The Event of the Year

To start, I was too nervous to eat.  It wasn’t the shot, or the traveling, or the possible side effects; it was simply that I don’t like new things, people, or places…so, nouns.  I don’t like nouns.

About halfway from my home in Buffalo to the city of Rochester, where I had my appointment, we stopped to buy some cheese at Kutter’s Cheese factory in Corfu.  I ate a few curds of Buffalo wing flavored and tried to calm my nervous stomach, but it didn’t really work.  I drove the rest of the way somewhat apprehensively, hoping that there would be clear signs on the road to lead me to my destination.  As it turned out, the site was only a few minutes away from the NYS Thruway. 

I arrived at the back end of the parking lot, and was greeted by a National Guardsman.  He asked me who was getting the vaccine, and I said me, and he told me to park my car in the lot and go through the big glass doors.  So I did.

I walked into the lobby and zigzagged my way through the ropes to the registration table.  I was given a ticket and told to hang onto it, and then follow the orange cones.  At the end of the cones, there was another National Guardsman directing traffic.  He sent me to table 14.

I sat down and a woman took my health information, ID, and insurance card.  She signed my ticket, and sent me to zig-zag through another line.  It moved pretty fast, but I definitely got the feeling I was waiting in line for a rollercoaster at Six Flags.

A man approached me and escorted me to table 10.  There sat two women.  One had me check my health info and the other, a nurse, asked if I had anaphylactic allergies.  Then, she gave me the shot.  The nurse signed my ticket, told me I would have my second shot in three weeks, and sent me to another National Guardsman, who assigned me a chair to sit and wait. I was permitted to leave when the large screen on the wall read 6:16pm.  So, I played a game on my phone, texted Mark, and then got up and left out the door marked with the giant red exit sign.  The whole thing took maybe a half hour.

I went back to the car and Bernie drove home, just in case I had a sore arm or side effects.  I didn’t.  We stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom, and I ordered a Big Mac.  Then I had a little panic attack and ran back out to the car while Bernie got the food.   In the moment, I couldn’t understand why it was happening, but I know now.  Not only did I desperately need to eat, but I had been so stressed all day, and now the thing I stressed about was over, and not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. 

I ate my Big Mac.  I felt better.  We drove home.

So, some observations… 

One, if you hate needles…you will be fine.  This hurt less than my daily insulin injections, and those barely even register to me.  I honestly didn’t even feel like something touched me, let alone pricked me.  The needle is like the width of a piece of hair, I swear.

Two, everyone I spoke to was an absolute DELIGHT.  Happy to be there, happy to help, just happy overall.  They chatted and joked and made sure everyone was comfortable at all times.  It was extremely reassuring.

Three, it is ridiculously well-organized in there.  I didn’t think it would be, because it’s a mass vaccination site and my parents had already told me how uncomfortable it was going to the drugstore for their shots.  I don’t think a single person was within six feet of me at any time.  Everyone wore masks, of course.  Everything was clean and following guidelines.  There was even an emergency services team onsite in case of allergic reactions.

Finally, the after effects.  I awoke this morning a little congested, but it’;s wearing off as the day goes on so it could just be that time of year.  Stomach is off, but that probably has nothing to do with it.  My arm is a little sore at the injection site, but really that’s the extent of the side effects, for me. 

Overall, the experience was excellent.  And more than that, more than anything, I am happy today because I feel a little safer.  I’m happy because I desperately miss people right now, and once I am vaccinated, I can reach out to them again.  I’m happy because my nightmares of being on a ventilator will likely not be realized any time soon.  I’m happy because I know I am keeping myself safe, and helping keep others safe, too. 

I hope we all feel that way someday soon.

Hospital Haziness

I have had many fears over the past couple of weeks about going to the hospital.  For one, I don’t want to be exposed to Covid.  Secondly, I don’t want to take up space and resources from those that have it.  Third, change terrifies me, and it seems like every time I end up in the ER there is some huge change happening.  And on top of all this, I have been living with the worry that I will not be getting my surgery any time soon, as all elective surgeries have been cancelled.

So, when I woke up sick at six am yesterday morning, I held my ground.  I took some Compazine and Bentyl and Xanax and tried to get the storm to pass, but sometime around 11am, there was blood in the vomit, so off I went.

I was the only person in the waiting room.  It occurred to me that perhaps others were avoiding the ER, too.  I was momentarily grateful, as my name was immediately called and I was registered right away.

They put me in a room.  A doc came in with a med student.  A quick exam, and three shots in the arm: Compazine, Ativan, morphine.  Some blood work, and Xray, and then to a chair in the internal waiting room with a nice heated blanket and two women watching soap operas.  Sleep.

Awake.

Moved to another room.  Given papers, told to leave.  Out the door and into my mom’s car and home again and then back to…sleep.

It was probably the easiest ER trip I’ve ever had and for that I am super grateful.  But then there is the leftover haze the next day, as I sit down to type my blog, and I can’t seem to remember what I had to say.  That’s the worst part, even worse than my sore esophagus.  Still…

In the past week, two people I know were diagnosed with Covid, and one had a major scare that turned out to be something else, thank God.  And that right there: “thank God it was something else,” is the problem.  It is the perfect illustration of why Covid is so scary; we will always be rooting for the lesser of two evils, and Covid is the supreme evil of the moment.

They talk a lot on the news about people who won’t wear a mask, and their arguments are pretty hypocritical at most times.  But I look around and I see way more people volunteering to do so than not, and that gives me hope. 

I have diabetes, so I am high-risk for Covid.  I’ve worn a mask since day one.  I will continue to do so well into the future.  I intend to get the vaccine when it is available to me.  When I see people eschew the science because of their so-called “personal freedoms,” all I can think is “wow…that asshole wants me dead.”

I don’t know.  Maybe it was the 20 years of Catholicism that taught me the whole “do unto others” song and dance, but I just don’t see why grown adults are behaving like petulant children.  I can’t get sick, guys.  I am sick enough.

So, my ER trip went better than expected, but only served as a reminder that this thing is serious.  And people are acting like it isn’t.  I mean, I’m not perfect.  I try to follow the rules as best I can but I have certainly slipped up.  But I’m trying.  Some people aren’t even doing that.

I know this blog was a little all over the place.  I’m a little all over the place, still floating on that hospital fog and definitely needing a couple more hours of sleep.  But if you take nothing else from this post, take this: wear your damn mask.

An Open Letter to the Covid-19 Deniers

Warning:  rant ahead.

Dear Denier,

Hello.  You may or may not know me, but for the purposes of this letter I will state for you a few facts about myself.  1.  I have diabetes and gastroparesis, two chronic illnesses that make my life extra rough.  2.  I was raised in a religious environment, and while I have shirked many of the less savory aspects of that I have retained my core belief in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, not to mention the basic teachings of Jesus on how not to be an jerkface.  That said…

I am sick and tired of seeing people politicizing Coronavirus, denying its impact, refusing to wear a mask, swearing to not receive a vaccine, and fighting to reopen before we are ready.

I saw a post on Facebook listing all the things I supposedly don’t give a shit about if I don’t want to the economy to reopen yet…like kids getting poor homeschool educations, people trapped with their abusers, rising unemployment, small businesses who might go under, etc.  It took every ounce of restraint to not reply with: Here’s 100,000 things YOU don’t give a shit about, along with the photo below.

Here’s the thing:  it is totally possible to care about all of that, AND care about the health and safety of yourself and your loved ones, AND worry about government overreach.  None of these things are mutually exclusive, and if you think they are then you are devoid of something, whether it be in your brain or your heart.

I am high risk.  If I get COVID, I will likely end up in a hospital.  A ventilator will not be out of the question.  Death will not be out of the question.  I am a sick person already, and this virus preys on sick people.  But it also preys on the healthy, and your denial isn’t going to change that fact.  So, when I see you say you won’t wear a mask or get a vaccine, what you’re saying, to me, is “I don’t care if you die.”

Now, I don’t care about politics when it comes to this.  I don’t care what Trump or Cuomo did or said or whatever.  All I care about is that people are dying.  I am sick of hearing…

“Oh, but people die from the flu.”  Yeah.  34,000 last year.  Except it’s been 4 months and 100,000 have died from Coronavirus.  Do your math. 

“Oh, I shouldn’t have to wear a mask in the store…that’s tyranny!”  About that…you have to wear shoes and a shirt, too, but no one has a problem with that.  Grow up. 

“Oh, this is just being exaggerated by the left!” Yeah…tell that to the other 187 countries who don’t give a crap about our government. Get a global perspective.

And the kicker?  The thing that really gets stuck in my craw?  The people who seem to be so against quarantine are the people who mourned hard when the towers fell.  We lost 3.000 Americans that day, and you wanted to help.  You wanted to do anything you could for your country.  You flew your flag and cried during your news stories and some brave heroes even flew in to help. 

But 100,000 in four months?  Fuck ‘em.

I don’t unfriend people for political beliefs, but I will drop you like a hot potato if you’re selfish enough to put my life in danger.  If you’re stunted enough to be unable to accept new facts and adjust your beliefs accordingly.  And if you’re cold enough to ignore a global crisis because you feel inconvenienced.  That is all unacceptable behavior to me, and has to do with who you are at your core, not what you believe in. 

I wish you luck.  I’m no holder of grudges, and I wish well even on the people who have wronged me, because I was raised to believe that forgiveness is key.  Some people weren’t, and that’s ok.  But, if money and politics is more important to you than human life, you’re missing something, friend.  And I’m not interested in sticking around until you find it.

Sincerely,

Brigid

/end rant.

Plexiglas Panic

I mean, I was doing okay.  I was doing really good, all things considered.  Until last Friday when I went out.

First, I was in the hospital a few times last week, and saw the day to day changes they were making.  One day, there were suddenly tents outside.  Another, there was a fever checkpoint station and they gave me a mask to wear.  Then, there was tape on the floor and I had to stand six feet from the reception desk.  Then, one day, came the Plexiglas.

It was a huge barrier blocking reception.  Fine.  Ok.  Makes sense.  There was another one blocking triage.  Again, I get it, I guess, even though she was back and forth taking my temperature and blood pressure.  But when it really got bad was at the grocery store.

I have been going to the store without a problem…I have been obeying the tape on the floor telling me where to stand.  I wore a scarf last week to cover my face.  But Friday, I went a step further.  Mark got me some masks, because he is frankly terrified that I will get this thing, and had insisted I wear a mask whenever I am out.  Knowing he was probably right, I took a mask and a pair of latex gloves to the store.  The first problem was that it was hard to regulate my breathing with the mask.  The second problem was that it fogged up my glasses, making it impossible for me to see.  The third problem was that my brain was so focused on these two problems that the grocery list went out the window.

By the time I made it to the end I was gasping for air with a cart full of stuff I just grabbed and tossed in without thinking too much.  That’s when I saw it: Plexiglas.  One big slab of Plexiglas keeping the cashier safe.  From me.

It was a trigger, I guess.  Suddenly I was back in the hospital: I was sick, I was in pain.

As I paid, I was screaming in my head about how fast my heart was beating.  As I bagged my groceries, I started sweating.  I started getting paranoid that I would pass out, and someone would think I had the virus.  By the time I was loading the bags into the car, I was crying.  When I finally got in the car and shut the door, I started to scream.  I couldn’t stop.  I called Mark, screaming at him, needing him to help calm me down, but he thought I was angry or something and started screaming back.  After some confusion, he realized what was happening and tried to calm me down enough to the point of sobs, which was decidedly better than screaming.  Screaming in your car in a parking lot gets the cops called.  Sobbing only gets you weird looks. 

When the sobs subsided, and I was able to drive, I had to go to the pharmacy.  The store was empty, and I had given up on wearing the mask, so I was a little better, until I saw the Plexiglas at the counter.  It all started again.  I paid quickly and ran out the door and into the car.  Perhaps a cup of coffee would make me feel better?  Tim Hortons drive-thru is still open, so I headed over there and ordered my usual.  I pulled up to the window, where a blue gloved hand reached from below a newly installed Plexiglas shield to take my money.  I felt myself start to cry.  I held it together and got my coffee, and drove home, and collapsed in Mark’s arms, in tears.

I mean, I was doing okay.

My life hasn’t changed a whole lot:  I didn’t lose a job, my husband didn’t lose a job, I get to see my parents every day, and I run errands like I always did.  But I am missing things:  my people.   Friends, family, etc.  I am missing taking the kids places, like the playground especially.  I am missing going into a store for something other than groceries.  I am missing the hospital being a “safe” place. 

That last one is the root of all problems. 

I would walk into the hospital in the past and feel relief, before they gave me meds, before I even saw a doctor.  I would be relieved because I knew real relief was coming, and I was safe.  Any terrible things I was imagining, I was now protected from by the fortress of Mercy Hospital and the warrior-staff therein.  But now, I sense their fear, and it scares me in turn.  That’s what the Plexiglas is, more than protection from the virus-protection from the fear of contraction.

I told Sahar about the Plexiglas: she thought it was nuts.  Then, two days later she sent me a photo of her grocery store in Kentucky that had just installed it. 

It’s been a week now, and I am no longer having panic attacks, but I was facing some roadblocks, mask-wise.  Yesterday, Gov. Cuomo said that we have to start wearing masks in public.  Panicked, I messaged my aunt Mel who recently posted a photo of a mask she made and asked for help.  In less than 24 hours, I had my very own Wonder Woman mask.  It’s a good fabric, it fits, doesn’t fog up my glasses, and I haven’t panicked yet.

I mean, I was doing okay.  And I will again.  We all will.

A Political Pandemic

The other day I asked my parents if the government was like this when I was younger, and they were my age.  They both said no.  Dad elaborated that things changed after Clinton.  Sure, people didn’t like GHWB or Reagan, but congress was mostly fair and had our best interests at heart, it would seem.

I saw a question on twitter asking Republicans how they went from Terry Schiavo to “you can have a ventilator when you kiss my ass.”  This is just a random thought that is slightly related.

I’m a hardcore Democrat who is married to a middle-of-the-road Independent and occasionally we butt heads, particularly on GOP-brand stuff.  For the most part though, his beliefs are fairly liberal: equal respect and opportunities for all individuals being chief among them.  Hubs considers himself a Humanist, and does not like the way we separate people into groups.  I think in his head, any separation at all really only takes place between “assholes” and “non-assholes.”  That’s how he judges people.

I remember being young, maybe fourth grade, and we did a play for some patriotic holiday.  We learned the 50 states song, which I can still perform to this day.  We had a parade in the gym and sang and did skits about the presidents.  We were raised, through school, to believe America was the best country in the world, and was on the list of important things right behind God (Catholic school problems.)  We said the pledge every morning, we made flags in art class, we learned about the founding fathers.  Everything was tinged with “America is #1.”

High school.  They give us 2 years of Global studies first, in what I assume was an attempt to show us how worse off some other countries have it, so that by the time we got to American History and started learning about all the atrocities of our home country-all the way from slavery to segregation-we were still thinking “well, other places have it worse.”  I wrote a paper once, I don’t recall if it was for high school or college, but it was comparing the Salem Witch Trials to McCarthyism.  Two great examples of Americans acting like fools.

In Senior year, we took Government and Economics, and my stupid senior-itis self slept though it all.  Of course, I have taught myself how the government works-in college I considered changing my major from History Education to just History or Political Science.  So, I figured things out on my own, which if I’m honest is one of the best ways I learn.  (Side note, besides 1:1.  What I would not have given for an aide like they have at M’s school!  But I digress…)  Economics still alludes me-it’s the numbers.  I am bad at numbers.  Words are my forte.

Anyway, the point is that around the time I wrote that paper (which I think was first semester of college) I started to realize that something was fishy.  GWB got elected, and I was just a few months shy of being able to vote.  I started paying attention to things he was doing, particularly on the social front, and I started to get angry.

Even with Obama, a president I adored, who came and improved a lot of the mess his predecessor made, I still felt like we were being gridlocked.  Congress had lots of trouble agreeing on things.  There was massive outrage from the right, all over the place.  And now we are a few years later, with 45, and that outrage has slipped over to the left, while the right sit there like “well, I don’t remember saying that…”  Why wouldn’t they take that tack?  The president does.

Anyway, in the same fashion that I slowly discovered the Catholic church was full of shit, I also discovered America was.  Not the country, the government.  Again, like the CC, the people in charge were ruining the message. 

So, when I saw the bipartisan work that brought our (decidedly crappy, but helpful nonetheless) stimulus package to life, I was encouraged.  I saw 45 sign it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Then Hubs comes home from work all enraged because the Trumpoids he works with are all giving dear leader the credit when it was the work of both parties.  So, he goes on an anti-Trump Facebook rant, as he is wont to do on occasion, asking for someone to please tell him what 45 is doing to make America great again.  He got a lot of anti-dem memes (which piss him off, he’s not a dem but people assume that since he’s also not republican) and his bro arguing with him in what for them is a playful manner.  What he did not get was an answer to his question.  A lot of “Trump is great” but no actual “and here’s why…”  Meanwhile, I’m watching this with like 100 news articles in my head detailing why he is in fact NOT great, even for these people who defend him, but I keep quiet because I leave my Facebook arguing for that handful of Republican’s who haven’t unfriended me yet. 

See, there’s two kinds of those, though.  Take my friend C.  Politically, we could probably not be farther apart.  She’s a staunch woman for Trump, and I’m over here like “But…’grab ‘em by the pussy.”  Sometimes she will post some things I disagree with, and I will post things she disagrees with, and we just keep scrolling.  It’s that simple.  It might stick with us for a minute…we might think “well, what the hell would make her think that’s ok?”  But we keep scrolling, and we don’t comment.  I WILL comment on something that I agree on-because as different as we are, those things do exist.  Here’s an example: she is a correctional officer near New York City and they were being denied the ability to wear masks because it violated the dress code.  That is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard and I don’t care whose side it originated on.  THAT, I was up in arms about.  (Fortunately, it was announced yesterday that they can now bring in their own masks.)

But then there’s the other faction.  There’s the relative who shall remain unnamed who posted several anti-abortion memes to my Facebook timeline because I posted something about how the government DOES NOT fund Planned Parenthood’s abortions.  Instead of reading the thing, he just went nuts on the whole “you must not think life is precious” tack, like I’m not a childcare worker with four kids.  Get outta here, bub.  Eventually his trolling of my posts (anything even slightly liberal) got me mad enough to go hard.  See, I figured a couple of things out.  This man was related to me by blood, yes, but he wasn’t present in my life.  He has no idea about me at all, proven by his many off-base Facebook messages regarding my employment, relationship, income, family reputation, etc.  And while his wife had always been sweet to me, I could no longer abide his ignorance and unfounded hatred.  So, I wrote a couple paragraphs that told him to go play a round of golf or see his grandkids instead of harassing a 30-year-old relative online and stop worrying because he was going to be dead soon, and I won’t be.

When I was a kid, the “grownups,” who were in their 30s and 40s, ran the country.  And those same people still are in charge in some cases.  Well, guess what?  WE are the grownups now, WE know what WE need, and WE are growing as the largest population while y’all die off denying climate change.  So, please go home and feed your cats, and stay out of the way.  I’m not saying your contributions haven’t been valuable, but just retire at 65 and move to Florida like everyone else.

I have tried to stay away from writing political based blogs, because I don’t care for your opinion if it is rooted in ignorance or hate, and those are the messages I get when I’m political.  But politics are playing a huge part in the pandemic here in the US, and I live in New York state.  Yes, I am blessedly 400 miles from the epicenter, but we also have over 600 confirmed cases in my county, the most cases in Western New York.  I don’t have times for your politics.  I’m not trying catch this thing, and I need my government on my side.  So far, I’ve seen encouragement.  Gov. Cuomo, who I never really liked even though I’m Dem (I feel like everything with him is a money grab and he focuses too much on the City,) has been a comfort to me in this time, providing insight and information that I frankly was not expecting.  Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also graces my television screen on a daily basis, talking to me about my community.  I have found strength in these leaders.  Then there’s 45…I will say there have been glimmers.  Little glimmers that he might do the right thing.  Some have already gone out, but others remain.  I pray that he finds it somewhere in his Grinch-sized heart to help his people in the way he was elected to do, and not play politics in the process.   I hope…but I don’t expect much.

Tigers never change their stripes.

That said…Tiger King, man.  Wild.

Poetry Readings and Global Pandemics

A phone conversation from last week, between me and my therapist:

Her: How are you doing with all this coronavirus stuff?

Me: Well, my grandfather just died.  So, it hasn’t been priority one.

Her: I’m so sorry to hear that.

Me: It’s fine. 

Her: How are you dealing with this and all the life changes with the virus at the same time?

Me: I’m fine.  (Inner Monologue: To me, the world has always been on fire.  It’s almost comforting that others have taken notice.)

There’s a meme I’ve seen a couple of times about how people with depression and anxiety are handling this pandemic a little better than expected because we’re used to feeling like the world is ending.  Sometimes I feel like I am watching as my “healthy” people’s brains spiral out of control with worst case scenarios.  There’s a sort of sick amusement in it, a dark laughter-maybe something you can only understand if you’ve been looking though the goggles of depression for a long time.  They’re worried, but for once, I am not.  What happens will happen.  I will take precautions and all that, of course, but if I get sick or someone I love gets sick, I will deal with that.  Because the world has always been on fire.

And yet….

And yet here I sit on a Friday morning, consumed with anxiety.

Yes, Friday, not Monday when I usually write, but today, because today I am doing something kind of scary.  This is generating anxiety, and it is interesting to me how something small can create such emotions but a worldwide pandemic is leaving me cool-headed.

I have written before about the monthly poetry reading I go to; at least I think I have.  A brief synopsis: it is at a bookstore near my house once a month, and I started going in October.  I was nervous to read, I am always nervous to read, but have been forcing myself to do so for a variety of reasons.  Anyway, due to social distancing, this month’s meeting will be taking place on Facebook live.  To which I initially thought: COOL! I can do this from the comfort of my own office??  No anxiety for me this month!

So, I decided to enter the poetry contest they were holding.  You had to take a line from poet Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America,” and use it as the first line of your new poem.  I chose “honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…”  I wrote about 30 lines.  I sent it off to the moderator.

Then she posts on the Facebook page saying that if we want, we can record our video for if we win the contest, and also for the open mic portion.  So, I do that.  I send it off.  Then, I go to the event page.

There were 400 people invited, and at least 40 going.  A quick scan of those attending found the editor of the poetry page of the Buffalo News.  I choked on my iced coffee.

There have never been more than maybe 15 people at these readings.  I was expecting 15 people, like 7 of which go monthly and whom I am comfortable sharing my stuff with.  But no.  When I panicked and told Sahar, she said she would watch, too.  So, I’m sure I will be texting her as we go tonight…it’s a distant moral support, but its still support. 

So here I am bugging out over something little.  And tomorrow, when I write the second half of this post in which I tell you how it went, I am sure I will not be anxious about it anymore.

Monday.  I didn’t write on Saturday as intended because I was in the ER, which was a whole story unto itself.  They are setting up tents outside, there is a fever checkpoint, and no one would get near me.  It was bizarre.  I also didn’t write on Sunday because I was recuperating and hanging with the kiddos.  So, here we are on Monday.

Halfway though the reading, Mark came into the room and asked to watch with me.  This is very much not his style, and as we sat listening to the featured reader, Meghann Boltz, I could tell he was simply trying to be interested for my sake.  However, when she finished and the moderator went on to announce the poetry contest winner, he held my hand and his breath as they announced that I won.  We both let out unexpected cheers, and he hugged me.  Then he made me play my video for him, and told me it was wonderful.

Since I won, my video was posted on the page and has received around 350 views.  This is mind-blowing to me, of course, as I was so worried about sharing with the same small group I usually do, but ended up sharing my poetry with a much larger audience.  I no longer feel the anxiety that plagued me on Friday.  Not because I won, and feel validated, but because I did the scary thing and lived to tell the tale.

I guess it is easier, somehow, for me to look at the big scary thing right now.  I have been looking for silver linings in all of this and have found so many.  I am able to wrap my head around such a huge and terrifying thing, because I am used to wrapping my head around huge and terrifying things on a daily basis (of course, I make them huge in my head.)  I am looking to reports out of China for hope, and I am finding little rays of it.  I am looking forward to the day when I run out of my house and embrace every person I see. 

In the meantime, I will do things like write poems and stories and blogs and lose myself in my words, because this is how I process life.  Each of us need to find a way to deal with what is happening, and the anxiety it is creating in our worlds.  Still, you must remember there is hope.  There are bright spots.  This will end.  We just have to take it one day at a time.  Or one poetry reading at a time, as the case may be.

Essential

I was at my grandfathers’ funeral luncheon when Gov. Cuomo announced that 100% of the workforce in New York state needed to stay home.  This would be disastrous for me and Hubs, who live solely on his paycheck right now due to my health issues.  For a couple of tense hours, we waited for his boss to call a meeting.  Finally, he texted me: “I’m essential.”  I had a shot of Jameson to celebrate.

Here are some people who are not essential:  my parents, though they are lucky enough to be working from home.  My sister, whose fairly recent promotion means nothing because no one is trying to rent a tuxedo during a pandemic-she’s out of work until further notice. 

Hubs works in shipping and distribution of safety equipment, so he is considered essential.  He was immensely relieved by this information.  But the shine of essentiality did not last for long.

First, there was the order he sent out the other day to DC with the tag name “Pence.”  Hubs is an Independent, and hates both extremes of the political spectrum.  He considers Pence to be the right side of that spectrum, and was furious he had to ship something that may end up assisting the man in some way.  He is trying to focus on the fact that Pence is head of the COVID task force, or whatever the hell they’re calling it, and hopefully the products he ships help someone in the end.

One time, he did an order for NASA, for the space station.  His fingerprints are in space.  They gave him a NASA t-shirt.  That was a better day.

Then, there’s the neglect.

Everyone is sharing memes and stories and such about nurses and doctors and police and fire and grocery workers.  I’m not saying these people aren’t important, they definitely are-but no one is mentioning distribution, past truck drivers.  Who do you think is loading those trucks? 

My husband.

He has a thankless job on a regular basis, and now he sees all these other people getting praise for being essential, but no one notices his contribution, or the contribution of the million other people in his position.  He knows he works behind the scenes-he finds little joys, like the NASA thing, or the fact that the work he does keeps people safe, but those are far-reaching concepts when confronted with your day to day trials.

Mostly, he is worried.  He is worried the work will run out, and they will lay people off.  He is worried when he unloads something from another country or NYC.  He is worried on the three buses he takes to work, and on the three buses he takes home.  He is worried for his job.  He is worried for the health of his high-risk wife.  He is worried for the health of his children.

Still, every day, he wakes up.  He smokes his morning cigarette and drinks a glass of juice and gets dressed.  He trods to the bus stop.  He rides those three buses.  He walks to work.  He unloads trucks, he drives a forklift, he checks orders, he cuts pipe, he cleans, he organizes, he helps his team.  Then he walks back to the bus stop, takes three more buses, and walks home.  He complains about little things; he complains about big things.  I listen, because he is on the front lines in his own way, and everything is changing.

The tenacity that Mark is showing in this trying time is remarkable.  I think that were I in his position, I would hide under a blanket and cry.  He just keeps going, despite all the worry he wears on his back.  If you ask him why, he give you some outdated hullabaloo about a man supporting his family, but really, I think that deep down he does it for him, to keep as close to normal as possible.  Mark’s work has always defined him, and he is usually proud of what he does, but the lack of recognition had him feeling down.

Until this morning, as we watched the morning news and saw a story highlighting workers who aren’t in healthcare or customer service.  A man drove by on a forklift, and Mark gleefully exclaimed “Thank you!”

He knows his job is overlooked by the average person.  I, myself, hardly ever thought of distribution before having a husband who worked in it.  Think of a jar of jam on a shelf at the grocery store.  How did it get there?  A stock boy-a truck driver-a loader.  It takes at least three people to bring you that jar of jam, and we never really consider them.  It is, by definition, a thankless job.

And yet, Hubs finds the joys.  He gets up and goes in day after day because he believes he is helping someone.  It’s kind of a beautiful way to look at a job most would turn their noses up at-and sadly, most do.  But he perseveres. and it inspires me to do the same.  I am trying very hard to find all the silver linings of this pandemic, and his persistence during this situation is certainly one of them.  I’m so proud of him for what he does for his family, and the risk he takes everyday to provide for us and keep others safe. 

He will always be essential to me.

Edit:

Mom: “You’re father and I are technically essential. I even have a letter from the governor.”

Just One Week

March 15th

I am sitting on the sofa watching the news when my cousin G comes in, the first of the girls to wake up after their sleepover.  She crawls under my blanket with me and puts her head on my shoulder.  I love my kiddos, but I have known G since she first arrived here on planet Earth and we have an inexplicable bond.  She watches the television as I sip my coffee.  A breaking news alert comes on, and it is Erie Executive Mark Poloncarz telling us there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our county.  G turns to me, tells me she is scared.  I reassure her that kids are mostly unaffected and she shouldn’t worry, but she clutches my arm and tells me no, she’s scared for me.  I tell her I am strong.  I will be fine.  In my head I am screaming, because I have diabetes, and that alone makes me high-risk.  Still, I am not that worried.

March 16th

I awake to a text from my sister.  “Are you up?”  It is barely 7am, and I already know in that moment what’s happened.  “Did mom call you?”  No, she did not.  I call her, and her phone is off.  I call dad, no answer.  At this point I am certain.  I text my father “What is going on???” and he calls me, finally.  “I didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”  Oh dad…I already knew.

When we got to my grandmother’s house, I did not think of Coronavirus for a single second. I ran right to my Gram and hugged her, and we sobbed together.  I hugged each of my grieving aunts and uncles.  I sat with my cousins and tried not to cry.

March 17th

Usually my favorite day of the year, when Mark said “Happy St. Paddy’s” to me, I shrugged.  I’d forgotten.

March 18th

I sat on the sofa watching the press conference about the virus and thought to myself, how on earth are we supposed to have a funeral?  Any idea of a lunch afterwards was ruined with the closing of all restaurants.  The funeral parlor said they would monitor the number of people at the wake.  However, there’s something like 38 people in my immediate family.  The church told us they could only service immediate family, though theoretically anyone could come in while it was open to “pray.”  I couldn’t help thinking that this was not what my grandfather deserved.

March 19th

My family was there. Several older people who knew Poppa showed up for quick visits.  There was hand sanitizer and wipes everywhere.  There were warning signs posted on the doors.  I, who hates wakes on principle, actually thought that it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It was just a long, sad, worrisome day.

March 20th

At the funeral home, no one really spoke.  Everyone was sad.  It was very difficult for me, who does not deal well with such emotions and has a tendency to crack a lot of jokes to try to cheer people up.  Obviously, this was not the place.  We paraded across Seneca St. to St. Teresa’s church, and after we took our seats we were immediately told to move, to spread out amongst the church keeping 6 feet between us.  I took this opportunity to move towards the back where I was more comfortable.  I thought I would be sitting alone, but suddenly there was my sister, throwing herself into my arms and sobbing.  Listen, if one of us is going to get it, both of us are going to get it.  I will not begrudge my sister a hug after she was just a pallbearer for our grandfather.

I made a couple jokes to her in church to cheer her up, like pointing out the members of the fam who have clearly not been to Mass in a while.  She seemed to do a lot better carrying him out.

Instead of a luncheon, we threw a party at Gram’s house, despite the fact that we weren’t really supposed to.  The way my cousin Mick put it, we’ve all been around each other for the past two weeks while Poppa was sick, so if we’ve got it, we’ve got it.  It was relatively small given the big family, and was just my Gram, her kids, and their kids.  It was actually a lot of fun, as people had pretty much packed up their tears for the day and were reveling in the company of family.  I was stressed for a few hours when Gov. Cuomo announced that all non-essentials had to stay home, but then Mark texted me with “I’m essential” and I had a celebratory drink.

That night I went over to my dad’s to hang out with him and his brother Tim, and we drank and laughed and ate pizza.  I fell asleep thinking that maybe, in the end, it was the perfect sendoff for Poppa.

March 21st

Mark and I took a drive, to clear our heads and think of something other than illness and death.  Still, it lurked. It lurked in little moments when Poppa crossed my mind.  It lurked in 30 second news updates on the radio.  It lurked in my husband’s mind, who handles materials from China on a daily basis and has to take three buses to and from work.

March 22nd

Press conference tells me there are now 57 cases in my county.  That’s 54 in a week.  I think back to the previous Sunday, snuggling on the sofa with G, and I feel my heart grow heavy.  Last Sunday, we had our Poppa, still.  Last Sunday, we had our bravery, still. 

Just one week.

My grandmother, taking a swig of her husband of 70 year’s favorite drink.