Eighteen Months

Since Covid hit its stride in March of 2020 I had been out of the office I work at for eighteen months.

Eighteen.

I still remember the days leading to that day –

Things were suddenly getting more and more dire in the country, despite the protestations of the President to the contrary. Internally our office decided that those that COULD work from home SHOULD work from home. It was the first big step.

Not everyone took advantage of this, but it opened the door for this in the office.

With my job, I sorta have to be here, just not an option…unless they closed the office.

That Friday my wife and I started the IVF process to try to have a baby.

We had gone out of town to do this and, as a late present to her, I had gotten tickets to an opera she loves, and a hotel room and the plan was to go out to eat and hit the town after our visit to the clinic.

It just so happened that the opera was postponed – only to be delayed again and then cancelled due to the virus – so instead we went to Downtown Detroit to our hotel. We checked in, this weird 1980s fever dream of a place, and walked to the restaurant we were going to hit up. It was eerie because they had started to suggest people mask up by that time and we were not and no one in the restaurant was and it was packed.

It was an uneasy, and honestly a crummy meal, and the hotel stay was full of a carousing bridal party, so it wasn’t the most restful or fun time.

Monday, we finished the IVF procedure and that next day there was word leaking here in Michigan that the Governor was going to put a lockdown order in.

I had could not imagine what that would look like.

We were given the order that day that we were closing the office indefinitely to work from home, and I raced to the grocery store to hit it before the ‘order’ came down.

The place was busy but not crazy and I was able to get more than what we needed, including toilet paper, not knowing that was about to become a hot commodity.

Lockdown was declared and so I worked from home.

We found out in a handful of months that my wife was pregnant and suddenly we were going to go through alone, which was a proposition we hadn’t anticipated. With both of our mothers gone, and her father gone, it was going to be a harder pregnancy for her as it was but now, she was in a sort of isolation as we worried over what was to come with the spreading virus.

I cancelled any events I had planned to either attend or put on, and we waited.

We told my sister and father about the baby around my birthday, at a distance and with masks on. Showing a picture of the fetus to them from across their yard.

And that was how this pregnancy was going to be – at arm’s length.

Virtual announcements.

Virtual baby showers.

In person doctor visits that went from monthly, to bi-monthly, to weekly, to bi-weekly.

Testing, testing, testing for her.

She began to run into complications with the baby and not long after we had a scare.

We rushed my wife to the ER and, due to Covid, I couldn’t go in, so I sat in my vehicle for four hours, waiting. While I waited, the parking lot filled up with people concerned over a local security guard who had been shot when he had insisted a woman put on a mask and the man with her took that as an offense and shot him.

That guard died and the concerned friends and family turned to mourners, and it made things all the more harrowing.

The scare was just that, a scare, and we got lucky.

The baby and mother were fine.

The weeks passed.

My work got busy as the local, state, and government organizations and bureaus started making money available for businesses that were suffering during this lock down and slow down of the economy. Where I work was involved in some of these grants, so I had a time where I was getting nearly a hundred calls a day.

Most people were kind but scared, businesses that were being left behind by technology and owners that were more than behind, desperate to stay afloat.

Some got angry, as they didn’t get money, they felt was owed them.

One threatened our organization and CEO because he felt he had been slighted.

So many businesses on the verge of collapse.
Some able to rise to the challenge and pivot, some unable to with what they did, and some unwilling as they demanded the world reopen and refused common sense rules and behavior.

People got rich while others went bankrupt.

One barber in our region defied orders and remained open, pretending it was an issue of freedom and choice and liberty. Wrapping himself in an invisible flag for the same of making America great. He made a big show of it and people came out in droves, many with guns, naturally, to support him. Several online fundraisers were created in his owner, and they raked in loads of money. He was cited. The state government threatened arrest and his armed supporters made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. He painted himself as some sort of son of liberty and finally everyone realized this self-absorbed idiot, who just happened to be a self-published author, made his money and eventually all charges were dropped because it was too much trouble to bother with.

He pretended to distance.

He pretended to mask up.

One look at the footage of his place and the lines, and congestion of supporters, and it was clear that they didn’t care.

And this was America.

The moment of fear turned into a season of anger.

While people cried out for social justice and took the streets to march for it, some masked to lessen viral contact as was advised, and others not, there were opponents to this, opponents with guns.

The freedom fighters began to call for Democratic Governors to step down.

To be pulled from office.

To end their tyranny.

In my home state men got together with a plan to kidnap and hold the Governor hostage.

Luckily it was a plan that was thwarted but immediately their behavior was heralded by some as heroic and brave. The President even decided to crow about how the incident.

The tension in the country deepened.

Anti-maskers and Open Up The Country people took to the streets and to federal buildings. Rushing them. Protesting them. Insisting that they were brave and strong and fighting for liberty. Pretending that they were merely re-enacting great moments from history when instead they were cosplaying as tough guys and Army men who only got away with their behavior out of fear of riling up a real confrontation.

We did our best at home, though the isolation, which at first didn’t bother two people that were less likely to go out anymore, did start to wear on us.

She had a hard pregnancy that got more and more complicated and the inability to see people, or to celebrate the baby in person was draining.

(Shooting ahead to today and Covid has taken a deep toll on my mental and physical well being but that’s another story).

The pregnancy complications and constant trips to the hospital to see the physicians and team made everything surreal. Every time we went in, we had to pass the Covid ward. Everyone we saw and spoke to was masked, as were we.

Faces were hidden as we all waited and hoped for a vaccine.

We had two scares and had to get tested for the virus, though we tested negative both times. It was a harrowing wait. Earlier this year I had had to ‘quarantine’ for two weeks, essentially staying away from work the only day I went in each week, to make sure I wasn’t sick.

I tested clean but still I had to wait.

Frustrating but understandable.

There has to be a point where we do the right thing.

It was a year and a half of sacrifice.

I remember how excited I was to learn when a local pharmacy chain store would get is toilet paper delivery. I would sneak out to get it as soon as I could and would breathe a little easier when I a new pack.

We had friends lose loved ones.

We had friends get sick.

We had loved ones get sick.

This was real.

We knew this was real.

Why didn’t anyone else.

The vaccines arrived and we held our breath as we waited our turn.

My wife had the baby a month early.

The baby just wouldn’t wait.

My wife had gone through hell with the pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, daily blood checks, several trips to get her blood pressure tested only to be held at the hospital for hours as they waited to see what would happen.
The baby came early due to her blood pressure.

We had watched the birth date move from early December to late November, to mid-November, and then she went in to get her blood pressure checked on November 6th and it was so worrisome they decided to admit her.

The baby was going to come.

Whether we were ready or not.

Luckily, we had gotten everything we needed over the months, thanks to family and friends, and I had had the time, while working from home, to clean the room, paint it, and put everything together and in place.
We were as ready as we were going to be.

It was strange though because so much of it was virtual.

We made an announcement video.

We made a page online to post vids and pics and news.

We had, as I mentioned, virtual showers through my work and my family, though her work did a masked and distanced in person one.

We were as ready as we were gonna be.

It was two days of waiting and waiting and then the baby came in just 45 minutes.

Pow.

I was a dad.

I even had to cut the umbilical, something I had wanted to avoid.

And we had our little miracle.

And she was beautiful.

It was strange being masked to visit and sitting with my wife and baby.

The baby was a little jaundiced, so she and my wife were in the hospital for a week, the baby on a bilirubin light to get rid of the jaundice.

When they finally came home, driving my infant daughter for the first time was nerve-wracking.

My wife was home for only a week and a half before she had to go back to the hospital for ten days due to her gall bladder needing to be removed.

I was left alone with the baby and that was horrifying.

I left her in the care of my wife’s brother’s family once so I could grocery shop and see my wife briefly but that was hard. Hard to leave her with others.

It was all hard though.
I made the trips to the store, trying to get in and out as quick as possible.

Eventually we used delivery services for groceries and food and marveled that so many restaurants were struggling with their takeout business when, other than the volume increase, it should have already been perfected. It was so strange how often the food was bad, inaccurate, not all there, and on and on. We heard for months people pleading to open businesses again and when they did, the restaurants couldn’t do their jobs.

It was strange.

With winter came the dawn of the vaccines and suddenly there was hope.

Only, with it, the conspiracy people came too.

They came to protest the election.

They came to fight the election.

They came to refuse the vaccines and to insist they were some sort of conspiracy drug.

It was madness on madness.

After watching nearly half a million Americans die due to Covid we finally had the hope we needed and now there was push back.

People who didn’t believe in science wanted to know the science of the drugs.

People who don’t care about the welfare of others wanted to keep others free of masks and tyranny.

Parents who scream at children’s sporting events if their kids don’t get the limelight, they deserve won’t let their kids wear masks to protect them because they want to see them smile.

People using their faith like a prop comic, hauling it out whenever they need a punchline.

IT’S AGAINST GOD’S WILL.

Never knowing even what that means since they follow only the convenient tenets of faith that fit their schedule and budget.

It’s so frustrating hearing people profess to be of a faith whose savior touted loving one while they march in the streets with guns and threaten anyone that opposes them. Theirs is a faith of power and convenience. American Imperial Christianity in which might makes right and religious law is sorted through a hat and chosen at random.

It’s the religion of the shining city on a hill that doesn’t realize the hill is a trash heap and the shine is a broken bottle.


But this is where we are at.


There are no ‘both sides’ to Covid.

There is living and dying and suffering for those that survive the virus.

Our baby was born, and we avoided the world even more.

Out of the fear of What If.

My wife has a diminished immune system, as do my sister and father, so what if one of them got ‘it’?

What If?

It was only after we both got vaccinated that we started to let ourselves see other vaccinated friends and it felt dirty, bad, to try to trust again.

I still have a hard time trusting people because What If?

It’s not that people intend to make you sick but what if they do?

It’s interesting how much is out there, how much we do to prevent disease, and self-poverty, and war, and terror but when it comes to the sacrifice of a vaccine or a mask to keep others safe, that’s a bridge too far.

Sigh.

My wife worked through most of this, other than the birth and a brief stint early on where her office closed.

Worked in an office that doesn’t necessarily take the virus as seriously as it should.

Because hey, everyone’s healthy.

It’s just a flu.

Just a flu.

Tell that to the dying, dead, and those left behind.

As my work made its plans to return my boss, someone that was like a second mother to me in some ways, was let go.

Suddenly the world seemed more rudderless as it headed towards the vast ocean.

But we would return.

Eventually.

It was just a matter of time.

The date was pushed back and back and back.

The anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have gotten louder and more dangerous.

It’s all being dressed up in tattered gowns and made up poorly to pretend to be about freedom when it’s really about supremacy and the right to fear monger.

I refuse to let you force me to protect myself and others.

Here’s my gun!

As our friends got vaccinated and the world slowly returned to a mimic of normalcy it started to get upsetting to see how many immediately went back to the way things were.

Bars.

Concerts.

Parties.

Festivals.

As if we had learned nothing.

As if this was all for naught.

Give Us Our Lives Back, even the most ardent Covid believers seemed to declare.

And I get it.

Lord, do I get it.

I miss life before Covid. What we don’t get though is that we were warned for DECADES about the possibility of something like this, like climate change, and we ignored it.

Even if we conquer Covid, something else will pop up.

This is not the end.

We need to adapt, or die.

It’s that simple.

If we want to keep playing pretend that this stuff isn’t real or won’t harm us then, well, there you go.

With me returning to work it meant our daughter would finally need to enter day care, something we had gotten set up in February but which we hadn’t needed to use yet.

Her entering day care brought more anxiety than I had felt before during all of this. During our walkthrough of the facility, we learned they did not mask up there or mandate vaccines.

It gave us pause, to say the least.

Added to the fact that my work wasn’t masking – at the time, though that has changed – suddenly it felt like all the sacrifice and caution had been for nothing.

And then…I was back.

Back in the office in person full time after almost eighteen months.

It felt like returning to school after summer or like starting a new job.

Luckily, the building we work in was suggesting masks so our office did the same and there are only a few people that don’t mask up. It’s disappointing to hear, and know in my heart, that there are co-workers that didn’t vaccinate and won’t. It is disappointing because some of these folks work with kids. And even if they didn’t, they work with the public, and with the rest of us and it just goes back to the fact that we can either work together to get rid of this or we can work against one another. As a nation that’s what we’ve become great at doing, feigning that we are pious and respectful of these national tragedies from our past only to disrespect those events and the people we lost by becoming selfish monsters hiding behind dead people and dead books.

With me at work our daughter entered daycare.

Thankfully they are masking again as well, but it’s still scary to know that there will be parents who don’t vaccinate and who don’t believe in the virus and their kids will be there too.

Sadly, only a few days in and our daughter, who has otherwise been very healthy, has come down with a stomach bug. We got to see firsthand what a mess the hospitals are as we took her to the pediatric ER to get checked out and it took five hours to get this done and while there several families had given up and gone home?

How many people push aside a needed visit to the emergency room because of the wait due to Covid?

It’s madness.

Eighteen months.

So much has changed in my life and in the world.

Nothing seems the same any longer, it seems like a strange new world, but all we can do is move forward cautiously, hopefully, and do all we can to make sure we are safe and our daughter is safe and go from there.

It breaks my heart that we haven’t lost enough people yet for others to swallow their pride and do what they need to to help get us through this.

This was our World War 2 and we failed.

Man has always been selfish but it is breathtaking to see how selfish we have become.

Eighteen months, of sacrifice, and fear, and loss, and it wasn’t enough.

It just wasn’t enough.

And it makes me wonder what is enough to make the rest of us care?

…c…

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