Remember 2020? Sure, COVID. But there was more.
I have been rereading my journals from that year. I think we have forgotten what an insane time it was. Trump was being impeached. I was glued to the radio. The presidential campaign was in full swing, Bernie vs. Joe vs. Elizabeth against Trump and a bunch of other guys who dropped out before the primary came to Oregon. Police killings of young black men caused riots in the streets. People chanted Black Lives Matter. Anger and tear gas filled the air. Fires ripped through the West and destroyed hundreds of homes. The air was filled with smoke for weeks.
I was grieving the loss of my father and my childhood home, which was demolished by the new owners. The husbands of two of my closest friends died.
It wasn’t all bad. I also got my ears pierced and bought my first hearing aids. I had two poetry chapbooks published and was working hard on another book about childlessness, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have both.
The second week of March 2020, COVID roared and the world shut down. No travel, no getting together, sports, no concerts, no going to restaurants, bowling alleys, movies, or stores. You could go to the supermarket, but good luck finding what you need. Wear a mask, sanitize your hands, and pray you don’t catch anything.
Things weren’t so bad here on the Oregon coast at first. Cases in the single digits, no deaths, despite what was going on elsewhere. It didn’t really hit us until late May when tourists jammed the coast. Pandemic, what pandemic? In June, over a hundred workers at Pacific Seafood got COVID, and it spread like wildfire. Because many of the workers and their families also worked in local restaurants or hotels, they had to shut down, too. People started dying here.
It hit a nursing home in Newport, where 16 patients and 12 staff tested positive and more were expected to get it. Six died.
Even as the numbers, top of the news every morning, continued to rise, President Trump insisted it was not that bad and everything would reopen in a couple weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease guru, on TV seemingly every day, said it could be a couple years.
After all, this was a new virus for which there was no vaccine and no cure.
We learned to use a program called Zoom on our computers to talk to each other. Soon we were having meetings, workshops, readings and more on Zoom. We visited our doctors via “tele-med” if we could get an appointment. Kids went to school on their computers while their parents went to work on theirs—if they could. Churches offered services online, musicians performed on Facebook Live, and families talked by Zoom, Facetime, or Skype because they could not meet in person.
The death toll climbed. 100,000, 200,000, a million around the world, over half a million in the U.S. by 2021, a million by May 2022, 1.1 million last month. We lined up to get our shots in 2021, but COVID didn’t go away.
My dog Annie got dreadfully sick on Christmas Day 2020. She was in the hospital for two weeks, and I couldn’t see her or even go into the building. I sat in the parking lot for hours while rain and wind pounded my car. All around me, other people were doing the same thing. Thank God Annie survived, but it would be another year before I could go into the vet’s office with her.
It’s all over now, right? We’re going to work, eating out, having holidays together again, and even hugging each other. We’ve had our shots, and most of us have set our masks aside. But people are still getting COVID. I got it last Thanksgiving. Thanks to the vaccine, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t fun either. I was lucky. Many people are still suffering from the after-effects. The disease will remain with us, new variants appearing regularly. As with the flu, we will need to keep getting our shots.
Why read all these journals, you ask? Especially when my handwriting has gotten so bad even I can’t read it. I’m doing research for the third novel in the Beaver Creek series (Up Beaver Creek, Seal Rock Sound). I had already forgotten many details from that time: the footprint decals at the post office to mark where we should stand for “social distancing,” the jeweled face shield the receptionist was wearing at Les Schwab when I went to get my tire fixed, and how the church hall stayed dark and empty for over a year.
Some things we can’t forget. The Plexiglas barriers are still up at the pharmacy and the grocery store. We are still videotaping and Zooming Masses every weekend at St. Anthony’s because people are still watching from home–and not just in Waldport. Virtual gatherings, talks, and webinars have become a way of life.
Writer friends have told me nobody wants to read about the pandemic, but we can’t ignore such a big chunk of our lives. Besides, there’s a lot of drama to be harvested there. How will my characters deal with the pandemic? Will any of them die? Will they go stir-crazy and turn on each other and end up in a heap of dead bodies like the cast of Hamlet? Probably not. I have some other ideas that I think you’ll enjoy reading. Stay tuned.