August 14, 2020

Time to head back into the thickets of the Accidental Plague Diaries. I have no idea what I should write about this evening but that’s never stopped me before. Since my last entry, Alabama has easily crested 100,000 cases of Covid-19, the US death toll has climbed to nearly 170,000 and the world watches aghast as we prepare to send students back to school at all levels with community transmission still at unacceptably high rates. There is somewhat good news on this front. The percentage positive rate of tests in Alabama over the last week has come down from double digits and locally, the number of people in the hospital with Covid-19 has started to drop from a peak a few weeks ago. If these trends continue, the health care system is going to get a little breathing room. Any bump in numbers from back to school won’t occur for about three to four weeks.

I didn’t lose too many of my long term patients to Covid early in the pandemic, but I’m starting to lose more now. Three or four in the last two weeks. Some had been ill for some time, some were relatively newly diagnosed. I suspect that in pretty much all of the cases, a family member or friend brought it into the home after being out and about a bit more cavalier with their masking and social distancing due to summer weather and the wish for good times. When the grandkids and great grandkids head back to school, I expect I’ll see another uptick. I’ve also had friends lose spouses, parents, grandparents, and siblings recently. It’s not over until it’s over.

I’ve accepted an offer on the house and the real estate wheels are churning along and everything should be over and done with by the first of October. One more month of double mortgage payments… If the contract stands, it’s going to a family with young children where both parents work from home. Tommy would like that. He adored kids and working with them. I think the happiest I ever saw him was when he was teaching and leading his beloved children’s choir. Steve adored being the wicked uncle to children and leading them into mischief and then vanishing before there could be any consequences. There are days when I think I’ve missed out not having children, but then I realize that the unit of survival is the tribe, not the individual, and my role is to ease the burdens of the older generation and their nurturers so that they have time and energy to give to their children and grandchildren and I feel a bit better about my choices.

Covid and its roiling of health care finances has hit how my job works. The hospice I have medical directed for for many years and UAB are parting ways. Fortunately, it is happening at the same time that the VA part of my job is working diligently to expand the rural house call program to a new population centered in Huntsville so it’s all going to come out in the wash. Most of the house call work is still being handled through video conferencing but plans are afoot to get back into the field later in the fall. I will probably ultimately be doing a mix of field work and call work. I hadn’t planned on working in a call center late in my career but nothing ever stays the same in life, no matter what. As long as I can cobble together enough funding to keep my bills paid, I’m happy. I’m only about twenty months away from instituting the first part of my retirement plan. I am vested in the University of California pension system from my years there and it stops accruing when I turn sixty so I’ll officially become retired faculty from there when I hit that birthday and start drawing a pension. When I was young, I was sure I would flame out and be dead by thirty five. Now I’m becoming an old age pensioner.

I was industrious this evening after I made my dinner. I washed all of my face masks, got the iron out, blew the dust off of it, and gave them all a good steam ironing for disinfecting and dewrinkling purposes. Rodgers and Hammerstein is good music to iron to in case you were wondering. The weekend has a few chores lined up. I have to get my office supplies organized (currently they’re thrown in a closet). I bought some shelving to help with that which I need to assemble. Tommy and I bought a lot of do it yourself assembly furnishings and shelves over the years and we would sit in the living room trying to insert tab A into slot B with screwdrivers and rubber mallets kvetching at each other that he wasn’t doing his part right. I guess I’ll have to complain bitterly to the cats when something doesn’t want to fit this go round. I also have a couple of lectures to write for community education programs and there’s a dozen and a half progress notes from this week calling my name.

Now that the initial shock of the Covid world has worn off, I’m puzzling out how to keep myself motivated. Over the last couple of years, since Tommy’s untimely death, I’ve done it by having about one thing a month to look forward to: a trip somewhere, a show to rehearse and perform, a special concert. All those self rewards are now on indefinite hold and I haven’t figured out how to replace them yet. The effects of Covid on my job plus the craziness of moving have kept me sufficiently distracted in recent months, for the most part, but it’s unclear to me, now that things are settling down into new routine, what should come next. I have a few more projects to accomplish around the house, several of which will take some time, but those feel like obligations, not rewards. Maybe I’ll do a little weekend road tripping this fall, depending on what happens to the Covid numbers once the school impact becomes clear and once all the Sturgis motorcyclists make their way home and spread whatever they’ve picked up.

I’ve always been one to cope, pick myself up after reverses, and keep chugging along. It’s been present since I was very small. My parents tell a story about a camping trip we took when I was three or four (I remember the trip, but not this incident – I know my age as my sister had not yet joined the family and she was born shortly after my fifth birthday). My parents were very outdoorsy types in Washington State so we did a lot of backpacking and car camping when I was a child. My parents and I had gone up into the mountains where we had put up the tent and were enjoying the sights and smells of the Pacific Northwest woods. Next to our campsite was a large tree with some invitingly low branches and I wanted to climb it. My parents said no, it wasn’t going to be a good climb for someone of my size. (I was a tiny child). I wheedled and cajoled and put forth all my best reasoned post toddler arguments. Eventually I was told ‘Fine, but if you fall, don’t come crying to us’. So I climbed up, and sure enough I fell. It wasn’t a big enough fall to really hurt me but it knocked the wind out of me. My parents watched to see what I would do. I picked myself up, bit my lip, and uttered not a sound. I had been told the consequences and I accepted them. I’m still that way.

Go ahead and climb your trees everyone but, if you fall out, deal with the pain and shock you were warned about.

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