“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Weight” Chapter 37
By Bruce Williams
It struck me recently while watching an ordinary newscast of long lines of cars filtering through a vaccination station, of the tremendous grey malaise that has settled in over us since the beginning of this pandemic. As they were interviewing an older man with his wife, asking him about the methodological steps that got him through the queue, his voice began to crack—himself admitting that he wasn’t exactly sure why this routine procedure was getting him so emotional—but later going further to admit that it’d been over a year since he’d seen his grandkids in person, and “…maybe that has something to do with it.”
Virtually every time I now see frontline medical personnel being interviewed on television, they also almost always breakdown—the tell-tale signs of post traumatic stress disorder written all over their beleaguered faces from being up close and personal to so much death—half a million Americans as of this writing. It’s getting so when I see a person in scrubs—much like when I see a person in a military uniform—that I want to simply thank them for their service.
The rest of us are swamped in worry as well. Worry that our kids are losing up to two years of normal schooling and socialization. Worry about being unemployed or underemployed, and if our jobs will ever get back to normal. Worry about making the mortgage and car payments on time. We worry about our parents and grandparents getting sick and us not being able to be with them when they need us—or worse yet…somehow being the cause of their illness. I was texting my buddy Brian Barge recently—something we compulsively do to joke and laugh, guffaw at the day’s hypocrisies, chew on nostalgia, etc., when I realized I hadn’t seen him in person for over a year. Not that we’re weepy schoolgirls or anything, but we’d get together for Husky, Seahawk or Mariner games, and concerts or movies, and I then realized that I haven’t been to any of those events either and that that pretty much just sucks.
And there’s the constant browbeating about social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. The hand washing I’m all for, as anyone who’s ever witnessed some slob go from stall to exit should rightly be. I’ve gotten used to the mask, too, though I had an older woman inform me a couple of days ago that “…you really should be wearing TWO masks,” (I supplied her with the social distance needed to not to be able to hear her). Then there’s Dr. Fauci, who we’d all want to kill by now if he wasn’t such a lovable, dependable little guy. But always, in the background, is that body count…tick, tick, ticking…
The peripheral damage is becoming more apparent as well—the isolation, the redundancy. Word of another suicide (this time one my son’s high school peers), or an overdose (one of my nephew’s friends)—and who knows—they could all be tangentially related to this. I rarely get depressed at all, but just penning this column in my mind while I was driving this morning made me realize the tonnage of it all—the unattenuated stress and baseline sadness of it all. The weight that we’re all quietly lifting together.
These vaccines seem to work, so go get them when and where you can—whichever of the versions become available to you first. Navigating the chaotic different websites based on your insurance is challenging, whether it’s the poor directional wording or crashing pages—surely by the next time one of these things rolls around we will have taught ourselves how to do this better. I’m scheduled for a shot mid-March (over 50 and in a multi-generational home), and I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m not sure if my reaction will be my usual nonplussed, or more akin to the lump I had forming in my throat this morning as I took the last year in as a whole. Again, the weight.
In the meantime we can buy somebody a cheeseburger and eat it diagonally across a picnic table from them. We can loan somebody else one of the great books that we’ve finally had the time to read that we think they might like. We can call somebody older than us…somebody who might be wasting what little time they have left on this planet alone…and lonely. We can bite our tongue when something awful, petty or bitter is about to come out. We can like someone’s picture or post—someone who doesn’t get a lot of usual interaction. And we can be over-generous with the “I love yous” and “I appreciate yous” ‘cause they’re not going to run out if we use them. And we wait…together…for this to all be over.