Aching, feverish and coughing, I tested positive for COVID-19 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a diagnosis I didn’t expect. I’m careful about social distancing, and we had limited our holiday gathering to our household, setting the table for only three.
Maybe I got the virus at a bustling grocery store in the days before the big feast. Pandemics, by their nature, mean the contagion is everywhere.
Getting sick on a holiday weekend devoted to thanks isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. But illness brings its own forms of gratitude. Mostly, it reminds you how dependent you are on the grace of others.
I have much for which to be grateful. My case was mild, and within a few days, I was fever-free, feeling well and working from home. I also had access to quick testing and treatment just down the street.
One of the realities of aging is that doctors and nurses begin to look much younger than you are. Another consequence of getting older is the temptation to gripe that the next generation has gone soft.
But the twentysomethings who tested and treated my COVID-19 made me feel that the country’s future is in good hands. They handled me with compassion, respect and a sense of hope that helped me as much as any prescription.
I kept in touch with my primary doctor as I recovered. Speak with any medical professional these days, and you can often hear the fatigue. They’ve been on the front lines of this pandemic for months, handling enormous workloads with little complaint. For their sake, we should do what we can to limit the spread.
Because of my diagnosis, my family and I quarantined at home for 10 days. I banished myself to the guest room to help keep them safe. They left me meals 20 feet away.
It’s odd to eavesdrop on the life of your home while you’re sidelined from it. I could hear the cooking, cleaning and daily chatter, but it unfolded like a play in which I no longer had any lines. I felt vaguely as if I were haunting my own house.
The biggest symptom of any illness is boredom. As I dozed in a chair through two days of rain, the wall clock seemed to dole out its minutes in teaspoons. I learned how its gears paused a second before chiming the hour, the afternoon catching its breath.
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” Betty Smith’s novel about a young girl growing up in early 20th century New York, kept me company. There’s a scene in which Francie, the heroine, gets vaccinated, a ritual still new back then. It’s part of her growing up to learn that there’s sickness so bad you need a shot even before it shows up.
With any luck, all of us will soon be rolling up our sleeves like Francie, then waiting for the needle.