I took a road trip back in March 2020, not long after news reports on COVID-19’s spread became a daily occurrence. We were going to visit family a few states over, and we were terrified of carrying the virus into anyone’s home and getting people sick, so we brought masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and bleach wipes for cleaning off gas pumps and toilet seats.
I remember stepping out of the car somewhere in Alabama with my mask and gloves on, and I made eye contact with someone who I can only describe as a good ol’ boy. His uncovered face and rolling eyes clearly communicated his contempt for our caution. I can imagine that we looked paranoid at that point in time, and I’m sure our out-of-state license plate made us seem like idiot city slickers from Atlanta who are scared of small-town people. This COVID thing is just gonna die out, right?
It didn’t, but you know who did die? My cousin’s grandmother, an old friend’s father and so many other people who absolutely, positively did not have to leave us all so soon. My own father got infected in December, and though he didn’t die of COVID-19, he never recovered from the damage that it did to his body. I remember being very preoccupied with my impending birthday a while back, super worried about aging and taking stock of my life and achievements, and then my father died. My birthday happened six days later, and we scheduled his visitation the day after. The last time I touched my father was at that visitation, and I hadn’t touched him since Thanksgiving the year before. He’d been in isolation since Dec. 23, and he died only weeks after the restriction had been lifted. We didn’t make it home in time. I’m just glad that my mom got to hug and kiss him in those few weeks.
I laid my hand on his shoulder. I wasn’t brave enough to touch his hand, his bare skin, but my mother was. Before he got COVID, my dad had been recovering from some health issues that we were sure he would overcome, but that infection knocked his feet right from under him. He never walked again. I had this vision of my father recovering his health and going fishing with my cousin, golfing with his old college buddies or coaching youth baseball. But his barber didn’t wear a mask while she cut his hair, and my dad picked up an RNA virus that was strong enough to kill him. No one will tell me her name, and I know good and well that they shouldn’t, but I just keep asking. I don’t know who else to blame in all of this.
I knew that he was going to die eventually. I will, and my mother will, and everyone I love will die. But the idea that I could have him here with me now but for some careless hairdresser’s selfishness… well, it really burns me the hell up. It makes it easy for me to see UGA’s lifting of COVID restrictions for the fall and want to flick the entire campus off of the planet like a crumb on a plate. It’s entirely possible that I’ll get COVID when some 18-year-old brings the Delta variant to town, because neither masks nor vaccines will be required for students returning to campus, and they’re even getting rid of the online classes that were offered to keep people off campus. Imagine a home-game weekend, y’all.
Thinking about the fall semester makes me wanna double-check my insurance and make sure that I have burial coverage. Sounds extreme, but I know what happens when someone dies and they don’t have it.
When I got vaccinated, the first thing I thought of was making out with someone, but I can’t take the current uptick in COVID infections lightly at all. I want to sound like a stodgy old asshole in hindsight. I want to be completely wrong about this. I want returning students to get vaccinated and wear a damned mask. I do not want to go through Round 2 of this pandemic, especially when it was completely avoidable.
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