Plans were set in motion months ago, long before I lost my job. A cross-country summer driving trip to see all my kids—from Florida to Lexington to Boulder to Portland to Olympia and back home to Florida via Indiana. I mapped and timed everything meticulously, booked all the Airbnbs, and counted down the days to the big adventure.
One thing I didn’t do? Buy travel insurance. (This is the part of the story that’s called “foreboding.”)
After a few days in Lexington, some fun dinners with Gus and friends, and a friendly game of pickleball with some new recruits, my back played its Nope Card. (Any “Exploding Kittens” fans out there?) I’d had an SI joint injection on Monday, and I was sure it was going to be the be-all, end-all. But when I was lying in a rented bed on Friday night, crying in pain, I knew I couldn’t travel any more.
It was heartbreaking to make the decision, brutal to tell the remaining three kids that we had to turn around and go home. They were lovely, of course, worried only about my health and well-being, but my gawd, I was so looking forward to hugging their necks and seeing their homes and climbing their mountains and watching their birds and hiking their trails and hugging their pets.
Flash back to a Thursday night Goodfellas gathering in Lexington where Jan and Terry drove from Indiana to see us—a complete and total surprise. I turned around and saw Jan’s sweet face, and it took me a moment to put everything together. Terry had seen the open invitation online and offered to drive Jan. It was a perfect surprise, coordinated with Gus. It was everything.
Then Terry, who had no symptoms on Friday night, but who was feeling a bit under the weather the next morning, tested positive for Covid on Saturday.
On the beginning of the drive home Saturday, my throat began to hurt. On Sunday, I feared the worst. On Monday, I tested positive for Covid. (So did Jan.) Julie tested positive on Tuesday. As I began canceling Airbnbs, I begged for Covid mercy when considering refunds. All the answers were the same: Did you buy travel insurance? (You know that answer already.) “Then we can’t do anything else for you. We suggest you consider travel insurance in the future.”
What a kick in the Covid shins. So now, not only do I not get to see my kids, I have my inaugural case of Covid (after avoiding it for three years), I’m out a huge chunk of non-refundable change, and I’m still unemployed and not bringing in any money to replace what I lost. This is the point when I go back to that lost job and start spiraling about how fucked up that whole toxic situation was. Do you ever do that? Spiral from one disappointment to another because they’re connected in some fundamental way? Like if I hadn’t lost that job, the lost Airbnb money wouldn’t have hit so hard? Or the back and hip MRIs wouldn’t have been so damn expensive? And then you perseverate about how angry you still are at that fucked up, shady job situation even though you’ve been trying to Zen your way through it like the enlightened human that you’re trying to be? But you know in your heart of hearts that you’re still bitter about it and you might be bitter about it forever? No? That’s just me?
So, back to the Covid debacle…
I think about my sweet, conscientious daughter who still wears a mask every time she’s out in public. “Mom,” she says, “so many of my friends are immunocompromised. So many people in this world are immunocompromised. It’s the least I can do.” She’s right, of course. Covid is a sneaky lil bastard. No symptoms at all, and then BAM! It’s got you. And it still spreads like wildfire. I wish I was as dedicated and kind as Mary Claire. But it’s so damn hot in Florida. So, I’ve been lax with mask-wearing. And it’s not about fear. Of course, I don’t want Covid. But even more than not wanting Covid, I don’t want to pass Covid on. I’m relatively young and healthy in comparison to many of my neighbors in central Florida. The very least I can do is try not to make their lives any harder.
The very least we can do for each other is to try and not make things harder.
I’m looking for the Covid positives so I can get my foggy brain out of the job and money loss negatives, and here’s what I’ve learned so far…
- Friends are amazing. With daily deliveries of homemade chicken noodle soup, cheesesteaks, Polar Pops, groceries, cleaning supplies, trash pick-ups, and yard trimming, our friends and neighbors have kept us loved and fed and taken care of from a safe distance. We have enough germ-killing substances to rid the world of all its evils once we can stay awake long enough to do it.
- I have never, ever really lost my appetite before. I’m the girl who ate a cheeseburger on the ride home from having my wisdom teeth removed. When I had mono, all I wanted to do was eat. Surgery recovery? Food, please. For the first time in my remembered life, I just have no interest in eating. It’s a weird sensation, but I’m grateful I got to experience it. Now I know what people are talking about when they say they’ve lost their appetite, and what’s more powerful than understanding someone else? Also: unexpected weight loss. I’ll take it.
- Squalor. Pure, unadulterated squalor. We are both clean freaks living in small, compact, germy squalor. And we’re too sick and tired to even care. The mess will wait.
- Dogs know. They just do. These sweet babies haven’t left our sides since we tested positive. I mean, they don’t really have anywhere else to go, but they follow us from room to room, waiting to see where we drop next so they can drop beside one of us. And there’s nothing more comforting than dog snuggles and no-pressure naps with the coziest pups around. Also, dogs on Tik Tok. When I can’t sleep, I scroll through incessantly. It requires very little effort, and my algorithm is primed with pups (with a few babies and lesbians thrown in for good measure).
- The Food Network. I’ve watched so many episodes of Chopped and Guy’s Grocery Games that if you brought me a goat leg, some sour hard candies, frozen durian, and a nut-covered cheeseball, I’d have a 5-star meal ready for you by 6:00. I’m pretty sure that when all of this is over, I’m going to Beat Bobby Flay.
- I got to watch an old friend’s daughter play in the Zionsville Little League softball regionals on ESPN+. I hadn’t seen that little face since she was a toddler, and it was so fun to watch those girls play the sport they love so much. It warmed my old, gay, softball heart.
- My sweet cousin sent me a throwback Insta of Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” video out of the blue. Not many know of my (somewhat obsessive) adoration of the young Adam Ant, but those who have known and loved me the longest do. It was so good to be reminded of that long-lasting love, those memories that we keep with the ones who know us best. My sister, Carrie, took me to see him in concert. She knew.
- I think the very best thing about having Covid, though, has to be that I haven’t thought about, looked at, considered, or worn a bra since Saturday. Women, you get me. I know you do. I think my next mission in life is to rekindle the bra-burning protest of the 60s. Wouldn’t life just be better without them?
Wishing you all good health, free boobies, and dog snuggles. I’m off to nap now. Be sure to consider travel insurance.