Last month I railed about the unnecessary roadblocks that stood between the residents of Montgomery County, PA and the Covid-19 vaccinations. This morning I’m scheduled to receive my second injection of the Moderna vaccine. Although time and the future mutations of the virus will reveal the true efficacy of this vaccine, I feel a sense of relief. Perhaps one day soon I’ll take my KN 95-masked self to the market in the afternoon instead of at seven in the morning. It may be possible for me to make an appointment for a haircut. (Imagine how I reacted last Friday morning when Viv said, “Oops!” after she made her first pass with the hair clippers.)
I don’t want to minimize the gravity of our situation. I realize the past twelve months have been far kinder to me than they’ve been to others. Because I’m retired, I don’t have to worry about losing a job, my home, or the ability to pay my bills. Because I don’t have grandchildren, I haven’t had to help supervise online school sessions. I’ve not had to deal with illness or the death of any friends or family members, at least none due to Covid. These factors and more suggest that I’m one of the pandemic era’s privileged. That said, I am aware of the crevasse that separates the advantaged from the disadvantaged. So many of the latter group who straddled that crevasse before Covid’s arrival have lost their tenuous grip on solvency and fallen down its granite-hard, jagged contours into an uncertain future.
All of us has lost something. Some of us have found things as well. If I were to stop by the Lost and Found Office, I imagine I’d discover a few things of interest in both categories. What have I lost? What have I found?
I’ve lost the emotional security wedded to choice. No longer can I choose to go wherever I wish. I can’t choose to meet friends for coffee or invite them to our home for a meal. I can’t travel, not even to see an out-of-state friend who is mourning the loss of her sister and coping with the non-visitation rules of the nursing and rehab facility where her mother resides. I can’t opt to resume my new volunteer gig at the local public library. I can’t grab lunch with my sister who lives fifteen minutes away after having lived in the U.K. for twenty-one years. The irony of that prohibition makes me grimace.
It’s not my choice to mentally genuflect before the image of a virus that could kill me, but I do. I pray my friends do as well.
When I pivot from the things I’ve lost, I discover my “finds.”
This past year I found time to be still and think. I recovered my affinity for writing poetry and short fiction and I was able to create a new book, Between a Rock and a Soft Place. I found Zoom, Eventbrite and One Day University, or… they found me. These three platforms enabled me to continue learning, to visit art and natural history museums, to listen to concerts and lectures about history, politics, world cultures, to see my friends, to participate with other writers during reading events, and most recently to meet with former Girls’ High #211 classmates during a mini-Zoom reunion.
Time sat next to me in the WayBack Machine as I escaped into 1940’s films featuring improbable plots and characters’ exaggerated affectations. Time re-introduced me to the goodwill of neighbors when each evening at 7:00 we stood outside our homes, clapped, rang cowbells, and blew whistles in support of the essential workers in and outside of our midst.
Time reminded me of my status as I was forced to wait for my vaccination appointment. My name and Viv’s were somewhere on the county’s registry that grew to 34,000+ the day we registered. We were not special and we didn’t merit positions near the front of the line. We didn’t have highly placed contacts who’d finagle our shots as soon as the vaccine was available. We were humbled by the wait, and mindful of the value of humility.
Time enabled me to see clear down to the bottom of a well named “Persistent Love,” and reminded me to appreciate that well’s gift to my life.
Time allowed me to be still and full of thought, to feel empathy for those whose losses far outweigh their finds, to express gratitude for my good health and that of my loved ones, to be thankful for all that I see and hear every day.
Time continues to shout, “The virus is alive and infecting people at will.” It’s not finished with us any more than is the hate and racist animus ignited by the one whose name I try not to mention.
Attention: Merck, Moderna, Pfizer, and J.&J., can you formulate a vaccine defeat that virus?
Renée Bess is the author of five novels, and the co-story collector of Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars, winner of the GCLS’ 2019 Goldie Award for best anthology. She is one of four proud recipients of the 2019 Alice B. Readers Appreciation Award. Renée’s newest book, Between a Rock and a Soft Place, (Flashpoint Publications,) debuted in February, 2021. You can find her blog here at Women and Words the fourth Thursday of the month. www.reneebess.com