March 14th, 2020

Starry Eyed Mama

...Just Sit and Putter


I lost a friend last night.  Well, I guess it was actually the night before, but I found out last night.  And she was less what I think of as a “friend,” and more so by the social media definition — a person with whom I’ve had some peripheral association through overlapping shared social circles, and to whom I’ve remained connected on social media.

I didn’t know her super well, and it had been years since I’d seen her.  I don’t have fond memories of that last time we encountered one another, but not because of her... it was just a party I’d been twisted into I really didn’t want to be at, but as one of the hosts, she was the highlight of it.  I remember thinking, there’s something uniquely special about her... I should really make a point to get to know her better.

I didn’t, of course.  Because, you know, sometimes we have moments outside our routine, but then we go back to our own bubble.  Most days it’s hard enough just keeping up with people you’ve already established as rooted to you, there never seems to be bandwidth leftover for widening the perimeter.

No one was talking about how she died at first... I suppose it was too fresh, too new.  She hadn’t been sick, and she was so young — well, at least, I feel like 50 is still young, anyway — so it was unexpected, and alarming.  Two days before, she’d posted her older large dog had been put down, and I had to wonder, was it depression?  So many posts of love and loss and warmth, but the silence about how was disturbing.  Why was no one talking about it???

I looked up her about info... I’d forgotten she was a nurse at a busy hospital.  So, of course, then my mind went to the worst places.  I instantly thought of everyone I know in high risk settings.

My brother is a cop.  Is he staying safe?  I called and left him a message, expressing my love and concern.

My niece is a nurse, and she just had a baby girl, not even two months old yet.  We chatted a bit over messenger, just checking in... she’s been on the East coast, visiting her family, and she’s not back at work yet, but she’s supposed to be on Monday... she promises to be careful.  And now I’m trying not to be concerned because I didn’t even know she’d been away.

My parents are traveling right now, both on a book tour together with each of their latest published works.  They’ve been living on the road in motel rooms and with friends and family for the last couple weeks, posting pictures of signing author copies for readers at tables in shops, hanging out at places like the Grand Ol’ Opry, packed to the rafters with jubilant patrons and fans.  Mom used to be a nurse, back in the day, so I know she knows best practices, but she’s also from a senior generation, more set in their ways; and old habits die hard.

She asks me to send her Firebird pictures about every other day.  I know when they return tonight, they’ll want to see him, but they’ll have to wait a few more weeks.  Dad has rheumatism and low blood pressure issues, and Mom has asthma and a complex lung condition that mandates a prescription for a multi-tablet dosage of prednisone per day; they’re in the vulnerable health category.

Waking up this morning, I checked out a few new posts on my friend’s account, now a memorial.  I learned she hadn’t been depressed, and it wasn’t a healthcare work environment related issue.  Heart complications, apparently.  Sounds so simple when you say it like that.

I don’t know the details, except I understand she passed away in her sleep.  Went to bed with her husband, and just never woke up.  What a terrible discovery that must have been for him.  He had to wait for the coroner to come take her, and be the first to tell her father.

I’m not as saddened as I would be if I’d known her better, obviously, though I feel a sense of loss over never having made that happen, especially since now I’ll never get the chance.  I’m mostly just touched by the fleeting and unpredictable nature of this life, and a little shaken.  It will be a while, I hope, before I reach the age where I’m beginning to outlive everyone I know, but things like this can be a glimpse into the future, and they make you inclined to hold tightly to the ones you love, especially when the world has gone a little crazy.

Social distancing, they’re calling for, and I know it’s the right thing to do.  But Mama just wants to reach out and hold anyone who needs it.  My heart aches for those trapped in empty spaces, feeling isolated and alone.

We canceled our plans to volunteer at a housing workshop today.  I was surprised it was still going on, actually, considering the governor just declared a state of emergency, banning gatherings of more than 15 people.  Minion is a diabetic with hypertension and a heart condition, who’s currently suffering a minor autoimmune deficiency because a round of extra strength antibiotics he’d been on for a month knocked his digestive system out of whack.  He’s in the extremely high risk vulnerable health category, and we’re being told we should have his doctor double check his medications for alternatives.  We’ll have to get our “volunteer activity” mortgage mafia favor done in some other way at some other time.  (Don’t get me started on that.)

We canceled our plans to attend tomorrow’s baby shower for a friend’s daughter — whom I’ve known since she was 6 years old — because she’d said it would be tight quarters, and 30 folks are still saying they’re going.  That was a painful decision... I mean, I want to show my support, my love, and my excitement for her, but... right now, caution is more prudent, right?

Some industries are being hit harder than others.  For example, we’ve got to make sure we’re not hungry when we run errands these days... can’t be stopping for any quick bites along the way...

               “Can I get some germs with that?

                . . . And a side of virus to go?”

If you can swing it without suffering, drop into your favorite restaurant and buy a gift card.  They can use the cash boost this week, and then later you can treat your honey (or yourself) to a cost-free outing.  This is also a great time to pick up fresh produce, too, and do some serious cooking... just make sure you wash it well first.

But in some respects, every outing feels like a game of Russian roulette.   For all the things we’re discussing — you can’t move 4 feet in any direction without running into the same topic — there’s plenty not everyone is even considering, much less brainstorming about with any sense of reason or logic.  Everyone’s rushing out like psychotic doomsday preppers to stock up on goods for hibernation, but no one’s thinking about how many hands that box of tissue passed through before it got to you.  Having worked in logistics, I see the chain of transport behind every item that crosses our path.

There’s manufacturing, packaging, shipping, unloading, set up, labeling, and the cashier counter.  Every one of those workers is probably getting paid pittance, and living paycheck to paycheck.  Do you think they can afford to take time off if they’re not feeling well?  Do you think they have a decent health coverage plan to help them determine they need to self-isolate?  And would they be able to?

Most of this country doesn’t eat, or pay rent if they can’t work, some if they miss even one day.  These people take their bugs to the job no matter what condition they’re in, where they handle your groceries.  Your cleaning materials.  Your toilet paper.

Any chance your lifesaving cold fighting quarantine supplies came in on a truck from one of the podunk red states that makes folks have to provide tangible proof you’ve been in direct physical contact with the infected before they will administer a test?  Sure, you’re not shaking hands with anyone on the line, but were those hands clean before they carried that cardboard box on its way to your house?  A lot of hands have been on it... were all of them clean?  Clean enough?  Not sure?  Has it been more than 3 days since anyone else touched it?  Don’t know?

Why would anyone assume packages from Amazon — or worse, the black market — are safer just because you didn’t leave the house to get them?  Are you going to let them sit on your porch for half a week before you open them?  No?  Then you better make sure every inch of every surface is wiped clean and disinfected before you bring it into your home.

Oh, they’re out of disinfectant?  And wipes, too?  Well, that sucks, then, doesn’t it?

I guess Howie Mandel doesn’t seem so crazy these days, does he?  (And, btw, you’re probably never going to see him in public again.  I’m sure he’s hunkered down somewhere, and he isn’t leaving his house until the next century rolls around.)

I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but some of the things folks are doing in droves to help them feel safe aren’t as safe as they’d hope.  And that’s thanks in part to irrational thinking, but primarily due to the steady stream of too much casual conjecture, not enough listening to the health sciences communities who are the root of sorting out this very serious problem.  There’s no need to further escalate the already rampant widespread panic, but if you want to be safe, you have to also be smart, and pay attention to the right sources.

The media is full of information available at your fingertips — spreading exponentially like its own form of worldwide web pandemic.  But wading through what’s out there to get to the golden nuggets that are actually useful is a daunting challenge for even the professionals, much less the rest of us poor slobs down here in the trenches.  One might almost think our culture doesn’t know how to properly disseminate data or something.  :-/

I hear so many people saying not to worry, this is only going to severely affect the elderly and those with compromised health.  ... ... ...  Why should that make people feel better??  If you can check yourself off as not being “compromised,” do you count yourself lucky, breathe a sigh of relief, and go about your regular life as if nothing has changed?

So, you don’t know anyone at risk, then?  Or you just don’t care enough about them to be careful for their sake?  People don’t seem to appropriately get the reality that even healthy people can create a more dangerous obstacle course for others, though I do hope they will, before it’s too late for those others.

My parents have both lived rich and full lives, and Mom’s faith is so strong she thinks dying is going home.  That’s certainly not what I want for them.  If this is their time, though, they will accept it, and be bathed in the love of their family and an extensive community that spans the globe.

But the father of my child for all outward appearances would give you the impression he’s built like an ox.  He’s not, though.  And he’s certainly not expendable.  Especially not to me, or our son.  I would want everyone chatting so casually about how this is “no big deal” to look him in the face and tell his family that the life of their patriarch doesn’t mean enough for them to take a few minor inconvenient precautions like staying home from a movie, or skipping that big dinner at the club.

We picked up a few things today we’ll need for the next few weeks or so, which is our standard Saturday routine, and not surprisingly, every place we stopped was a zoo.  There wasn’t any toilet paper anywhere, which is too bad for us, since it was on this week’s list, so we may end up having to get creative, unfortunately.  There’s no wipes or hand sanitizer in any stores anywhere, either.  We normally keep that sort of thing around, being parents of a 2-year-old, but it may be a while before we can again.

Minion and I will be okay.  I’m trying not to freak out about his risk factors, but he’s promised me... he’s not going anywhere.  He’s been mandated back to working from home for at least the next 6 weeks or so, which is laughable, considering that’s where he was six years ago, and still would be, if some over puffed bigwig windbag hadn’t decided they needed to justify the expense of the giant fancy office they just bought a half hour’s drive away.  Eight years is a lot of your life to give to a soul sucking corporate tycoon who doesn’t care anything about the people who make your business possible, and treats them like mindless cattle.

We need someone to take swing shift — as an incentive, we’ll let you work remotely.  Wait, now you need to be in the office — you can work nights.  No, scratch that, we’re going to switch you to days... 9 days from now.  You’ll have to completely reverse the sleep schedule you’ve become accustomed to for the last several years, make sure you can afford to become a two car family in the next week, not to mention figure out how to come up with the money to pay for daycare — but you’ll have to do it making $300 less per month — no more shift deferential rates for you.

Eight years, as it turns out, is more than plenty, and he’s finally had enough.  Apparently, everyone else has got the same idea... they’re jumping in droves, like rats leaving a sinking ship.  His job search seems to be on hold at the moment, though.  His resume has gotten a lot of attention, and a few solid bites, but virtual meetings will only carry a candidate so far, and the world is slowly grinding to a halt and shutting down.  So maybe he’ll have to suck it up and stick with
the jackals for a little while longer.  This is not the right time to have to wait 90 days before health insurance kicks in.

I’ve been notified confidentially to prepare for receiving instructions to work remotely, and can hardly wait to get them.  It would be nice if I could breathe easier, but this contract is only scheduled officially through mid-April or so.  It may very likely go longer, I’m told, though no one has an end date in mind for certain yet.  At least there’s some consolation in the fact I know they’re not going to be able to afford to lose me until they hire someone to take over the work I’ve been doing since June  — since apparently I’m not officially qualified to continue doing it — but I imagine they’ll be in the same kind of frozen-in-place boat the companies looking at Minion are in, so, at least there’s that.

At some point in our lives, I would love for not everything about our situation to have to be so up in the air all the time.  But we can suck in and tighten our belts if we have to.  At least a career in contracting has trained me into the habit of paying in advance, so our bills are covered through next month.

I don’t know how long we as a people will have to collectively hold our breath to get through this together.  I don’t know where we will be or what the world will look like whenever the dust finally clears, and we begin to slowly emerge blinking into the light of
day, though I imagine “normal” from that point will be an entirely new experience.  I know one casualty that could take the longest to recover, though, may be our global economy.

I know it never will, if we don’t finally begin to take the first steps on the road toward real progressive changes that will positively impact humanity.  Like universal healthcare.  Mandatory paid sick leave.  And a functional living wage for all.

This is most certainly not a political matter, but it most assuredly could have been drastically mitigated by a vastly different political climate.  When the public gets the chance to speak our minds, we must remember what we’ve seen here.  Not having access to testing.  Poor communication.  Government issued misinformation.  The removal of posted educational materials in immigration courts.  An inadequate social safety net.  Now is the moment for everyone to grasp — all of us are only ever as prepared to manage a major catastrophe as the capacity of the least among us to do so.

There has never been a better time to vote like our lives depend on it.  Because they do.  They always have.  At least now, though, finally, maybe more of us have a better understanding what those of us who’ve been saying so for some time have meant all along.  It’s tragic this is what it takes to shine that light on these issues.  But it will be even more tragic if we fail to act on them.

brother messaged me back.  He says the department has ordered respirator masks and plenty of cleaning fluids for everyone.  But that’s not my real concern... he’s healthy as a stubborn mule; I would certainly prefer he didn’t get laid out for a few days by this, but he’ll weather it, if it comes to that.

No, my fear is more because h
e deals with a lot of desperate people every day, and these are particularly scary times especially for folks who are already desperate on any other given normal day.  I told him to keep a sharp hard close eye on his 6, and a steady hand firmly on his hip.  He says he’s appreciative, more than I can imagine — it’s good to know, somehow, when you’re out there on your own, that people who love you are behind you with their support, at least in spirit.

I guess, maybe, from here, that’s all you can do.

I will not be controlled by fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the mini-death that brings about obliteration.
I will overcome my fear.
I will permit to wash over me,
And pass through me.
And when it has gone,
I will trace the path it has taken.
Where fear has been,
There will be nothing left.
Only I will remain.

LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 16 - Topic: THE STREISAND EFFECT
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