The Closeness of COVID-19

My flight to Atlanta left without me last Friday. I am hunkering down at home with daily outings to do day hikes amid the growing concern that my amended dream of a SOBO or flip-flop AT hike will not materialize this year. I was having a one-woman pity party during my walk yesterday at the Boulder Reservoir when I ran into (not literally as we both kept to the six-foot minimum) a former soccer teammate. I learned that her father-in-law has COVID-19, is on life support at a hospital in Connecticut, and is not expected to survive. I do not know this man. I barely know my teammate’s wife. But this information was seminal in an unexpected way. It made the threat of COVID-19 real. News stories of others being sick and even dying do not have the same impact without a personal connection. Even a distant link fortifies our fear that this will be the first of many similar notifications. Suddenly we see the faces of our friends and family peeking out from the obituary pages of the local newspaper. We can imagine our own image there.

Every day we live with the knowledge that this day could be our last. Traffic accidents, heart attacks, mass shootings; there are any number of sudden death fates that await us. But mostly we manage to keep these worries tucked away in a back corner of our minds along with memories of our first public speaking engagement and other anxiety provoking thoughts. Having a personal connection to COVID-19 makes you understand that you are not immune. You are tied into the public safety net and can see how thin is the rope that anchors you to this earth.

I will hike again today. I will keep at least six feet from my fellow walkers. I will live in the moment, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back and the nodding friendliness of strangers. I will think loving thoughts for my teammate’s family. I will call my mom to make sure she hears from one of her kids, and I will update our Words With Friends game at least once an hour. I will FaceTime my daughter in California, nag her to be cautious, then tell her I love her to the moon and back. I will hug the daughter I have at home and turn a blind eye to the mess in her room. I will be nicer to my husband even though the forced togetherness is making us both crazy. I will get out my watercolors and paint. Above all, I will be grateful for one more day of distant personal connections, and I will update my best selfie. Just in case.

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