Once again, I reached out to my friends living in an extended care facility to get an update. After all, they were in the first wave to be immunized, weren't they?
Recently I found myself Googling "heritability of hermit-like tendencies." After nine months of self-quarantine, I've become a bit worried that isolation is becoming too agreeable. I go from reading to watching Netflix to Zooming, with snacking in between. The days go by so fast it feels like the sun is setting every five minutes. That's when I think about my distant relative (to be truthful, not all that distant) who lived a century ago, alone in a stone hut in the woods in Posey County, Indiana. I really can't compare myself to Cousin Barter as my hut is warm and cheerful with dinner left at the door and an interesting spouse to talk to. Family lore is that the bearded cousin managed to survive with only one trip into town each year for supplies. We barely make it through the week before we have to dash through the IGA with masks on tight.
The lock-down we thought might last a month has become a familiar and almost comfortable way of life after ten months. I wonder if Cousin Barter planned to live in the woods his whole life or if the years just flew by, and before he knew it, he was famous as the hermit of Posey County. By then, the idea of living in town probably terrified him just as the thought of dinner at a noisy restaurant now seems overwhelming to me.
Rejoice. First one, then two vaccines are being approved. There will be an end to this horror, but first, there are roadblocks: fewer doses are shipped than promised; a few people have allergic reactions; people like us living independently in our senior community are excluded from the first wave to be vaccinated. The light doesn't show at the end until the tunnel is straight.
Not everyone is eager to line up to be vaccinated. A friend says he will not exercise his privilege and cut in front of people in developing countries or people of color here. Non-productive people like us should wait to be vaccinated until essential workers like checkout clerks, bus drivers, and teachers feel safer working. A neighbor recounts an allergic attack she once had and, unable to weigh competing risks, she seems more afraid of the epi-pen than the ventilator. And how can we trust our leaders who bungled other aspects of this pandemic to get the vaccine right? Don't overthink it, I say to myself. When they arrive with their picnic coolers, I'll ask where to line up.
Early this morning, they did arrive. In one day, they vaccinated 40 skilled-nursing patients and over a hundred employees and administrators. No reports of any side-effects. No word yet of the date for our turn.
It appears vaccination is the only way this horror will end. Many of our fellow citizens put their own needs first and will not accept directions from the experts to stay home.
Television images of hospital workers hustling to save patients share the split-screen with crowds of travelers in airports headed home for the holidays. Thousands of our countrymen die every day, and yet the population remains divided between the entitled selfish and the caring conscientious. To be fair, maybe the human need for social interaction is too great to overcome. Joking and reminiscing with the family on Zoom is fun while it lasts, but when it ends abruptly, a cool breeze seems to blow through the room, and one longs for a hug.
When my friend Molly turned 90, her lovely daughter insisted that she come live with her. I could envy Molly but not if it means living in Texas. That is until recently, when Molly reported that she was vaccinated. She had received an email out of the blue from her neighborhood hospital in Houston telling her when to show up for her shot. "That's why," she reported to her still-waiting New York friends, "You should all move to a red state."
Molly is now picturing shopping mask-less and playing bridge again. We are still waiting for some hint of our turn. We hear CVS is returning to this community next week for staff and volunteers who have changed their minds and will now agree to be vaccinated. Another time is set for the nursing home residents to get their second shot, but still, no date is on the calendar for those of us who live independently. However, we have been asked to indicate our interest in the vaccine for an unknown time in our unknown future.
We're a compliant group. We can wait.