including my sister-in-law, who gave me the warning above. So, we took a week’s vacation. I drove on the first day, and it was an easy six-hour drive with no traffic from Southern to Central California. On day one we ate seafood enchiladas and laughed with family in San Juan Bautista. The next morning, I danced flamenco on the same spot of grass at the Mission, where my mother had danced as a teen with her amigas in the 1930s. Then we drove north to Marin County for the rest of the week. Three days of cold and rainy weather did not stop us from going on long hikes, one through Tennessee Valley that led all the way to the stormy, magnificent ocean.
I stood on a shiny, rocky hill, blinking back the rain, getting as close as safe to stare at the white waves crashing over the black rocks. I stood mesmerized until the chill was too much. I turned around to see my brother huddled in a circle with the others and walked toward them on the sand. He pulled mugs from his pack, poured us hot tea, and shared toasted Irish soda bread. Nothing has ever tasted so good.
After three days, my brother went back to his job as a nurse in the cardiac unit, so we relocated to Fairfax. A sign in the Hummingbird Café said, “Relax in Fairfax”, and we did. I spent one day each with friends I’ve had for forty years, then we headed home Sunday morning, which took a long ten hours.
I woke up Monday morning in my own bed, with a slightly sore throat, but hopped up, got dressed, and zipped off to art class. The other women were all talking at once when I wanted quiet and I was surprised to hear myself say, “Too much talking!” They stared at me, then whispered after that. I realized I was grumpy, but figured I was just exhausted from that long drive the day before.
When I got home, my head began to feel like cotton, my throat got tighter, and I went to bed thinking, “Maybe I have a cold.” By Tuesday I felt like I’d been hit by a Mac truck and never got out of bed. Wednesday, I tested positive for Covid. I was shocked, as I had avoided getting it for three years.
I was quarantined to my room upstairs, and my sister took care of me, as my husband was gone at an all-day conference. She brought me a hard-boiled egg and toast, tea and oranges, and checked on me. I sipped my hot tea and cool water all day and all night, and adjusted my pillows and sheets to find the next slightly more comfortable position in which to sleep. But in pain, and in the dark, a self-critical part of me whispered, “If you are passive and not doing something to be “seen”, you won’t be loved” or “If you aren’t helping someone else, you don’t deserve love.”
But there was also grace. Wednesday was my birthday, and although I was on my back, passive and helping no one, I got waves of calls, cards, gifts, and flowers that crashed over the black rock of my misery to make me feel loved.