While it is not quite yet my birthday, it probably will be by the time I finish this and get it posted. Hard to believe but this one is 65 – officially a senior citizen. It is bizarre because I don’t generally feel that way. However I surely do when I look into a mirror or if I overdo it (which takes far less now than it used to). I often feel much like I felt at 18 and when my body can’t do what I ask of it, I am genuinely surprised. Now don’t laugh, but I am not talking about asking myself to run five miles; I am talking about things like seeing or hearing!! And actually go ahead and feel free to laugh!
It reminds me of my day when he was in his early 80’s. We spoke on the phone and he told me he was going to try out for softball again. He played ball all his life and was quite good, but had hung up his cleats at least ten years earlier. He was quite excited about it and promised to let me know how it went. So the following week we spoke again and I asked how it had gone. His response stays with me to this day – he said: well… I couldn’t throw too well… and I couldn’t catch particularly well… and I couldn’t run very fast… and I didn’t really hit well… but aside from that it went well. Such wit!
But the odd thing with me is that I still believe it’s there; it’s only lacking because I haven’t worked on it. I haven’t lifted weights in a while so my muscle mass is not as much; I haven’t run in a while so my endurance is not as great; I haven’t stretched in a while so I am not as limber. But it’s all still there – just under-developed due to lack of exercise and training – a return to those activities would certainly respawn the strength or endurance I may have let slip over the last number of years. The truth is, of course, that bodies decline and decay with age and no amount of training will have me lifting the weights I used to be able to or run a mile as fast as I used to. However training and exercise will always improve performance, regardless of your age – you will get better. But back to 18 better? Not so much!
But loss and age inevitably go hand in hand and you can live in a river in Egypt (denial) or you can mitigate the impact as best you can and then accept that which cannot be changed, as begrudgingly as you so need. But at the same time, rejoice at all the other gifts that life has bestowed upon you through your years; the wisdom imparted by living is priceless and is truly a gift. As my tagline reads: “the lesson of life is that life is the lesson”. We learn every day through living, through life. Am as I strong or as fit as I was when I was 18? Hah! Of course not!! But I am so a better person than I was all those years ago.
I have always believed in the balance of nature and have written of it in the past. Consider the laws of physics: conservation of energy, conservation of mass, and the three laws of motion as examples. Nature seeks balance, parity. And that concept extends to us as well. There is no loss without a gain, the scales of nature insist upon that. This is not always immediately visible or recognizable to us though, especially in times of loss. And even more so with things as non-concrete and spiritual such as experience, wisdom, patience, understanding, and acceptance – of ourselves as well as others. These gifts only come with time, and notice it or not, they slowly grow as our physical skill wan, replacing them; nature keeping balance.
One thing proving increasingly difficult to balance of late is patience – the patience to wait for this year-long nightmare to end. In fairness, some parts of it have been tolerable, some have been good, and yet some other parts have been great. But there are parts of it that have been horrible, especially the initial lockdown and shelter in place in the spring last year. The separation from my kids and especially my grandkids, absolutely horrible, to the extent I don’t even like to think about it. Once I could hug them and hold them again, it got better. It never got truly good, but it did get better.
I miss going out to eat – out for breakfast, out for lunch, and out for dinner – I miss all of them. I miss going out to the movies as well. I miss going away for two- and three-day vacations to the Cape or to Salem. Yes, I do know that all this is available to us now; restaurants are open again as are the movies and hotels and bars and… pretty much everything else. But we are trying to stay safe and trying to keep our kids safe.
Of the whole family, we lead the most cloistered life by far. I think my wife has gone out to maybe four stores total in the last year. I go into stores more often, at least a couple of times a week, but that’s about the extent of it. No going out to eat, no going to the movies, because it introduces additional risk to our family. My daughter is pregnant and as such there is added risk to her health, as well as the baby’s, should she be exposed and catch it. There is no doubt that the overwhelming most likely way for us to become infected would be from the kids or grandkids; everyone is working in the public and the grandkids are back in school now. They all face risk daily and their risk is our risk. So it only makes sense for us to try to avoid adding any additional risk.
I had done genome testing several years in hopes of understanding more about my family medical history. Recently, a service came to my attention who, f you’ve previously done genome testing, would take that raw data and would determine your risk of catching the virus as well as the likely severity of the infection should you catch it. This is based upon five genetic markers that at least so far, seem to accurately predict your odds because they have been consistently found in people who have been infected and by studying the severity of their infection. Apparently, the more markers you have, the more likely you are to become infected as well as how severely it will be.
My test revealed an absolute minimal chance of catching it and only resulting in a moderate case (asymptomatic) should I catch it. At least that’s what they claim on their website. I think it cost me $20 for this and all it provided was peace of mind. Still no guarantee that I won’t catch it and pass it along to my wife. With her asthma, I don’t want to place any risk upon here than she already faces. So I am extremely careful to always wear a mask (3-layer), to avoid getting close to people, to minimize my time in stores when I do go into one, and to sanitize my hands often afterwards.
And as I said, all in all, it has not been bad once we got our family back together. But enough already… it’s been a year, actually more, and the vaccine(s) have been available for a couple of months now. I understand, and fully agree, with the concept of getting the vaccine into the right arms: front-line medical people, emergency personnel, and the other essential workers. But there is where the wheels fall off the bus. Who is essential? The majority of the people I know all continues to work through the entire episode. I mean, Home Depot, grocery stores, liquor stores, and dozens of other stores stayed open throughout. In fact, not only stayed open but were consistently packed. My old company where I spent my entire adult life never shut down.
So exactly where do we choose the groups of who comes first, second, etc.? Who decides? In a perfect world with ample vaccine supplies, it wouldn’t matter much. But that is not the case now; the vaccine is in short supply and there are a huge number of people waiting – some patiently and some not so patiently. Massachusetts recently offered the vaccine to folks 75 and older, which makes sense given how vulnerable they are to this virus. To help, they offered a vaccine to the “companion” who brought them in for the shot; sort of a two for one deal. Within hours there were ads appearing everywhere offering up to $250 to anyone older than 75 in exchange for bringing them for shot as their “companion”. The state had to shut the program down in less than 24 hours.
In Canada, a wealthy couple chartered a private plane and flew to a small remote village where all the residents were receiving the vaccine, and pretended to be residents, claiming they ran a small restaurant on the outskirts of the town. I also read of a 90-year-old woman who walked six miles through the snow in Colorado to get her vaccination. People in Florida were sleeping in their cars the lines were so long. My point is that there are far more people wanting the vaccine than there is vaccine.
And I am one of those people. My state, Rhode Island, ranks last in vaccine distribution in all the US. We are the worst. The smallest state, who received advanced vaccine distribution right out of the gate, is dead last. And it is not for lack of doses. I have been tracking doses received and doses administered on the state DOH website for weeks now, and every week more doses come in than are administered. This week’s data shows that we have nearly 81,000 more doses received than we’ve administered. To those not wanting to do the math, that is 32%. Yep – a third of the doses received here remain unused. That is criminal, especially given the dire demand for it. Most states are already providing the vaccine to people older than 65, expect our state who still draws the line at 75 and above.
So all that adds to the impatience. It is far easier to wait when there is no vaccine and everyone is in the same boat. And when they announced the first vaccine was approved, and then the second, it was still somewhat easy to wait because front-line health care workers and emergency personnel needed it. But then the days turned into weeks and then into months, and still no sign of when we might get ours. And that makes waiting really difficult, especially when you see so many other states getting it right. Friends of mine across the country are reporting in on social media that they’ve been vaccinated. People who work as file clerks in doctors’ offices have gotten it. Athletes have gotten it. I am all for being fair and waiting my turn but when it is being mismanaged and I am being left behind, my patience thins.
But the good news is that new cases, infection rates, hospitalizations, and every other pandemic related metric has turned around are declining. I don’t know if it is all the vaccinations – in other states – or if it’s head immunity or if it’s just that there are so few people left to catch it. But the numbers are all declining and that is a good thing. Another nice thing is the left-leaning new media have largely stopped drumming the death count 24-hours a day. When they actively talking about it, comparing it to war deaths, it was a huge bumper sticker down at the bottom of the screen, always there to prominently display how many have died. It is not discussed a great deal anymore and the bumper sticker is absent more than not. New president, new focus I guess.
But spring is 31 days away as of today (Feb 17) and that, coupled with the declining pandemic metrics, buoys my spirit tremendously. The days are noticeably getting longer – light earlier and later – and there are signs of new life in some of the early spring plants; I expect to see snowdrops and crocuses any day now over the next week or so. I know from my years on earth here that winter is far from done; there will surely be more snow and frigid temps; I’ve seen near-zero temperatures in March here. But overall, we have reached, and passed, the tipping point. We are on the warm side of winter with an eye to spring and nothing will stop that. Look forward, always, dear reader…and stay well!!