September 15, 2022

I am almost finished with the final edits for Volume II of the Accidental Plague Diaries (book form). It will be available for purchase next month sometime. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I never intended to write the first volume and now there’s about to be a second and there’s the strong promise of a third. What does it mean? Should I feel proud of the accomplishment? Maudlin at the ending of this phase of the project? Excited about holding a physical product sprung entirely from my intellect and imagination in my hands? Dejected that the total royalties will likely be not quite enough to buy dinner for one at Automatic Seafood? All of those at once? If I had more energy or time and wasn’t spending far more of my limited psychic resources trying to hold everything together at work, I might start putting together plans for readings and signing events but I just don’t know that I’ve got it in me at the moment. I’ll just throw the book out there and see what happens. In my wilder daydreams, somebody gets a copy to Oprah and she loves it and puts in her book club list and my career is made. Fat chance.

I think I’m still suffering from post Covid lethargy. Most of my friends who have had it this most recent go round have told me they were just tired for about a month after recovering from acute symptoms. I don’t feel sick. I just don’t have my usual energy. I’m making myself do all of my usual activities but at the end of the day when the circuit is done, I sit down and feel completely drained. Mid morning and mid afternoon I go through low periods where if I’m sitting still in a car or at a computer work station, I just black out and sleep for a few minutes. Coffee doesn’t seem to help. It doesn’t happen if I’m in constant motion, such as in clinic where I’m dashing from room to room with patients or back and forth from my office. It happened twice today. Once this afternoon while writing notes after today’s house calls and once this morning while doing house calls when I blanked out for a minute sitting on a patient’s too soft living room couch waiting for him to return from the bathroom.

If this is the extent of my long Covid, I can live with it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s going to lift in another week or two as it seems to have with peers. I’m not going to invite trouble and assume this is a new normal but I know from decades of doctoring how life can turn on a dime. You can be hale and hearty one minute and next saddled with a disease process that will keep you from leaving your house without grave difficulties. Good health and long life is promised to no one. You can increase your chances by making wise choices but sometimes the wheel just comes up green double zero and that’s that. One of my high school classmates passed on this past week. We’re now all sixty or so so we’ll start dropping more and more frequently from natural causes. There were only a hundred of us. A couple died young but most of us made it into healthy middle age but as the years go on, ‘natural causes’ will catch up with more and more of us.

Those of us in our sixties and seventies, who are generally in good health thanks to reasonable genetics, access to decent medical care, and good life choices are probably all sitting around and looking at the number of people in our parents generation still living vital functional lives in their late eighties and early nineties and assuming that we will be able to do the same. I’m not so sure. That generation, having come of age in a time of scarcity, may have gotten a longevity boost from the semi-starved rat hypothesis and we, their children, coming of age in a time of plenty, may not have that and our years may be less. Add to that the rather precipitous drop in life expectancy from the Covid pandemic and other social ills. And then there’s the unknown effects of climate change that may cause totally unpredictable health hazards going forward.

I read a number of sources of material on Covid and the pandemic and digest it before sitting down to write these musings. I look at charts and graphs. I read scientific papers. I look at opinion pieces from both sides of the divide. Perhaps the best general source I have found are postings by Katelyn Jetelina who writes as Your Local Epidemiologist. She has far greater training in public health and epidemiology than I and has a gift of translating complex data into an easily understood format. Her most recent posting was a succinct look at who is still dying from Covid in the US. We continue to lose 400+ people daily nationwide, making Covid still the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. The biggest predictor for mortality remains unvaccinated status. The more vaccines and boosters you have on board, the less likely you are to die. The second big predictor is age greater than 65. The majority of elders in the country have gotten their vaccines but not all and many, while they got their original vaccine, have not gotten boosted. So, if you’re an older individual, just keep getting your shots as they come down the pike. The bivalent omicron booster is becoming more and more available. I’m going to go get mine this next week.

Struldbruggs as envisioned by Louis Rhead

I can’t think of anything much worse than immortality without eternal youth. If you end up with an extra decade, it’s going to come in your 80s and 90s, not in your 20s and 30s no matter who you may be. Jonathan Swift got it right with his Struldbruggs of Luggnagg. If I cannot maintain my own body or am descending into the dream state of dementing illness to the point where I require 24 hour babysitting, I’ll be happy to go. At that point, death will be an old friend and I’ll be asking what took you so long. I have enough difficulty keeping up with the young uns and the way they look at the world at sixty and it’s going to be even harder in another generation or two, when those who understand the world as I do are slipping away.

We’re about to enter an interesting time. The Baby Boom, the generation that has dominated American culture for so long is going to start it’s die off in a few years. It really hasn’t begun yet. The oldest Boomers are 76 this year and will start turning 77 in a few months. This is still a relatively healthy cohort. In 2030, when the oldest boomers are turning 84, it’s going to be a very different equation. Assuming there aren’t more pandemics or other major disasters and death patterns are similar to what they have been recently, about 80% of the Baby Boom dies between 2030 and 2050. And given what I know about them characterologically, there will be a lot of raging at the dying of the light. Will this change the way American culture thinks of death? Will our death rituals change? What will younger generations do with the transfer of social power? Interesting thoughts to ponder on. But I’m not going to do that tonight. I’m too dang tired.

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