Chapter Three – DISRUPTED, DERAILED, AND DAMAGED: COVID STRIKES
Though the strict “stay at home” quarantine was lifted as the number of reported Covid-19 cases diminished through the summer, the cautions in public places continued. Some restaurants began to open for indoor dining, but customers were to wear masks except when seated to eat. If you got up to use the restroom, the mask should go back on. The exhortations to wash hands and use hand sanitizer for were everywhere. I had gotten into the habit of using paper towels for the soap dispenser and to turn faucets on and off. Even opening a bathroom door presented fears as to what might be lurking on the handle. Churches were opening after only being online for months, but congregations were cautioned to use “elbow bumps” instead of handshakes and avoid hugging. Interaction in society had been severely disrupted, derailed, and (likely) forever damaged.
We attended a wedding in Vail for one of our former students where the bride and groom wore masks while reciting their vows and even when they began their first dance together as husband and wife.
One wish I had been waiting more than thirty years for came true in October when the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, held in a controlled, neutral site with a limited number of fans, practicing social distancing, spread throughout the stands.
Despite the restrictions and the accompanying fear of crowds, when I received an invitation from the mother of one of my former students to attend his sixteenth birthday blessing, I felt I should go. These rites of passage were practiced regularly in our church for boys and girls, where mentors, family, teachers, and friends gathered to share words of wisdom (and gifts for the girls’ hope chests) with the teen.
I remember Linda cautioning me that perhaps I shouldn’t go since we had been avoiding any kind of get togethers and limiting exposure to the public (even ordering groceries online to be delivered), but as the young man’s mom was a teacher at our school, and we were close to the family, I decided to attend.
No one wore masks and hands were shaken in greeting, and I later discovered that one of those present came down with Covid shortly afterwards. I have since concluded that this was where I encountered it.
I didn’t know this at the time, of course, and had no immediate symptoms, so despite the challenging circumstances, our oldest daughter’s family in-laws were gathering for Thanksgiving at a time share in Steamboat Springs.
Linda made use of some of our “Create” shop materials in providing a painting lesson for all who wanted to participate as one of the activities.
After four days in Steamboat, we returned home Saturday, and by Sunday evening I had “the chills.” They had cleared up by Monday, however I learned my school colleague had come down with Covid, so I decided I should get tested, which I did on Tuesday, December 1st.
The next evening I got a phone call saying the test was positive; we immediately took Linda for testing, though taste loss was her only symptom. I contacted our relatives from our Thanksgiving trip, urging them to be tested, and thankfully soon received replies that all were clear.
On Thursday, via zoom, I conducted what would turn out to be the last full class of my 46 years of teaching – 30 as a middle school English teacher for the Garfield RE-2 district, and since “retiring” in 2005, another 16 at The Garden School, now known as Liberty Classical Academy, where I taught “Humanities,” a combination of History, Reading, Writing, Speech, and English.
Throughout that night, I had a wracking cough, and Friday we got word that Linda’s test was also positive. On Saturday, my fever was up and down, and the hard coughing continued. Linda’s only symptom remained a loss of taste.
With a sense of foreboding, I wrote “Farewell” letters to each of the girls and to Linda. On Sunday I sent lesson plans for Monday and Thursday to Jo Hendrickson at LCA.
Monday, I passed out at home, and Linda called for an ambulance, because she couldn’t get me in the car by herself. I recall vaguely being helped into the back of an ambulance by two EMT’s and having a mask strapped to my face. It was a sensation with which I’d become very familiar in the weeks and months to come.