I’m not going to be awarded the Medal of Honor for my behavior during the global pandemic.
As the media issued dire warnings about massive, inevitable deaths from the coronavirus I adopted a new posture in my bed: the fetal position. I curled up in a tight ball and hyperventilated. To be clear, I waited until my husband and dog fell asleep so I wouldn’t disturb them. I wanted to die quietly, discreetly, my way, not tethered to a ventilator during three weeks of organ shutdown. I also made sure I was wearing one of my best nightgowns – the blue Ralph Lauren that hugs my mature curves but isn’t too clingy – in case I slipped away in the darkness. I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed when the paramedics showed up.
If I hadn’t had a terrible bug at the end of January, I’d like to think I could have remained calm. But despite my flu vaccination, I’d picked up a nasty cold/cough on a three-hour flight up the East Coast. I spent weeks hacking and wheezing, sicker than I’d ever been. The doctor pronounced it bronchitis and asthma, but I’d outgrown asthma at age 10. How could it suddenly resurface 50 years later? Tests for the coronavirus weren’t even on the radar in early February so I took a shallow, tortured breath and soldiered on.
By mid-March I understood my singular fate: COVID-19 was surgically carving a path from Wuhan, China, directly to my door in an otherwise unremarkable Southwest Florida resort community. I embraced my destiny with what I still consider the appropriate reaction: UTTER PANIC. I raced from grocery store to pharmacy across a 10-mile swath, gathering up rolls of Charmin and Bounty the way other women collect Lululemon outfits. No frozen entrée escaped my grasp. Jumbo packs of spring water nearly leapt into my cart. After all, who could drink tap water when life would be measured in hours rather than decades?
Ten weeks post-initial panic, I can finally take a deep breath that doesn’t sound like a Camel chain smoker’s. Because I didn’t die one of those first few nights, I’ve devoted myself to a healthier, more serene lifestyle. We’re eating better and exercising more. I’ve even relaxed enough to allow my husband six squares of toilet paper a day.
“What’s on your schedule for tomorrow?” he asks at breakfast, utterly without guile. I try not to roll my eyes or rant at him. I’ve run out of closets to organize. My book collection is now color-coded. Last week I’d alphabetized it.
“I’m going to yoga, then I’m off to play tennis. I think I’ll stop at the store and grab some salmon for dinner.” I keep my eyes downcast and my expression serious. “But I’m meeting my girlfriends for happy hour at 5. I’ll only be a couple of hours.”
He looks at me in disbelief. He tries to speak but can’t form words. I take pity on him. After all, he helped me find space in the garage for 412 jumbo rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft.
“Just practicing,” I say. Then I Google “How to Darn Socks, YouTube Videos” and prepare for another busy day.