Like many of you, I’m sure, I started January off with high hopes and expectations. The beginning of the new year is always invigorating, beckoning with fresh promise and unforeseen joys. I did a little organizing the first week, planning administrative tasks and checking balances, checking Submittable, to see if any movement had occurred in the few literary items that I had entrusted to its care (no). I also reviewed the mechanics of my novel, neglected since Thanksgiving, trying to refamiliarize myself with the story and to jump back onto that moving freight train and barrel on into the station.
The month started cool. It’s always a delight in this part of the world to have a cold snap, but the house we have moved into is a kind of subterranean refrigeration tank, like an ice house, in winter. Once the cold comes in, it never leaves. So I found myself sitting at the typewriter with leather gloves on, warming my fingertips between typing sessions, and wrapping myself in a warm throw to guard against the inevitable draft. This behavior might strike you as unusual, coming from the very person who, in summer, is the first to complain if the AC is not set cold enough, or the sun is in my eyes. Yes, I can be miserable to be around. And that’s when I’m well.
This beautiful Florida winter weather is very conducive to outdoor activities. Walking, biking, basking in the sun. None of which I ended up doing, because within a week of New Years, I, and the rest of my clan, were living under the threat of Covid and were locked inside for the duration.
I had never had Covid before. Hard to believe, if you scroll through the word cloud on my blog. I could easily compile a book of verse on the subject of Covid alone. Very little has proved such an obstacle in my life as this disease. Nothing has cowed me like it, nothing has made me as afraid of living. And yet, somehow, until now, and only by the skin of my teeth, I have escaped it.
My husband had no such luck. In winter 2020 he decided to bike across Florida, avid cyclist as he is. To his credit, he made it most of the way. Going East to West, on treacherous two-lane roads with no bike lanes, he was undeterred by the danger of being run over, but a microscopic bug stopped him dead in his tracks, so to speak. A dear, dear friend drove him and his bike all the way from the Gulf Coast back to Jacksonville.
Upon arriving home he felt bad, but he continued to get progressively worse. Before long, I had to drop him off at the hospital, having seen the great black cloud on his lung as the xray rolled by. He found himself hospitalized for four days, with pneumonia, unable to speak. Fortunately, he received the treatment he needed, remdesivir, as I recall, and returned home to house-quarantine. He finally recovered, and by some miracle did not infect the rest of us. In the ensuing days, it was all this athletic man could do, to wander the neighborhood loop one time, stopping often to catch his breath.
This experience put a deep-seated fear in my heart. If a man who took care of himself as well as he did could be knocked down like that, what hope was there for someone like me?
So I have tried my best to live by the old adage, ” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When the vaccines came out, we were among the first in line. When masks were called for, or even if numbers just ticked up, I wore a mask. I badgered my adult children to be careful. I ordered the Covid tests from the government. I stayed away from crowds and still kept a quiet life, long after most people had ceased to fear Covid.
I got my updated vaccine in September 2023 and made sure my husband and son got it too. And that was a good thing, because we are the three who got Covid, this time. And who knows how it would have been, without the vaccine.
My husband got it first, probably at one of his many meetings. Jacksonville is not a town particularly worried about getting Covid.
Our last year has been very quiet on that front. Nothing much has happened here since about March of 2023, and even two weeks ago, when my husband first acquired Covid, the Covid map of Florida (From Covid Act Now) was nearly a solid green, apparently free of any infection. But North of us in Georgia and beyond you could see it spreading. Today, the risk is still low or green in our area, but a bright yellow girdle wraps tightly around the waist of Florida, just South of us. Even further South, the counties of Broward and West Palm flash a yellow warning too.
Covid is not nothing this year.
Two days after my husband tested positive, of course, my head started swimming in the way it will, if you have had far too much to drink the night before, or if you haven’t slept in days. That was the beginning. Headache, stomach ache, fatigue, fever of 100, sniffles, cough etc. I had everything but loss of smell and taste in this witch’s brew of symptoms. I lay in bed for hours, with hardly even the presence of mind to contemplate the meaning of what I was scrolling on my phone. I listened to podcasts and fell asleep halfway through.
There is a school of thought that links creativity to dreams, to the foggy liminal space between waking and dreaming. Many people insist on writing at night when they feel a bit sleepy, or waking at the crack of dawn and hitting the keyboard before the cobwebs of night have cleared from their ears. I can understand this sentiment. It reminds me of the common understanding, that the easiest way to speak German if you are an English speaker is to wait until you have a terrible cold, and then all the necessary sounds will come easily to you.
I tested this idea, that perhaps with only half a brain available to work with during Covid, I might indulge in more creative thought than in more lucid moments. I typed a reverie, a covid fever dream, that recalled crawling out onto to the roof of my parent’s house as a child, to be alone and read, though it would have terrified them to know I was there. I wrote about hanging upside down like a monkey on a laundry “T” frame in the backyard, made of iron. Various other memories came to mind and I dutifully typed them up, with dubious spelling and a deficit of punctuation, and then proceeded to read these impressions aloud to my husband. He looked at me questioningly and asked if I was all right. Then, somehow, mysteriously, without my knowledge, I manage to delete the entire piece, probably for the benefit of humanity. Clearly, unlike Coleridge and other opium-inspired poets, I do better, writing with my wits about me. (For my experience after a hip operation with the personality-transforming properties of modern opioids, see Filters.)
Once I tested positive, the doctor threw everything at the illness. Paxlovid. Steroids. Nyquil. Ibuprofen. I set alarms for medications every few hours. And of course after two days, my son became ill, too. I was setting alarms for the both of us, increasing my confusion.
My poor daughter, still living in the house, had to sneak by us, fully masked. We were never able to engage in conversation for any length of time, for two straight weeks. My other daughter got sick almost immediately, but tested negative three times. An unrelated stomach flu. The other day my other son called–he thought he had it, too. False alarm. While texting out of state relatives to tell them the news, we found out that family in California were fighting the exact same thing, at the exact same time. I wondered, if perhaps my phone was transferring viruses of the biological, as well as the technological kind.
I finally tested negative on Friday. Still feeling lots of brain fog and a bit of congestion, but the end of this suffering is nigh. In a day or two, my son, who already seems pretty chipper and nearly normal, in an angry, grumpy sort of way, should be good as new. By that time, with any luck at all, we may have seen the back side of Covid, at least for the time being.
After a week or so of huffing and puffing and getting absolutely nothing done, I finally wrote a thousand words today. I even woke up, as I have often done in the past, with the first stanza of a verse on my lips. At last, over a month late, I am finally hitching a ride on that writing train.
Normality can’t be far away. In fact, I suspect it’s the next station.
Take care of yourselves!