In March, in the thick of COVID-19 #stayathome and #lockdown, I finally got up the nerve to run a few errands other than to just the local grocery store and Trader Joe’s. The forecast predicted buckets of rain. It was still cold, making the thought of waiting in line six-feet apart with hats, gloves, boots and down coats on while juggling bottles of hand sanitizers and strapping masks on and off not in the least bit fun. But I figured everyone would be home, avoiding the storm. Shopping would be easy.
About half-way through the day, I noticed how oddly quiet it was. Yes, there were less people out and they were very focused on their tasks, more so than usual, not nearly as chatty as in the past. However, that is not why I thought it was quiet. I realized, while standing in the nut aisle at Costco trying to decide if it was worth spending twenty-two dollars on a bag of pine nuts, that I had not heard a single cough all morning. Not a single one. And I had not heard one person tell someone else, “Oh, I have a little cold, but I am not contagious. It’s OK.” Everyone I encountered looked super healthy.
Ever since Emlen was diagnosed with CF the cold and flu season has been my nightmare. It used to be common practice among the abled bodied to just ignore the fact that they were sick. No one ever stayed at home to recover. People just popped cold medicine and got on with their lives no matter what virus they happened to be shedding. I heard every cough, sniffle and sneeze. I noticed every used tissue lying around. My ears perked up at every conversation between mothers—at the store, in coffee houses, while upside down in downward dog position during a yoga class—about how their kids had a fever the night before but were fine in the morning; or even better, “So-and-so threw up, but I sent them to school/swim team practice anyway.” That garbage can on the pool deck has always given me hives.
As COVID-19 was cranking up, with cases popping up all over the Pacific Rim, Emlen’s therapist, Chris*, asked me if I was worried about it impacting Emlen’s health. The answer was obviously yes; however, I was not more concerned than past winters.
“It is really not going to be any different for us.” I replied. “Actually, it may be better. I have heard that hand washing is finally trending.”
From the beginning of cold and flu season in October until the end of it in April, I am on high alert. Any flu or major virus has the potential to hospitalize Emlen. In our house, hand sanitizer is always a few inches away and masks are worn at all hospital and doctor appointments. Hand washing is a common practice. We touch every public elevator button with our elbows and never-ever use any stair or escalator handrails for balance. “You can just fall down,” I tell the kids. Also, I refuse to shake hands. To those who insist, the ones who keep their hand extended not getting the hint, I explain that I might have a cold so shaking hands would be a terrible idea—I got away with it because it used to be acceptable to be out and about with a cold. ** And I keep in constant contact with the school nurse about whether or not there is a flu, virus, or GI bug finding its way through the middle school. I ply Emlen on which class-and-swim-team mates are absent and who is coughing, making mental notes of parenting strategies and compiling a list of whom we should maintain a six-foot distance from at all times. Our house mantra is that if we can make it to February break, we have good chance of making it to April and into the summer without a hospital admittance.
Chris thought it was interesting that I was so calm about the pandemic while everyone else was panicking. I already had all battle systems in place. The risk management required was not going to be any different. Also, I do not watch the news. That probably helped.
The world has caught up to my hypervigilance. Everyone is still washing their hands. Masks are mainstream. I am sorry that it had to happen this way. I wish it could have been done through courtesy and common knowledge rather than a pandemic. But, as a result, it has been Emlen’s healthiest winter/spring on record. He has not coughed for months.
According to the guy at Trader Joe’s who manages the entrance by wiping down the carts and allowing people to enter the store at what sometimes seems a frustratingly sluggish rate, ninety-nine percent of the population has a pretty good attitude about all of the pandemic protocols. Only one percent are assholes. ***
I hope it stays this way even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat—the handwashing, the hand sanitizing and staying home when sick. And if you must leave the house, you can mask up and Cover Your Noses for #65Roses.
You can save the world.
To everyone who refuses to wear a mask, the one percent, you are in the running for the LifeLineRacing 2020 Karma Mallet Award. Just giving you fair warning.
*Emlen and I are in what I can only describe as couple’s counseling. It is pretty common for a mother and their sick child to be unhealthily enmeshed. We are working on it. It is exhausting. I will probably have more to say about it when he is twenty-five and out of the house.
**I am relieved that hand shaking is no longer socially acceptable.
***His words. Not mine.
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