Well, here we are three years after the world changed. With every update I do (and here are a few), covid impacts our everyday life less and less, though of course, it’s still with us. As of Sunday, the death toll in the U.S. is up to 1,119,000 (it’s almost seven million worldwide) and 2,000 Americans a week are still dying from it. The death rate has been very stable for over a year. Does that mean it’s endemic now? Apparently not, but it’s trending in that direction.
The diminishing presence of the idea of covid in our lives makes it a little ironic that it was in this tail end (fingers crossed) phase that we actually got covid. North, Beth, and I all had covid in November—two years, eight months into the pandemic. You can read about that here and here if you missed it. North had it first, testing positive two days before Thanksgiving. We all had mild cases, though North’s was the worst, about like having the flu. Mine was like a cold and not even a bad one. We had a trip planned to Rehoboth for Thanksgiving and we went anyway, keeping to ourselves in the rental house, cooking, ordering takeout, and taking walks on the beach and boardwalk. Beth and I didn’t test positive until the day after we got home.
Even though we got sick, in the past six months, our world has opened up considerably. We’ve traveled more widely than any time since the Before Times. Noah spent the fall semester in Australia, and I spent a week in Oregon while my mom was recovering from knee surgery in September. It was the first time flying since covid for both of us.
And there’s more travel on the horizon. Noah is looking for an internship in Los Angeles and he’s bought an airline ticket for three days after he graduates in late May. (A one-way ticket! I don’t even want to think about the implications of that.) North and I will be visiting family in California and Oregon in early July and Beth will be heading to Saint Louis for a convention while we’re gone.
We still take precautions, though. We’ve all gotten the bivalent booster (Beth and North in September, me in November, and Noah in January). We test when we feel ill, and when required, though that doesn’t seem to happen as much as it used to earlier.
Of the four of us, Beth is the strictest about masking, as she always wears K95s in public buildings, whereas North and I often wear cloth or surgical masks. North still masks at school every day, one of a shrinking minority. Noah doesn’t mask at school, but he did when we went to the play last Saturday.
At the beginning of the winter, I started wondering when I would stop masking, but since there were big spikes the past two Januarys, it seemed prudent to wait until the end of the winter and see if it happened again this year. Well, it’s mid-March now and there hasn’t been a spike, so I’m thinking more seriously about it. I still notice when people are masked when they’re not and it can affect my behavior. Here are some examples. In this one I was trying to decide whether to go to book club shortly after having covid:
The average age of members is probably around seventy and some of them are in their eighties and frail, plus masking in the group has gone from almost universal to about fifty percent, just in the past few months. It didn’t seem responsible to go, so I stayed home.
The last time I went to book club, last week, I was the only one in the room wearing a mask.
Here I was picking Noah up at the airport:
We had some trouble finding the driver and when we did connect, the driver was irritated with me and rude and accused me of wasting his time. Then in the car when I cracked the window because he was unmasked, he rolled it back up. Also, he was vaping the whole time. It was the first time in my many times in a Lyft I didn’t tip the driver…
Speaking of tipping, when I get takeout coffee, I am still more likely to tip a masked barista than an unmasked one. And speaking of restaurants, eating inside them is another tough call. We don’t in general, though we make occasional exceptions, as you know from my last post. Here’s the dilemma: Right after we let North eat in a diner with friends in November, they brought home covid. Then when North ate in a café with friends in February one of the friends got covid, although they didn’t. It can be hard to balance caution with letting them have a more normal teenage social life. North’s birthday party is going to be in a restaurant that’s usually crowded but if the weather’s nice, we’ll have it outside.
One time I especially appreciated not being in the grip of the worst days of the pandemic anymore was when Xander died in October. He got to die at home and had a much more peaceful passage than his brother.
When Xander’s brother Matthew was paralyzed by advanced heart disease three months into the pandemic, he was euthanized in the parking garage of the animal hospital and only one of us was allowed to be with him. This was much nicer and more peaceful. We were all petting Xander and talking to him, and he wasn’t scared. The vet was gentle and respectful. It’s some small comfort that his end was quick enough that he didn’t suffer much but not so sudden we didn’t get a chance to say a proper goodbye.
This used to happen more often, but occasionally something still happens for the first time since Before. The biggest one in the past six months for me is that I am back to swimming weekly.
I went swimming on Saturday afternoon at the pool where I used to swim weekly before it shut down first for the pandemic, then for extensive repairs. It re-opened in late November, but between being out of the habit, being salty about the fact that they were not honoring pre-pandemic punch cards, and the pool’s erratic schedule (it’s always been prone to unannounced closures and still is), I didn’t manage to show up at a time it was open until this weekend.
You may recall I finally got the Piney Branch pool to agree to honor my pre-pandemic punch card, but I wasn’t sure it would actually work until I successfully used it on the first Saturday in February. I am pleased about this, as I had $25 worth of swims left on the pass. It should last me the rest of the month and a week into March if I go every weekend. I’ve been swimming three Saturdays in a row now and it’s nice to be doing it again after an almost three-year-long break.
Turns out my pass lasted a little longer than that because in late February the boiler broke and the pool was closed for a week, but it opened again the first Saturday in March, and I used up the pass last weekend.
Another normal thing that happened at North’s school was that the Winter One Acts were put on… in winter.
It felt novel for the winter one acts to be put on in winter, as last year a covid surge and subsequent scheduling problems delayed them until May and the year before, of course, they didn’t happen at all, as school was closed for most of the year and there were no extracurriculars even when it opened briefly in the spring.
Sometimes it can be hard to know if things that didn’t happen did not happen because of covid or some other reason, as when I was trying to figure out whether there would be a Visitation Day at North’s school in on Columbus Day, like there used to be at every other MCPS school my kids have attended. (The answer was no.)
That made me think, okay, maybe this school has never done this, and it wasn’t a casualty of covid until another senior parent posted, no, visitation day did happen the last year before covid, so now I don’t know what to think about the past or the future, but it didn’t happen this year.
And it can also be hard to know if covid has caused things. At one point, I thought the leg cramps I started experiencing in late November could be an after-effect of covid.
We got back home just in time for me to attend a virtual meeting with my own health care provider about some mysterious leg cramps and pain I’d been experiencing. It had been worst while we were at the beach and right after and seemed to be resolving by the time I saw her, but I kept the appointment to talk about what to do if it comes back. I’m wondering now if it had something to do with having covid, because of the timing.
I do still have hints of them, mostly in the car, but they are much improved since I started taking magnesium for them, so I don’t question their origin as much.
Imagining Other Pandemics
In 2020 and 2021 I read a lot of books about real and fictional pandemics—the plague mostly, but also polio and the flu. By 2022, I guess I was over it and didn’t feel the urge to read any more. (Or maybe I just switched to pandemics on screen. Noah and I watched Station Eleven during his spring break last year and over the summer we watched the first couple seasons of The Strain. Earlier, in 2020, we watched Counterpart.)
My interest in reading about pandemics was piqued again as the third anniversary of covid approached. In February I read Hamnet and Love in the Time of Cholera (which has less to do with cholera than I expected) and I’m currently reading Sea of Tranquility. I don’t know if I’m finished with this particular obsession or not. Time will tell.
As for depictions of this pandemic, we only recently got up to the part of Blackish that portrays it.
[W]e got to the midpoint of season 7 of Blackish. We’ve reached the covid era episodes and while the first couple about it were excellent and very evocative, I was disappointed that it basically fell out of the plot after that, as if it barely happened and didn’t deeply alter our lives for years.
We’re still in season 7, up to the episodes aired in February 2021, and it continues to surprise me how the characters seem to be living in a parallel universe in which it’s not pre-vaccine (for most people) covid times.
How does covid still affect your day-to-day life? Or does it?