Technically it's not the anniversary- that was a couple of weeks ago. But we are approaching the end of March, we are approaching the one-year mark of COVID-19, if not world-wide then certainly in our little corner of the world here in Iowa.
One year later and... I don't really want to say "normality is coming." The past year makes predictions seem like a foolish business- at least from where I'm sitting. I'm not a virologist. I'm not a public health expert. I just blog a lot. But... vaccines are here. The kids are back in school. Hospitalizations are dropping and seem to be staying low. (Emphasis on the words, "seem to be.") Let us, therefore, stipulate that "normality seems conceivable."
I try to think back to December and January of last year when it was starting to kick-off but had yet to really hit America and I think that however much I might have hoped that it wouldn't get here, some part of me probably knew that was a delusion. But early March the first cases were announced in Johnson County- not two hours after the announcement, I ran to Hy-Vee to pick up some toilet paper- because, after all, with a virus that even then, did next to nothing to your intestines, naturally the first thing people did was rush out and buy toilet paper. The shelf was two-thirds empty. Whether that was because of anxious shoppers, concerned about COVID assaulting their insides like a Taco Bell Burrito, or just because they hadn't stocked toilet paper that day, I suppose I'll never know.
The University screeched to a halt. The kids were out of school for a little bit and then a lot bit and then not at all.
It was an insane year- but leaving aside the events of last summer- and Iowa getting hit by a literal land hurricane- the real feature of the year was probably fear. It was an old fear, one that we haven't had to confront in a very long time. Some people cited the 1968 outbreak of the Hong Kong Flu as being the last real pandemic. Some people talked about SARS and Ebola- but really this was the first pandemic to reach into every aspect of our society since the 1918 Spanish Flu.
I'm very much a believer in the notion that knowledge is power. I read everything I could and followed the, "hey maybe this is a thing.... wait, no it isn't" back and forth about hydroxychloroquine. I took- and am still taking Vitamin D on the regular- but mainly because of seasonal affective disorder- the fact that a lot of people thought it helped against COVID was just a bonus. (I can't remember where science came down on Vitamin D-- I think last I saw it was, "well, it don't hurt, but it probably don't do much.") The knowledge helped tamp down the anxiety- and I can honestly say that I've never really dealt with actually honest-to-goodness-can't sleep at night-confronting your own mortality on a regular basis kind of anxiety every in my life. Eventually, it sort of scabbed over would jump up occasionally (like October of last year when the Governor just sort of quit doin' shit because there was an election going on and the health care system was getting into the squeaky bum territory and teetering on the verge of some very bad numbers.)
There was also that moment early on when I ventured out for groceries and was confronted with empty shelves. That kind of fucked me up a little bit. Canned vegetables joined toilet paper. The bread was scarce. Everyone took up baking and there was no flour left.
There was a wave of online webinars and field trips early in the lockdown. We did yoga with the kids every day. We did a few zoo trips. We did doodles with Mo Willems. The educational system had to switch to online learning on the fly and while it was a bit slapdash in the spring- and yes, I know mileage may vary, depending on the school district- the fact that they managed it as quickly as they did was pretty amazing. By the fall, they had things more solidly developed.
We toyed with getting the kids a gigantic playset but settled on a trampoline. (Life lesson: shoveling snow off a trampoline always sucks.)
We tried to get a new deck, but the contractor flaked out on us.
We started projects around the house- some of which are done.
The reality of being married to a nurse also hit home. There were a few days before things were clarified a bit where we weren't sure what was going to happen. Outpatient clinics were shut down. Operations were consolidated. All hands were on deck. The possibility of the Missus having to go to a COVID ward turned out to be theoretical- she never did treat any COVID patients on a COVID ward, but that's... That's a hell of a thing to sit with and think about- especially given how many nurses and doctors actually wound up getting COVID.
By the time summer hit and the possibility of vaccines had solidified more, it became a race: every day I didn't get COVID was one day closer to me getting a vaccine.
Oh and during all of this, we decided to have another baby.
In retrospect, that seems like a frankly insane decision- but as we both noted, the crazy decisions seem to be where we live. We had closed 'my shop' down after L, so I had to take a COVID test- the only one of the pandemic I ever had to take (thus far, knock on wood, etc) and let me tell you, after they poked a hole in my brain, going under to get my man batter was relatively painless. Her part began and one of the coolest experiences of my life was being ushered into a space-age room full of cameras and technology and saw Baby #4 get implanted into its current short-term lease arrangement. (Baby #4 arrives in May.)
Online school arrived in earnest last fall and we soldiered on until shortly after the election, vaccines started to arrive. I think in my head, I was expecting March. Like given how well the government had been managing things on multiple levels, my expectations were low. I thought maybe by March they'll be getting around to me- but the Missus went first in late December and my number was up in mid-February. Right now, we're both vaccinated. The kids are back at school. My parents have both their shots, the mother-in-law has one of her shots, the Missus' grandparents have both of theirs, and the brother-in-law has one of theirs.
Normality is now conceivable.