I got news this week that I’m going to have an essay published in Relief. I’m especially pleased because it’s about my dad, among other things, and it feels particularly good, I guess, to say out-loud-in-writing what is happening to him. To share it with a few benevolent witnesses.
My dad is living in a full-time memory care facility and I haven’t seen him in more than a year because of Covid. When I was there in February of last year, with my kids, the four of had lunch together and he spoke with ease. He let Isaiah comb his hair and we listened to music together and ate the cookies my mom made for him. Now he no longer speaks at all, nor eats on his own.
I was able to make an appointment yesterday for my first vaccine –Jason, too! — and we both have appointments scheduled for next Thursday afternoon. The timing feels other-worldly, almost. Because exactly one year ago, I was trudging down our stairs to the basement to quarantine myself. It was such a scary thing, to be so sick with a disease that was still so mysterious at the time and possibly deadly, with the entire city shut down as we all sheltered in place and even the doctor was difficult to reach. When I did, finally, reach my doctor, she inexplicably told me to “get some exercise,” which was baffling because I could barely walk the 10 steps to the bathroom, and to go to the hospital if my lips turned blue (cool).
I remember reading, when I was sick, that for most people, if they were going to take a turn for the worse, that it would happen between days 7-10. I also remember reading that if you were going to die from Covid, the average number of days that a person was likely to live from the onset of their first fever was 18 days. I counted the days and did the numbers in my head over and over and over again when I was sick. It was in part, I know, due to the high fever, but those numbers terrified me, and I was fixated on them.
To be one year out, counting the days to my vaccine and trying to calculate the days until I might be able to book a flight to visit my dad feels so strange and surreal. When I hung up the phone with the scheduler yesterday, I felt this huge rush of relief and emotion. It was overwhelming. I left for a walk shortly after and I just felt this immense gratitude to still be here — to be on this trip with my family and out in the woods with my dog, examining moss and taking photos of flowering vines and fallen logs; to be able to write and read and drink coffee in the mornings and drop into bed at the end of the day. What a gift.
^ image from my walk yesterday
^ On a hike last weekend — photo by Tünde Gáspár