We Said 2018 Sucked, 2020 Said Hold My Beer.

Sometimes my lack of blogging is annoying. It’s like working out, or keeping that countertop space clear, where you SAY this time you’ll make it a habit, and have every intention of doing so, but somehow just never quite get to it. Work gets busy, other people in the house keep throwing their crap there after you’ve just cleaned it up(OMG, will you STAAAHHHPPP doing that!), and after a while other things become priority. Before you know if you just feel guilty when you think about it, and then you kind of give up. Bump that to the next year’s resolution list. Next year for sure. We got this.

This time, it’s almost comical looking back. Not in a ‘hahahaha’ funny kind of way. In the way you laugh at something really awful, because sometimes a morbid joke is better than breaking down crying. Tears can make you feel hopeless. A laugh, no matter how grim, says if nothing else, at least we have our sense of humor. 2018 was job stress. In 2020 people died. A lot of them.

2020 has been the year of Covid.

Back in mid-January we started to hear about a respiratory illness spreading in China. Not much was being reported, and it sounded like a variation of the flu. A more virulent, easily spreadable flu, but contained to a very small area of China. By the end of January there were reports of isolated cases and some small clusters of outbreaks in 18 other countries. While they found a few single cases among travelers in the US at that time, it didn’t start to hit most people’s radars until there was an outbreak on a cruise ship in early March. At this point some of us began watching the numbers daily, because it was fascinating to watch the exponential spread happen on the dashboards just like in any pandemic or zombie movie. There had been some deaths by then, but not many, and a lot about the virus was still unknown.

By mid-March, it was becoming apparent this would not be contained easily, and those of us who could found ourselves working remotely, schools shut down and went virtual, and a lot of restrictions came regarding restaurants, stores, gyms, bars and other places that held groups of people. We were encouraged to wear masks when we left the house, though at first that was optional. That proved to be a huge mistake. The closures were inconsistent, the message from government was that this was not a big deal, and that led to a lot of feeling(mostly from conservatives in this country) that the entire thing was a huge over-reaction, and a big conspiracy for the government to ‘control people’s lives’. As such people continued to socialize, restrictions were flaunted, and the virus continued to spread.

As I write this, we are in the second wave, and we stand at 317,929 for the US Covid-19 death count so far, with the numbers growing exponentially every day. For comparison, we typically lose 34k a year to the flu, and we are currently trending at about 4k deaths a day from this. So many people I know have lost friends and loved ones, and people losing multiple family members is no longer uncommon. Most people who get the virus tend to be asymptomatic, or get a very mild case. That unfortunately seems to fuel the theories that it’s no big deal. And it’s true that most people recover completely. The most at risk seem to be the elderly and people with things like asthma, diabetes, etc. It’s equally true that a LOT of otherwise healthy young people have died, or become ‘long haulers’ who require oxygen supplementation several months out just to function. Strokes, heart attacks, blood clots…not uncommon in healthy 20 to 40-somethings with this virus. Still many continue to deny that it’s anything more than the flu, refuse to wear masks, and fight against the restrictions that have helped many other countries get this under control.

The upside to all this is that two vaccines have just been approved and are starting to be rolled out. There are a lot of hiccups happening with that, and they won’t be widely available to the general public until probably late spring, although health officials are trying their best to get it out faster, a goal we hope will be more easily attained with the incoming Biden administration. Only time will tell.

My Grandmother Passed Away Last Night

I just got a message from my dad that my grandmother passed away last night. Pnuemonia, just like my grandfather years before her.

She and I hadn’t spoken in several years. My soon to be ex has a large extended family, and friends from south Florida that though he hadn’t spoken to in years, “would be very upset if they are not invited”. Since we couldn’t afford to have a huge wedding, he decided we would each invite our best friend, and either we did it that way, or we wouldn’t get married at all. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I gave in. Once my grandmother got hold of this, she called me and cussed me out for not inviting the family. She wouldn’t have been able to make the trip herself due to health issues, but that didn’t stop her from giving me a piece of her mind on the issue. I was later told she had started doing this to everyone; they said she was starting to become confused and was having angry outbursts.

A year or two later I got a card from her letting me know she ‘forgave’ me for the wedding blowup, and that she loved me. I heard through others in the family her health went pretty rapidly downhill after that, and from what I gather she spent a lot of time not completely aware of what was going on around her. I never talked to her after that phone call about the wedding. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and the thought of talking to her and her not knowing who I was freaked me out in a way I can’t describe.

I don’t know all the stories, but I know her relationships with my aunts and uncles were usually on the rocky side. She had a habit of trying to tell people how they should handle their lives, and I quite clearly remember the term ‘cantankerous old bitch’ being applied to her at more than one family gathering. I think that now and laugh. She was as stubborn as they come.

As annoying as she could be, you had to respect her. She was devoutly Catholic, and went to church as long as her health would allow. She and my grandfather, who she took care of till he passed away, raised 11 children together. She was a nurse, then an English teacher, (which explains why she corrected my grammar constantly when we were together). In her retirement years she volunteered with an adult literacy program, worked as an aid to an Alzheimer patient, and took in foster kids, the teenagers that were usually hard to place because of their age.

She loved going to the movies, and took me often as a child. Her place was a refuge when things got bad with my mom, and I loved spending the weekend with her. She took me to church, and to the opera, and her apartment was where I started sneaking out from as a teenager. She encouraged my reading habits, never making a fuss if I spent most of the weekend with her with my nose in a book. She loved my best friend like she was family.

We grew apart as I got older, and I guess to some degree that’s natural. I wish I had made more of an effort to keep contact, and I wish she hadn’t been so damn stubborn herself. I’m sure she had a lot of her own regrets, but I hope she was at peace with them when she passed.

My grandmother was a tough old bird who touched a lot of lives, and I hope she knows she was one of my biggest heroes.