Sunday, May 1, 2022

Being Positive About Being Positive

 It's May Day

It's College Decision Day.

It's Making Sense of It All Day.

How did I end up testing positive for Covid???

If you know me, like so many people who were watching in horror in March 2020 when this dreaded virus first burst it's way into our lives and consumed every part of it, you did all you could to avoid it.

We came home.

Cancelled Spring and Summer 2020 everything - college trips to my daughter's final choices, prom, cotillion, graduation parties. 

Everything that was delivered had a table outside our house. I am already a very conscious person about cleaning and had plenty of peroxide, alcohol and washing our hands was something that we did all the time so a news show telling us how to do it wasn't necessary. We had this things down.

My husband was the one who went out.

In the early days, he was the designated go-to-the-store guy and the one we watched like a hawk so if "covidiy" came into our home we could trace the origins. 

We cut down the interactions in our lives to just us in the house until the last few days before we left when we allowed our then sixteen-year-old to have limited distance interactions with equally cautious friends - all masked.

Even when we moved across the country a few months into the pandemic, we didn't have a going away party or anything, It was almost like we just vaporized.

In our new state, we were masked, they were at the forefront of requiring distancing and masking. The region had been hit pretty hard and was not playing around.

It was like a ghost town.

No coffee shop cuttings to meeting new people. No bookstore browsing. Not even sorority gatherings.

So we kept doing our routine for the rest of 2020.

When he had to go into his new job at the college, masking was required. 

Our youngest daughter spent her entire first semester online, same as our college girl. I was already working remotely so it was an uneventful thing for me. The most impact It had on my work was that in that fall 2020, everyone was in my house.

There was a certain slowing down, a stillness, a peace that comforted me with knowing we were doing all we could to be safe.

I ordered groceries delivered. I didn't even know where the grocery store was in our new state and he was trying to navigate a new merging system, so no quick store runs for us. We settled into a new rhythm of life.

In February 2021, our college girl was the first of our immediate family to get Covid.

I was petrified.

She had returned to college and was in isolation in her dorm. She recovered and so far, has no lasting effects. She is now vaccinated and boosted, diligent about mask wearing.

When the vaccines finally became available to my age, I made a beeline to get it. 

My husband got it first, given his age and position. 

We still distanced, masked, and were careful.

By summer 2021, though, the world started to feel a bit more possible.

Our daughters were home, they started working in a summer camp/school. One was an art teacher and the other was a tutor. They loved making their own money and as vaccinated folks, felt they were pretty safe as long as they masked and distanced.

When Fall 2021 rolled around, we were breathing a bit. 

Still careful in our going out, we chose open air restaurants, always masked, or like me, double masked, whenever we flew anywhere, and did not have gatherings in our home.

Proceed with caution was the message of our governor.

And I was super cautious, like almost annoyingly so to my family.

I insisted upon KN95 masks, had a wardrobe of handmade cloth ones to go on top, still worked and worshipped remotely, and pretty much did not have interaction with anyone outside my home.

So I preached safety to my husband and my daughter, who by now was a high school senior who said, "Mom, I'm vaccinated and now, boosted, I'm not going to live my life in fear but I will be safe."

My son, who also lived in this part of the country, worked a very public job, was vaccinated but not boosted, and became the second one in our immediate family to get it. That was from the second wave of the variant.

I still posted, tweeted about masking and don't even want to recall what I had to say about the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers who sucked up all the limited air of the 2021-2022 school year. 

So how did I end up testing positive?

My husband.

Like a lot of very busy professionals, he had to get to the business of his business as head of a college. There were fundraisers and public events and festivals along the beach and parades and people who came to his office. And if I know him like I know him, he matched the comfort of those around him and did not always mask.

And it got him.

He and I are both vaccinated and when it became available, boosted.

So, like many Americans who pulled our lives back and tried to adjust and do the right things, we waited for a glimmer of hope that our lives would be missed by this dreaded virus.

I still work at home and for most of April was deep in a couple projects that had me at this laptop surrounded by books, sipping coffee and drinking smoothies, I barely left my house. I went to Good Friday Service - masked and distanced. Then to Easter - again, masked and distanced.

Life was progressing as we had always lived it.

He was the one who went to the gym before work and had his public appearances. He was the one who went to the store.  Our daughter was deep in senior year business of academics and sports - track and field - and figuring out where she wanted to spend her next four years. So we thought we were on the other side of any extreme danger.

By now, a lot of people had contacted the virus, even vaccinated ones, through the variant.

By now, the stupid orangemanera millennial handmaid tale judge struck down the federal mask mandate on flights, and I was reminding my college daughter to wear her mask regardless. She flies home today.

The sheer stupidity of it all was making me angry, but I tried to not let it impact us. We still lived very small circle lives, even with our house hunting and drives up and down the state, it was the same few of us. We thought we were at relatively little risk.

I began to feel pretty good about making it to two years in this pandemic and not getting it.

I had every reason to fear this.

My sister was one of the early ones to die, she passed in April 2020, and our family couldn't even do our burial rituals.

More and more people I knew and people I knew who lost people they loved, was too much to count. I watched the rising positive cases with the new variants, and ordered more KN95 masks.

Then, a week or so before us, the news hit that our Governor tested positive and he is not sure where he got it. He is vaccinated and boosted, and as mentioned, was at the forefront of leading our region in being very cautious about this virus. He quarantined.

I saw it as a red flag and would remind my husband and daughter to wear their mask as they would leave every morning.

The last few days, weeks, since Easter, has been very busy.

Our youngest was wrestling with her many merit scholarship offers and weighing decisions about where to go. We even drove up to Admitted Student Days and did our own outdoor tour because of Covid. When she flew down to there other two ADS, we were masked. Again, taking every precaution we knew to take.

It started with a cough.

Last Sunday, while sitting at home after an all-day-Saturday busyness that had all three of us out in three different areas for the entire day, we were just enjoying a bit of not-going-anywhere. In front of us was the final week for our daughter to make a college decision day, so we relished the nothing-to-do-day.

But then he started coughing.

Like barking.


He was in the library and we were in the TV room vegging out on some show.

I asked him was he ok. He said yeah.

But he kept coughing.

Now, mind you, we have at-home tests and he would test almost every month because of the public nature of his job. Daughter also. 

All our last tests were negative.

I had negative tests from all my lab ones.

So the cough sounded different than his usual clearing-his-throat.

It was incessant and loud.

Now to know my husband, he is a bit stubborn. Like me, in a different sorta way, and sometimes annoyed with all my precautionary tales. He and. my daughter would eyeball me when I did the gestures about pinching the mask on the bridge of the nose. So, stubbornly, he called back, "I'm ok."

The evening ended a bit unusually.

We did not have Sunday breakfast or dinner that day. None of us really cared, the week before was Easter when our son and his girlfriend drove down for a small dinner. 

It was nice to not have anything to do.

My daughter and I were on the sofa letting some meaningless show fill the space while she finished up her schedule for the upcoming week.

The next thing we knew, it was the darkness of night with  sleep filling the house, the so-we-thought typical end to a busy weekend.

Monday morning, the daughter is up and out before the coffee is fully brewed, being a senior scholar athlete and musician is a full-time thing. She had keys and was gone in a poof.

I made my coffee and was up in my office for my final week of deciding on the literary circle list, obvious to the time. 

He called out to me and told me the dreaded news.

"I tested positive."

My first clue should have been him with the mask on in the house.

"oh dang."

"I called my doctor, I have to quarantine for five days."

"Ok, well to the basement with you dude."

"You should test."

I looked at him, "I will."

I got him settled into the basement, thanking God for this big house with the finished man cave. I supplied him with water, clean sheets and blankets, some Robitussen, ordered a Pulse Ox and an infrared thermometer. I made him tea.

Monday was spent with me on distant care duty, calling him every four hours to take his meds, sanitizing the downstairs bathroom, thinking through my whereabouts on the two days I went out, contacting folks I had come in contact with, daughter doing the same at school and them telling her to wait four days before she tests since she was asymptomatic.

Tuesday was like Monday. My Covid at-home test was negative on Monday and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then, the dreaded scratchy throat in the middle of the night from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Followed by a low grade temperature.

After I checked in on him Wednesday morning, I sanitized everything I touched, made myself a pitcher of water and tea, and came upstairs. 

Then I took the test.

It was negative.

Again, breathed a sigh of relief, but decided to be cautious, so I showered and just put on PJs. By mid-morning, I was feeling a bit flushed and got into bed.

I slept through Wednesday and Thursday, alternating between bathroom breaks, drinking water, sipping the tea they slipped in the room, ate a spoonful of applesauce, and basically felt like I was in the middle of hot flashes again.

Friday morning came and daughter's repeated tests were negative. I thought perhaps we dodged a bullet. He had remained in the basement and like I said before, it was a super busy week, so none of us were barely in the same room together.

I had a big sorority event coming up on Saturday and today, Sunday, is Decision Day, and my birthday is this week, so lots of things I wanted to be fully present for. Last year, all this stuff was virtual, so I was looking forward to it.

So I went to our supply closet and pulled out a box of the Binax Covid Tests. I followed the instructions. I waited. Praying it was "just the flu" even though I had the flu shot and just before Easter, the pneumonia vaccine. I was covering all my bases. Had reached out to get the fourth booster, always masked, telling myself I would be fine.

Two lines.

Wait, let me see that again.

I took my glasses off and put them back on.

I ran through all the questions in my mind, did I do the test right? Is that even right? How? Not me!

So I did the contacts, first to the family, then to the doctor's office, "a positive is a positive" in response to my question of should I rely on this test or come in for one at one of the drive throughs. 

After we talked about my symptoms and her telling me the Wednesday and Thursday fevers were pretty significant, I'm a writer, I write things down, it was 103.4 but I didn't feel bad like the flu, just sweaty. My pulse ox was always between 95-96. As an asthmatic, that is almost a norm. I wasn't coughing or having trouble breathing.

They prescribed a five day regime of Molnupiravir 200mg to take 4 capsules every 12 hours, staggered with my asthma meds. She told me it would have no renal effect (I am a living kidney donor) and wouldn't interfere with my Vitamins C, D, the Zinc, Elderberry, and Turmeric I was taking anyway. 

I had already contacted my sorority members on Monday when my husband tested positive and urged them to test. I had to contact them to tell them I was positive. None of them tested positive, they all retested because we had a big event on Saturday and wanted to be sure. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I settled into my room. 

I'm an introvert so we can isolate or quarantine like the best of them.

All I needed was comfy clothes, fruited water, my books, some mindless Netflix, and time.

Thoughts about the virus filled me with dread and anger, if I'm honest.

I spent Saturday not with my daughter for her track meet or snapping photos of her when she whispered to me her college decision.

No time in the sunshine or trip to the coffee shop or worse for this bibliophile, no excursions on Independent Bookstore Day.

What could possibly be positive about being positive?

"Well mom, thank God you got it now and not before, at least you are vaccinated and boosted." from my younger daughter.

"Awww, feel better, mom, I love you." from my older daughter

"Mom, I had on a mask at work and got it, at least it is mild and like everyone is going to get it, so better now," from my younger son.

I had to think through their perspectives.

They are all vaccinated. My youngest son is not boosted, but being in his twenties and healthy, thought he was good.

The positive is what they said. 

I am not in the ICU. Even as an asthmatic who just recently got a healthy report from my pulmonologist, it could have landed me there if I wasn't vaccinated and boosted.

The vaccine is not 100%, it is an assurance against death, essentially. And Covid is a horrible way to die. It is like the preventative and maintenance medicine I take for asthma. There is no cure for it, we just learn to manage it. I've lived through a lifetime of advances in treatments of lung disease.

The positive is that I have the space.

We can spend out, we don't have to share a bathroom and except for the kitchen to get tea, don't have to eat together during the quarantine. My house is already clean, we just stepped it up even more. 

I could be comfortable in my home. My family was not going to miss a meal or a bill by both parents being down this week. In that, we are privileged.

The other positive is that there are people in my life who care for me, even in my new state where I barely know anyone. Several inquired about my health and asked if I needed anything. It made me not feel so isolated.

The final thing is that it was a reminder that we are all connected. All what, seven million human beings that walk this earth. Well, maybe six million now with the overall Covid deaths from 2020 reaching into numbers that the soul is still wrestling with. There are still people dying, still people refusing to be vaccinated. I, like others, am afraid that the lifting of the mask mandate on planes is going to create a petrie dish of disease that will put us back in March 2020.  So I can only do what I have been doing from the beginning.

Reminding people this thing is real. It did not disappear, despite the overprivileged whines of some who just never learned to sit still in their lives. Covid has not left us.

In the same week that my husband and I tested positive, Vice President Kamala Harris also tested positive. I already mentioned that my Governor tested positive. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and so many others. Some of advanced age. Some middle aged like me. Some younger. 

Covid doesn't discriminate.

It is an equalizer, whether we want to receive that or not.

It connects us to each other.

What we do matters.

One person.

One event.

One moment.

That's all it takes.

So maybe that is the positive about being positive. That simple reminder. That it was never about me.

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