I have spent the majority of my leisure time these past 14 years writing in this blog about anything and everything. I started out writing about design and antiques and then ventured into historical properties and the royal family, movies and fashion, and often times – my family.
Indulge me this one more time.
This year has been a weird one for everyone. It didn’t matter what continent you lived on, you spent it either in fear or defiance of the great new virus. We argued endlessly whether masks were effective or whether we should just let the virus spread as it wanted to – creating a herd immunity. We voted against our president because of the virus and that is the first time in history, we’ve done that.
Do you remember when there was only one person in the states with the virus? Little did we know it had already spread its wrath to so many unsuspecting victims.
Did you wear a mask? A shield? Gloves?
Or did you feel invisible against the threat?
Here’s my story:
I have issues with my legs, I tend to retain fluid, lymphatic fluid which gets infected. Yuck. It’s gross. So I was terrified of Covid-19. I still am.
Ben and I wore masks outside our apartment from around mid March or April. Not from the very beginning. Houston seemed far away from the threat. But as NYC exploded, we began to take it more seriously. We stayed home. We used instacart a lot. When Ben when to the store – he wore gloves and his mask. He ordered an assortment of masks which we keep in a pretty Rose Medallion bowl by the front door. Always the designer.
I stopped cutting my hair. My roots grew out a weird salt and pepper color and my hair became wiry and more curly. I looked like Sasquatch. I thought I might go grey. After all, so many bloggers did and they looked fabulous – but I didn’t.
I rarely left the confines of my apartment except to walk my dog, always with a mask. I never touched a door knob or an elevator button. Instead I used my sleeve or my elbow. I was nervous – I had an underlying condition and I was 66, not great odds.
I banned my daughter Elisabeth from our apartment. She worked at the Galleria and I was sure she would catch it. I didn’t see her for months. Finally, I agreed to meet her in the parking garage while she stayed in her car. A while ago, I came in after walking Micki and was furious that Ben had allowed her to come inside the apartment! I stayed in the kitchen, much farther away than the recommended six feet.
But there was one problem, one issue I couldn’t avoid. My parents. It seemed wrong to say I can’t come over and it seemed, well, very over dramatic. They lived in a high rise and had a group of three caretakers – all related – who rotated in and out their shifts. At 90 and 97, my parents could not be left alone during the day or night for fear they might trip in the dark, which did happen more than a few times.
The caretakers lived at their house but they also went to their own homes. They never wore a mask.
In my heart, I knew what was going to happen.
Months ago I told Ben, my parents are going to catch this from their caregivers. And then I extrapolated that to include me. There was no doubt.
During the summer when the virus cooled down before gathering up its strength to explode back into our lives, Ben and I started getting lax. He didn’t scrub his hands after a trip to the grocery store anymore. I had a service man in our apartment. You probably did the same thing. We had Covid fatigue. We were tired of the masks, the constant handwashing, the isolation. My apartment needed a good cleaning that only a professional could give it. It was enough already!!! I called my hairdresser and she came over and cut six months of growth and frizzy grey hair off my head. I was a new person!!
I joined my parents at their apartment for Thanksgiving, along with their three related caregivers. One of them told me she was so glad I had joined them. I was stunned. Was she implying she was hosting Thanksgiving in my parents apartment? The familiarity was startling and upsetting. It wasn’t professional. My sister and I both thought a change was needed but my parents were comfortable with the three relatives, almost defensive.
Looking back now, nothing would be right again.
Suddenly, the virus roared back into Houston – strong and virile, a kamikaze looking for new hosts to infect. We were all sitting ducks.
There was one saving grace. While the promise of a vaccine seemed like a fantasy at first, it became reality. Could it be? Would we really be saved in time by a vaccine?
I gave Ben a serious speech after Thanksgiving..
“Listen. We’ve almost made it. We have been so diligent. We never ate out. We never went to a store except for groceries. We’ve been alone. We’ve avoided crowds. But, we have gotten negligent. Let’s try really hard for another month or two until we can get the vaccine. Let’s scrub our hands and not touch doorknobs. We can do this! It’s one yard and goal.”
The only thing nagging in my mind was my parents. It was hard to not visit them. It seemed selfish and ridiculous. And now I feel incredibly guilty.
My mom started having acute memory loss one Monday. It wasn’t totally out of the blue, she had been having random lapses here and there, but this was different. She didn’t recognize my father. She didn’t recognize the caregivers. It was beyond frightening. I sobbed for a few days every time I thought of it. I was sure this was something serious. The doctor said to get a workup at a clinic. I was shocked, beyond scared, when they told me she tested positive for Covid. A CT scan showed no abnormalities in her brain. The memory loss was Covid. They called an ambulance and took her to the hospital. It’s a story repeated over and over and over again. When it happens to your family, you are numb, shell shocked, disbelieving. I’m still not exactly certain what happened, but the Covid attacked one lung and her heart worked hard to resist it.
While she was fighting for her life, other senior citizens in highrises were getting vaccinated. The irony is almost too much to take. I’m not sure why one highrise gets the vaccine and not another?
Even the Daily Mail had a story about the Houston highrise vaccines.
I tested myself twice – negative both times, but my sister and brother-in-law were positive. She caught it from her mother and passed it on.
Two of their caregivers had Covid.
Four or five days later, after we hired an entire new group of caregivers who properly all wore shields and gloves, my father began to have a nagging dry cough. He tested positive that day.
The doctor refused to send him to the hospital. He had no symptoms she said. He was alert, lucid, even pulled an F-bomb out when he grew tired of waiting in the clinic. Ornery to the end, I laughed.
Still, why would you not send a 97 year old to the hospital who tested positive for Covid?
We went home and the next day his cough turned stronger and then it completely stopped. He asked us to call his wife and that was the last coherent thing he said.
Did I say I feel guilty? It’s overwhelming.
My comfort is that he passed at home, in his bed, without complaint, and in no pain, with no machines and without the terror of being in a hospital, alone.
When I tested positive the next day, I felt some justice. Shouldn’t I too suffer what they had? Why should I be free of it? Didn’t I deserve what all my family had or would get?
So, I’m here. Praying my symptoms stay the same and don’t escalate. My first symptom was an upset stomach which I blamed on bad cantaloupe for three days. That was so really bad melon. When on the 4th I awoke with a very slight fever and severe lethargy, I knew the bad cantaloupe was no longer to blame. I’m tired. I have a bad head cold for which I take a decongestant Mucinex. Highly recommended. I kept smelling something sweet that was making me ill. But when I lit my Nest candle, I couldn’t even tell it was burning. I have a little sense of taste and smell, but just a tiny bit. Oops – that tiny bit might be gone now too.
I hate when I read some 40 year old died of Covid. It’s beyond scary.
We aren’t alone. There are several other elderly people who died of Covid contracted by their caregivers. While the media talks about the risk of nursing homes, the threat from caregivers is never mentioned. It should be.
Which is why I wrote this story. The clinic doctor told me he is seeing case after case of caregivers who pass it on to the elderly.
We were the unlucky ones. We almost made it.