Beyond Myself

I want a large bucket of salty, buttery popcorn, a fizzy Diet Coke, a reclining, heated chair, a wide white screen and a really engrossing movie delivered in high definition and surround sound. I want to sit in the dark beside my husband and lose myself in someone else’s story for a couple of hours. Prior to the pandemic it was a usual thing for us to slide into those stadium seats at AMC on a Sunday. Like a good book, a good movie is an escape for me. For those two hours I am not worrying or even thinking about work, house cleaning, or any of the other things that normally crowd my mind. We have Netflix, Hulu, and Prime at home. I know I can stream a million movies, but the experience of a movie at the theatre is what I miss.

I want to have breakfast with my 82 year old father. Prior to the pandemic, for several decades now, we’ve spent four or five mornings a week sitting beside each other at Hardee’s in Huntersville. Even though I quit eating their food many years ago, I’d bring in my yogurt or my P3 Protein Pack and fellowship with my dad and his cronies as they solved the world’s problems over a gravy biscuit.

I want to have dinner with my cousin, Kevin, and his wife, Gina, in a nice restaurant with real china plates and metal knives and forks. I want the salt and pepper shakers and sweetener for my iced tea on the table when I sit down. I want to see the smiling face of our waiter or waitress and to be able to hear them over the din in the restaurant without their voice being muffled by a mask.

I want to go on vacation, to pull my beach chair up close to our friends, Frank and Joan Messerli, and listen to them fill us in on their children’s and grandchildren’s lives. I want to laugh with them and reminisce with them about our thirty-five years of friendship. I want to have a few beers at a beachside dive. (I said a few, Frank.)

I want to spend time with our closest friends, Alex and Beth Meadows. I want to hold their first grand baby, Meadow. I want to celebrate the upcoming wedding of their son, AJ, who, like their daughter, Megan, is our surrogate kid. I want to smile and laugh and see the faces of their friends and family as AJ and Melanie celebrate their love.

I want to have job security, to know our thirty-sixth year in business will not be our last. I want schools to open so that we can go back to helping our largest client raise thousands of fundraising dollars to help thousands of students and another client to provide dental care to students on Medicaid. I want concerts, sporting events, and conventions to go on as scheduled and hotels to fill up so that another client can rehire their fourteen employees to run their dry cleaning routes.

I want to do all of these things without a mask making it difficult to breathe, hiding smiles. I want to do these things without fear of getting sick or of carrying the virus to someone I love.

I want my life back. I want you to have your life back.

For all of these reasons, I will be taking the vaccine for Covid-19 as soon as I am able.

I’ve heard every excuse in the book from people on why they will not take the Covid-19 vaccine. Some are about obstinance … the the government is not going to tell me what to do stance. Some are about paranoia … the conspiracy stance, that includes such lunacy as the theory that the government wants to vaccinate us all so they can implant trackers in us or other such hooey. Some are about fear … the what if stance from people who are worried about the vaccine making them ill or having longterm effects that are unknown because of the swiftness of the development.

Of those excuses, the only one I give any credence to is the fear. I get it. Americans are used to the FDA taking an interminably long time to study and test vaccines. Meanwhile, thousands of people die while they wait. In the lifetimes of most of my friends, this pandemic is a first. We are ill-equipped to handle it. We all had the standard vaccines in order to enroll in school before we were even old enough to remember them. Every virus or illness we’ve known in our lifetimes has been preventable, treatable, or fatal.

I have a little different experience than most of my contemporaries, though. My dad, Carl, who all of my friends know and love, could have died from a virus during the polio pandemic. He spent his eleventh and twelfth birthdays (August 1948 – April 1950) in the hospital, recovering from polio and its after effects. In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine was finally approved after a two and a half year trial. Being given the vaccine in childhood became the norm and thousands of kids were saved the agonies my dad had endured while in the polio hospital and the lifelong struggles that would result from his having had polio. Because I grew up hearing the stories about his experiences and seeing the after effects, I have a greater awareness and appreciation for the fact that a vaccine can prevent pain, suffering, and death.

I admit, the release of the Covid-19 vaccine seems fast. Less than a year ago none of us had ever heard of the virus. Of course, we are skeptical. We’re not used to the FDA moving with urgency on anything. However, this current situation has never happened before in our lifetimes. More people have died in the last nine months of Covid-19 than the number of Americans lost in all of WWII: nearly half a million Americans. Stop for a minute and reread that sentence. I’ll wait. Warmer weather did not slow it down, like the flu. It is not going away on its own if we just bury our heads in the sand and wait it out. We can’t just board a plane and go somewhere else and escape it. We can’t live the rest of our lives locked away in our homes hiding from it either.

We have one option on the table. A vaccine. Unless enough of us conquer or put aside our fears, the virus will win. Living the way we are now: letting the last years with our elderly parents pass without in person contact, keeping our kids at home away from the essential education and socialization of in person school, unable to gather together, sucks. If you cannot think of yourself, think of the children who are going hungry now because they are not getting the breakfasts and lunches they would normally get at school. Think of your mother, your father, your grandparents, who are in nursing facilities or stuck in their homes, missing your company and growing depressed because they cannot see friends or go to church. Think of your friends who are without a job because their employers have had to shut down or lay them off. Think of the many victims of abuse who are no longer exposed to the light of teachers, counselors, and daycare workers who would normally report their injuries. Think of the millions of workers who depend on conventions, concerts, sporting events, and business meetings to feed their families. Think not only of those who are unable to pay their mortgages or rent, but of the mortgage lenders and landlords who depend on those payments to feed their own families.

Think of yourself. Don’t you want to go to a movie, hug a dear friend, see smiles instead of masks, hold your dying mother?

Remember what it was like to have free will? To do what you want when you want with however many people you want? Do you have a plan for how to get back there? I do. It starts with a little pinch.

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