Like It Used To Be

.Before the COVID19 pandemic, I had a healthy, active, retired life as a widow. I wrote, hiked, went to the movies, the theater, concerts, and of course out to eat with my friends. I would regularly meet a friend and her dog for a walk at our local state park to enjoy the lovely views, beautiful weather, and beginner trails.

However, once the pandemic had been with us for several months, it became clear that life would not go back to normal anytime soon. As our state parks closed, I started walking with a couple of friends throughout our neighborhood. We had a healthy respect for the virus, so our walks would be on opposite sides of the street. The separation ensured much more than 6 feet between us while raising our voices to be heard.

As with all things, time passed, and attitudes changed. The endless debate of wanting to go back to our lives was alive and well. Some people chose to go back to their former activities while I struggled to be safe. So I limited where I went, who I saw, and what I was willing to do. I was left with a handful of friends to meet with on rare occasions with this decision.

Then Came the Isolation 

Living utterly alone, after a couple of months of isolation and loneliness, I found myself getting together with a friend just for human contact. Every couple of weeks, I would drive to her house for dinner. While we sat on her patio, grilled, and just talked. These outings were the highlight of my week and how we spent the summer of 2020.

Eight months into the pandemic, I was looking forward to seeing my friend on the upcoming Saturday. This meal was going to be different as she had invited another acquaintance. Everyone would bring something, and I volunteered to bring fruit for dessert. Thinking of this outing, I decided to get my nails done as it had been months and I thought well deserved.

Friday came, and I made two stops. The first stop was to the grocery store, where I ran in and grabbed fresh fruit, paid at the self-checkout, and ran out. The second stop was at the nail salon, which took much longer. But with all the precautions, I thought it would be ok.

The workers who wore their masks sat behind a plastic shield while I wore my mask. As I turned my head, I saw a patron a couple of seats over, pulling down her mask, talking, and having a drink.

I felt a pit in my stomach, and I knew this was a mistake. Click To Tweet

However, as the technician was close to finishing, I waited and ran out as quickly as possible. I reminded myself not to be so paranoid and that I would be fine.

Saturday came and went. The company was great and what I needed. To not spend another day completely alone and have face-to-face conversations was terrific. Everyone enjoyed the food, and it felt like life was normal, like it used to be.

And then it started

 Monday came, and I had body aches, and I was cold. By 10 p.m. I had a fever of 101 degrees, and I felt awful. The reality hit that I could have contracted COVID19, and the mental blaming began for going to the store and nail salon. I couldn’t shake the thought that, oh my god, could I have given it to my friends? The guilt and shame for going to the store and getting my nails done were immediate. I reached out to everyone I had been around to tell them to test as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, I called my physician, who ordered COVID19, Flu A, and Flu B tests, along with calling in prescriptions for azithromycin, Tamiflu, Tylenol, and zinc. On this day, my fever ran from 100.4 with Tylenol and as high as 101.8. I found the fevers relentless, exhausting and I tried to manage them by setting alarms to wake up and take more medicine. The physician stated that if the fever hit 102 degrees to go to the emergency room, so I became preoccupied with checking my fever every few hours.

Wednesday, I went to a lab, got tested, and came home to rest. My fevers continued all day, and it wasn’t easy to function as my body needed endless amounts of sleep. On Thursday, to my disbelief, my physician’s office called to tell me that all three tests came back negative. I advised them that my fever hit 102, and they told me to continue with the medications, call them the next day, and if I got worse, to go to the emergency room. On this day, the only good news was my friend saying that everyone got tested, and they were all negative.

 Having experienced a terrible night with 102.6, chills, and severe exhaustion, I packed a bag, got in my car, and went to the emergency room. I was there for 4 hours as they ran more tests, gave me IV fluids, and came in to tell me that my COVID19 test came back positive. They prescribed more antibiotics, something for the cough, and sent me home. When I got to my car, I started sobbing uncontrollably. In despair that I had been released without anyone at home to help me was unimaginable. It just made me cry to the point that I was having trouble breathing. That’s when the fear took over as I had never experienced this kind of debilitating illness.

Saturday was a blur, and to my dismay, the only way I would wake up was when I was burning hot with a fever. My routine became checking to see how high my temperature was, drinking some water with more Tylenol, and laying back down. Sometime during the night, I realized that I was burning hot but debated whether to get up or sleep longer. I must have done this for several hours, and then a moment of clarity hit that

If I didn't get up, I would die in my bed. Click To Tweet

The thought that got me out of bed was realizing that I wouldn’t be able to take my dream vacation to New Zealand. With that in mind, I got up and checked my temperature. As I glanced at the thermometer, I saw 104.8, and I knew I needed to get help. I grabbed my phone, called 911, and explained my situation. They asked me to stand outside as they would not enter the house because of the COVID19 virus.

I didn’t know how to get ready, but I pushed myself to start. To my dismay, I was having difficulty tying my shoes, and at this point, I chose not to. I mustered all the strength to grab the bag that I had taken to the emergency room on Friday, and I walked out to my driveway. The ambulance came, and for the first time in 6 days, I finally felt that help was here.

The EMT in the ambulance was caring. He took my temperature and reported that it had hit 105. He started IV fluids and reassured me that I would be ok and not worry. Upon arriving at the hospital, the attendant took me into a room where a nurse helped me put on the hospital gown and began another IV. They wheeled me into my room, and they told me a physician would be coming to see me shortly.

Letting go of the Blame

When he came into the room, I said, “But I’ve been careful, safe. I wear a mask wherever I go. I get groceries delivered. Rarely go into the store”. I remember speaking those words as I lay in complete isolation on the COVID19 hospital wing. The doctor just looked at me through his mask, face shield, head cover while wearing his gloves, gown, and shoe covers and said, “it’s just a virus, and it’s everywhere.” There was a calmness in his words and what I know is that it was no longer up to me to set the alarm to try to control my fever. I remember closing my eyes and resting for the first time without fear.

Day 8 in COVID19 hospital wing

The Unattended Concert

“Complete strangers can stand silent next to each other in an elevator and not even look each other in the eye. But at a concert, those same strangers could find themselves dancing and singing together like best friends. That’s the power of music.” LZ Granderson

Music was always something that my loved one and I had in common. Even though the genre we enjoyed was different, we loved listening to music at home, in the car, and especially at live venues. Some of my fondest memories continue to be our evenings out at a favorite restaurant followed by a concert. Attending these concerts was a fantastic shared experience and one of the many joys of our marriage.

Attending these concerts were one of the many joys of our marriage. Click To Tweet

Knowing how much he loved concerts and how tenuous his health was the last ten years of his life, we made a concerted effort to buy tickets several months in advance so we could have something to look forward to. However, as his illness progressed, we found that accommodations had to be made, including a place to rest, oxygen, and wheelchair access so we could continue to enjoy going out. There were times that these accommodations made things difficult and, on occasion, so much so that we were unable to attend. But we continued to try, and most of the time, we were able to enjoy the evening out.

My loved one was dead set on attending a rock concert. We both loved the bands playing, and the show was in this beautiful outside theater. The amphitheater seats were in the middle of a field of pine and oak trees. So, I bought two wheelchair-accessible tickets, and the countdown began for our next adventure. However, two weeks before the concert, he had pneumonia, and he never got better.

Today is the anniversary of what would have been the last rock concert that we would have attended. I hold these unused tickets in my hand, and feelings of loss immediately surface. I recognize that he is not only gone from my life, but so is the music that had once filled it. It’s funny how it took today to notice that this was missing from my life.

I hold these unused tickets in my hand and feelings of loss immediately surface. Click To Tweet

I summoned the courage to do something different and getting on my computer I found a concert I wanted to attend. As I clicked on the purchase button, I found myself smiling even though it was two months away. What occurs to me is that, like before, I now have something to look forward to.

The Anger

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”   Aristotle

An emotion had found me that I did not know what to do with – Anger.  I was angry all the time.  It was justified I would tell myself.  I had a right to be angry.  Illness had taken my loved one and I was without my partner.  All was definitely not right with the world as my life had changed and I was pissed off.

I would try to keep myself together but all I had to do was get in car and the first mistake by the ass driving next to me would bring up anger not fitting for the situation.  I was walking through my life as if it was ok to take my rathe out on: the inconsiderate driver, the slow attendant at the store or the person on the other end of the line.  The problem was that it was never the right person.  So, who was the right person?

It took me a while to realize that I was angry at him and at me. Click To Tweet

It took me a while to realize that I was angry at him and at me.  I was angry that he did not take care of himself through the years, that we did not do more while he was well, that we did not have more time together.  But I was really angry that he lived through that horrible surgery just to die fourteen days later.  I was angry that he fucking died and left me alone.

I found that I was feeling like I had no purpose, no direction and no clue as to what to do next.  Something had to change because even in my grief I knew that it was not ok to live life this way.  The anger I was expressing was leaving a path of destruction from which I would not be able to get through in one piece.

So, I picked up the telephone and spoke with friend.  She suggested that I write a letter to him about my anger and disappointments.  Once I had written this letter, I made my way to the cemetery.  I was filled with apprehension but once I reached his grave, I read the letter.  With tears flowing and some sobbing I was able to say the things that I had kept hidden but felt in my heart.  Leaving I felt a little lighter not really knowing if it was due to the letter or the tears and emotions that I had shed at his gravesite.

It is fifty-six days since my loved one passed and yes, I still get angry but I find that I am making my way back to a better place as I recognize that the anger most certainly is a part of the grief process and one that I am in the middle of.