Dear Diary

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Dear Diary

So here it is, my 62nd birthday. It took forever to get here as the long, scary, AWFUL year that was 2020 trudged along at a snails pace. Unfortunately 2021 didn’t start out as any bargain either.

The new year wasn’t the cause for celebration I once hoped it would be. The virus was still thriving because people got impatient, the Feds didn’t listen to the science, and we reopened too soon. Long story short, over 500,000 people in this country are dead and the numbers have only recently started to plateau. At least we have finally started to come together as a nation, but what a torturous path it was to get here.

I was a kid in 1968 and had no understanding of how torn apart this country really was. It wasn’t until I watched some of the historical retrospectives on that year that I fully understood and appreciated the turmoil and divide that plagued us. I was happy not to have been an adult during that time because I would have been freaking out, fearing for our future, and gave thanks that I would never have to live through anything like that. Of course, the second half of 2020 made 1968 look like a walk in the park.

When roughly half the states ignored the scientists pleas and reopened in June, the results were actually pretty good for a short while. The naysayers and those who embraced the fake news mantra puffed their chests out and screamed “I told you so.” Trump’s popularity skyrocketed, and the economy started showing signs of coming back.

Then the second surge hit. It ravaged Middle America and the rural population areas before spreading outward to both coasts. Even though a good chunk of Trump’s  cabinet got sick, the President typically insisted it was all a hoax designed to make him look bad. When the Northeast, the Mid Atlantic and the West coast continued to resist opening, and were joined by some of the states who realized the terrible mistake they had made, his “followers” took things into their own hands, and the violence that erupted far surpassed that of 1968.

When the second surge exploded, the scientist’s fears came to fruition: hospitals got overrun and could not meet the demand, in part because our testing capability was worse than when the initial surge hit, and because the second surge took out a lot of our front line healthcare workers as the PPE shortage forced clinicians have to wear what they had longer than they did the first time around.  Meanwhile, our food supply chain collapsed, and unemployment got as high as 40%. Only recently has it started to decline. It has dropped to 34% and continues to decrease.

When Trump and the Republicans got crushed in November, he claimed the results fraudulent, which wasn’t a surprise since he started beating that drum during the summer, saying he was afraid of massive voter fraud designed to remove him from office. Insisting he was cheated, he refused to accept the results, the followers hit the streets and the second wave of violence hit. Thank God the Supreme Court ruled against him, but he still didn’t change his tune until he, Pence and President-Elect Biden got the virus.  We really didn’t start coming together as a nation, however, until Biden died shortly before the inauguration (Trump and Pence survived, barely). Thankfully Biden’s passing did not occur until after the electoral college formally cast its votes, and the results became official and irrevocable. Who knows what might have happened otherwise. The country has rallied around the Harris/Warren administration, and I think we are finally starting to heal.

As for me, we still haven’t sold the house, and can’t even rent it. If this goes on for another three months I am going to have to dip into the retirement funds, but at this point I could really give a shit. I’ve lost close to a dozen friends, colleagues and relatives to the disease, so the fact that Nidan, K and I have survived is all that counts. The fact that I am among the lucky 66% still working is a blessing too. Things could be infinitely worse.

You know diary, I always thought I was lucky to be born when I was. I mean, I got to experience The Beatles, saw man walk on the moon, witnessed the Red Sox win not only one World Series but four, saw the turn of the new century and so many technological advances it makes your head spin. But never in my life did I ever expect to witness what I have these past nine months, when the dark side of human nature was unleashed. I even bought a gun when the looting got really bad, for goodness sakes. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever happen.

At least the population got so pissed and disgusted that there finally seems to be enough momentum to pass Congressional term limits. Cover themselves in glory they did not, and the electorate seem firm in their conviction that any house rep or senator who votes against it will serve for only one term.  It’s a pity it took something so catastrophic to make this happen.

I am cautiously optimistic the page has been turned, and am looking forward to being able to go where I please without fear, not to mention being able to watch professional sports some time in the near future. I don’t know what VE or VJ days were like at the end of World War Two, but I can’t imagine a bigger celebration than the one that will occur when the vaccine that has finally been developed is rolled out in a few days. 

So enough of the maudlin shit, diary! Life as we knew it appears to be finally returning, so a huge HORRAY is in order, and it is time to turn the page.  Having said that, it’s silly to assume life will be the same as it was before the pandemic hit. How could it after all the death, carnage and animosity? We have all been touched by this in some fashion, and are forever changed as a result. Only time will tell if it is for the better or the worse.

 

The Greatest Generation is Rolling In Their Graves

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Allow me to vent.

“The Greatest Generation” was the moniker coined for those folks who grew up during the depression, endured The Dust Bowl and also endured World War Two, either as soldiers or citizens supporting them on the home front. These resilient people endured hardships and deprivations none of us can imagine. I can guess what they might think if they were here to witness what is occurring today among those who are demonstrably chafing against the states closing down and some of the rules they implemented regarding social distancing and facemasks.

I’m all for people having their own thoughts and opinions about anything. Everyone is entitled to their own belief system regarding what the government should or shouldn’t do that encroaches on our lives.

Having said that, I am nauseated by some of the stories I’ve read about citizens taking things into their own hands to protest what the states have done in an effort to protect its citizens as a whole.

Shooting people? Killing people? Resorting to violence? Literally getting in citizens’ and law enforcement personnel faces and sometimes spitting in in them? Opening and licking ice cream containers in grocery stores? When did this kind of stuff ever become acceptable?

Then there is the stupid stuff, like some guy from Long Island suing the University of Connecticut because their child isn’t getting the benefit of the full college experience. Really? Like it’s UCONN’s fault.

We’ve been at this for less than two months. Can you imagine if these people had to live through the dust bowl, or had to endure rationing for almost four years to support a war effort? They’d lose their minds. Forget riots. Armageddon would be more like it.

I know, I know. It was a different time. Attitudes were different and so were how we were raised as children. But still, when has it become okay for anyone to express an opinion in such a way that it endangers the lives of others? When did this sense of entitlement take hold?

Like I said, anyone can have their views about the pandemic, and what the states are doing.  But how about taking some responsibility and having accountability for your actions? These folks take none. Their attitudes are similar to those of the White House, who by not taking any leadership role is in a position where they can avoid responsibility for whatever happens (unless it is good, of course), leaving it up to each and every governor to decide what is best for their state. That way they can be blamed when things go tits up by reopening too soon. If the economy tanks there is little chance the incumbent gets re-elected, so the welfare of people be dammed. Let’s get the economy rolling again. Talk about having one’s priorities in order. Don’t they pay attention to the science?

Yes, these infringements on our lives suck. I’m getting impatient like everyone else. I hate being cooped up at home, and hate having to wear a mask and gloves when I venture out. I hate the shortages and the fact that so many people are struggling. But I believe in the science and believe it is all for the common good. And I would rather be inconvenienced than sick or dead, or have those I love in that position.

To say these developments are worrisome and discouraging are an understatement. I fear that throwing caution to the wind and reopening before more testing is available and all the trends are pointing in the right direction is a recipe for disaster. There are over 3,000 new cases a day of citizens testing positive for the virus in this country, for goodness sake. It is starting to hit rural America too. What will happen to this figure, in addition to fatalities by reopening prematurely? It will certainly increase, but by how much. Double? Triple? Will hospitals become so overrun that they won’t care for people above a certain age or present certain symptoms? Will the spread of the disease impact nurses and doctors so much there aren’t enough of them to handle the incoming surge? These are all fair and legitimate questions, ones I fear have more truth than not.

I’d rather be cautious and err on the side of opening up too late than too early. The consequences are too dear.

So what do we call this generation or group of people suing everyone and engaging in or inciting violence? The Whiners? The Whiniest Generation? The Its About Me Generation? The I don’t Give A Shit About Anyone Else Generation?

It’s sad, and I’m afraid it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

 

The Day Death Was Near

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This is a story about allowing your mind to write checks your body can’t cash.

I don’t think I’ve even shared this with K, primarily because I know what she would say, and I’ve done enough self-flagellation. The long and short of it is that when you have any kind of disability, there are things you know you probably can’t do anymore, and it’s never smart to test that theory. I wasn’t smart one summer afternoon almost four years ago, and my consequence could easily have been tragic.

We were vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, and Shodan and I were at Lucy Vincent beach while K and her girlfriend were out and about. The surf was rough, as it had been during our entire stay. There is a color coded display as you walk on the beach that describes the water conditions and what they represent in terms of surf, undertow and things of that nature. If the color of the day is red, the beach is closed. If it happens to turn red during the day, lifeguards do their best to get everyone out of the water.

On this particular day, about half-way into our trip, the color on display was one or two levels below the “do not go in” threshold. In fact, it had been that color for our entire stay. I don’t remember the exact color, but you get the point. Any fool could see that the waves were impressive, and the sound they made crashing into the beach was loud. The conditions were perfect for anyone who was into body surfing or had a boogie board. If I remember correctly, there had been a handful of people on surfboards during the previous days.

Shodan had been living in the water and was having a blast. He’d periodically call out to me to join him, but Smart Steve had resisted the call. He had ventured into ankle-deep water on a handful of occasions, and needed the cane to stay upright because the undertow was strong and the waves would occasionally crash on his legs. Smart Steve knew that if he was having a hard time in ankle deep water, going out any further would be a fools errand, particularly when he considered the fact that the tide was high and a handful of very large rocks scattered about the ocean floor, easily visible during low tide, were currently underwater.

But Foolish Steve wanted in. He hadn’t frolicked with his son all week, and knew that once he got out to about chest level, and beyond the crashing waves, the buoyancy of the water would mitigate his symptoms. Once in, he could maneuver around easily in the zero-gravity like environment, bob like a cork on the water, and enjoy the experience. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made, so Foolish Steve plotted his strategy.

Limping back to his blanket, and almost stumbling as his foot caught in the fine sand, he ditched his cane, trudged out to the surf, and waded in. Spying a large oncoming wave, he half-dove half-fell directly into it, and swam out to sea. Feeling his body rise and fall with the incoming surf, he stopped shortly thereafter, when it became obvious he had cleared the worst of the waves. Standing up in neck deep water, he surveyed the scene, saw he was well beyond the danger zone, moved closer to the shore until the water was chest deep, and stood upright.

So there I was, basking in the bright sunlight, enjoying the feel of the cool water on a warm summer day, watching the gulls fly overhead, and the mist of the surf that had crashed upon the beach drift into the cliffs. I could move freely and not feel clumsy, which allowed me to rough-house with Shodan for an extended period of time.

When it became time to return to my blanket, I had to plot an exit strategy. The smartest thing to do would have simply been to have Shodan guide me to the shore, and once it was shallow enough, walk toward the sandy beach with him leading the way, my hands on his shoulders. But, I was feeling my oats, let my bravado overtake common sense, and decided to body surf my way into shore.

This strategy worked temporarily. The first wave didn’t get me very far, so I emerged and tried to stand upright to prepare myself for the next one. I only managed to get one foot planted, and hadn’t yet taken a full breath, when the next wave slammed me from behind, and plunged me into the cauldron.

Since I was off balance to begin with when the wave hit, my feet were nowhere near the ocean floor as I was being rolled around like I was in a washer’s spin cycle. I thrashed around, trying to get my body upright, but not having the use of two good legs was a detriment. I became disoriented, but the bottom of my foot luckily scraped against the ocean floor, and I was able to dig one heel into the sand. To say my adrenaline was pumping is an understatement. That temporarily brought the spin cycle to a stop.

I tried to get both feet planted and lift my torso out of the water so I could take a breath, but another wave crashed and spun me around some more. Somehow, I remain calmed and held my breath. I think subconsciously knew I was close to shore, and that if I could hang in there, something would touch the ocean floor again. I’d be even closer to shore, which might allow me to get on my hands and knees, and at get my head out of the water.

If I had I panicked, I would have inhaled water and, with the boiling ocean tossing me around like a rag doll, drowned less than twenty feet from shore. The problem was that this particular spin cycle lasted longer than the previous one. My lungs were burning, and I realized that if I did not get air soon I’d be in serious trouble.

Fortunately, my back and butt scraped the ocean floor. I instinctively managed to get on my hands and knees, knelt upright, and poked my head out of the water. My eyes, which had been closed tight throughout the ordeal, popped open as I gratefully took a deep breath. I was still a little disoriented, but once things came into focus I could see I was facing out torwards the open sea and was immediately greeted by another wave, which hit me in the face and threw me backwards a few feet. Fortunately, my mouth was closed, and it was shallow enough by that point where I could extend my arms and push myself back onto my knees.

Shodan was in deeper water looking around to see where I was. I wasn’t sure if he had noticed what happened or recognized the trouble I was in, but his eyes locked onto mine and he smiled. I called to him and he free-styled over. When he arrived I placed him in front of me, stood up, placed my hands on his shoulders and had him lead me towards the safety of the beach. As we approached the shore, my legs, which were trembling slightly, could feel the strength of the incoming waves and the force of the undertow. I also noticed that the large rocks I had mentioned earlier were a short distance from where I finally emerged from the angry sea. If I had crashed upon those as I was being tossed around, it would have been game, set, match.

Arriving at our blanket, I sunk into the beach chair and grabbed a towel while Shodan ran back into the water. The gravity of what had just occurred hadn’t fully registered, but I knew that I was very fortunate to be breathing.

Looking back at this, I don’t remember how long I was submerged and helpless. I think it was somewhere between half a minute and a minute, but it felt much longer. The experience was harrowing, to say the least. Had I been able to fill my lungs with air before the first wave hit, the situation might not as felt as desperate, but I didn’t have that luxury. I couldn’t see anything, felt like a tumbleweed in a tornado, and was trying to stay focused so I wouldn’t do something to compound my stupidity, like inhale. Fortunately, I didn’t run out of time.

It’s funny what you think about when confronted with something like that. I remember being embarrassed that I might die on vacation in less than six feet of water, and the scene that would cause. I worried terribly about K, Shodan, my parents, and what this would do to them. I also remember thinking K would want to strangle me if she knew what was going on.

The surf did not subside during the remainder of our stay. Needless to say, other than walking along the beach, I did not step foot in the Atlantic again.

That day taught me are there are certain lines you don’t cross. I already knew that, but did not think of myself as a disabled person. I thought my symptoms might have progressed, because walking was a little harder, my limp was more pronounced, and my balance seemed more tenuous. But my progression was so incrementally slow, I wasn’t sure if this was real or my imagination. But walking in the fluffy sand was much more difficult compared to our visit the previous year. That should have been all the confirmation I needed to understand the progression was real, yet I still ventured out into that tempest. Maybe I though I was bullet-proof. Whatever the reason, it was a foolish, arrogant and reckless act.

I was lucky to survive it.