By PEPPER EDMISTON,
Circling the News Contributor
DECEMBER 30, 2021: Covid has been especially tough for us Baby Boomers. What with hair dye, face fillers, plastic surgery, fat extraction, breast-raising and other modern magic, we look nothing like our grandparents did when they slipped into their seventies. We don’t look like them and we don’t think like them.
Our grandparents were thrilled to be alive at seventy-five, as the life expectancy for males born in 1880 was a swift forty-five years. Plus, our parents, born around 1920, were equally grateful. My dad lived to ninety and whenever he was asked how he felt, answered, “Just happy to be vertical.”
We expect to be vertical and cute. When we take our grandkids for a walk, we assume we’re mistaken for the mommy. When we go to the pharmacy with a prescription for a statin, we figure the pharmacist thinks it’s for our dad. And, when a salesperson says “Mam,” we know he’s speaking to the old lady behind us. But, he’s not. He’s talking to us, to me.
Covid has been confusing because we don’t know how we fit in. We’ve been horrified at the deaths of thousands of people in nursing homes. We know we’re not them, not the “truly old.” But, are we old at all? Very recently, we were middle-aged and could graciously accept that. But we aged out of that group because, OMG, our kids have become middle-aged! Are we elder middle-agers or young truly oldsters? Or are we just plain f…king old and had better learn to live with it?
Whoever we are, my dear husband Joe got Covid. He was the family’s first gift on Christmas morning. Surprise!! Other than Joe, we all tested negative. Everyone else headed for the hills, but where could I go? Every bedroom in our house is filled with family, whom we love and who will never, ever move out. (Another time, another story.)
We have what was formerly known as the “Master Suite,” and is now called “The Place with the Most Flushing.” You enter through a door into a small hall, maybe 5 feet long. On the right, a pair of sliding doors opens to the bedroom. On the left, a sliding door opens to my dressing room. Straight ahead another sliding door opens to my office. The hall area is neither pretty nor roomy, but there it is. Doors that were rarely used have become barricades against death.
Joe, who is disobedient in the best of times, got the bedroom, because his bathroom is adjacent. He only needs to remember two things: when you exit the bedroom, close the sliding doors shut, and always wear a mask. He has never, not once, closed the doors fully. He does mask up, but not neatly. I can feel the Covid molecules escaping the bedroom and see them sliding out of Joe’s mask. I try to keep away but sometimes we collide in the kitchen. I screech and back up, causing Joe to throw up his hands and retreat to his library. That has been our entire relationship since Christmas, other than a daily call.
I am sleeping on my office couch which I bought from an old friend. Before his divorce, he slept on it for months. When I’m dozing, I sometimes feel his pain and other times feel his relief. Amazon Prime delivered a foam mattress pad and a mattress cover. Both are too large and keep slipping off the sofa but are better than the floor. I’m roughing it, a little bit like camp, but instead of fun roommates, high anxiety is my constant companion.
At first, I wore a KN95 when venturing out of my office. But, as the opening in Joe’s double doors kept widening, my fear increased. I am now double-masked. When I leave, I quickly open and close the office sliding door. Then, I quickly open the dressing room sliding door but not fully. If it’s closed tight, it will never open again. The house is thirty years old – an ancient ruin in today’s world. So, the virus can creep into my little dressing room, which is why I keep a window open. Wind and rain sleet onto my face and I shiver violently, but at least there’s ventilation.
The dressing room has a regular door into my bathroom. But, in opening it, who knows what zooms in there? So, I only take my mask off to shower & brush my teeth. To exit: Mask up, hold breath. Quickly open and close bathroom door; open and close stuck sliding door; open and close other sliding door. Now, multiply that by fifteen which, as any Baby Boomer knows, is the number of times you need to interface with the privy in a given day. Breathe in, slide open, slide close, slide open, close not fully, open, close, pee, breathe out, breathe in, open, close, slide open, close not fully, slide open, slide close, breathe out. Repeat fifteen times.
So, that is my life. I’ve tested negative three times on the home kits, but I’ve heard those tests don’t read the Omicron virus very well, so I’m getting a formal PCR when it stops raining. If I’m positive, I’ll still maintain this schedule because more virus from Joe could make me sicker. Actually, I’m becoming accustomed to the old couch and sliding door routine. I’m considering maintaining this arrangement indefinitely as it will probably add years to our marriage, keeping us together until we are the truly old.
(P.S.–Joe is doing well. His breathing is strong and, bless his heart, he never complains!)