Threat to life, loss of jobs and income, increase in mental illness, anxiety throughout the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated great suffering, disproportionately affecting people of lower incomes and racial minority.
I humbly acknowledge that, for me, the pandemic has been more inconvenient and annoying than life-threatening. Well-fed, housed, clothed, and in contact live and virtual with family and friends, we are fending well. We draw from the well of patience and hope engorged during previous trials of life.
We encourage our grandsons to take notes: what did you do today? how did you feel? what is different during a pandemic than normal times? They are living history, creating stories to tell their future grandkids. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It is too late to ask my parents about the flu epidemic. I sense rather than recall the polio epidemic of 1952. The iron lung was our Boogeyman, a very real illustration that Life is dangerous. A friend retells how a child was transported to Catholic mass each week in the lung, instilling trepidation in everyone in the sanctuary. Were confessions up that week?
Although relatively young when mass vaccination against polio took place, I recall the excitement surrounding its distribution. My brother and I claim injections, although many references point to sugar cubes. In any case, there was optimism in the noisy school gym where lines of children received their protection from the Boogeyman, freeing us to play outdoors and go to the public swimming pool.
Polio did not take as many lives per year as COVID-19 but had affected people for much longer. The epidemic in 1894 was repeated in 1916 and then 1952 when there were 57,628 cases reported and 3,145 deaths. After-effects continue today as former victims present with post-polio syndrome. Ultimate bummer: survive the initial onslaught only to be struck down when the body is already failing due to age.
With a sense of historical significance and a look toward a healthy and freer future, Mike and I drove to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, to get our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Arizona is remarkable for its ability to place at the low end of rankings when the higher rating is preferable, and vice versa. It has been reported that Arizona’s vaccination availability is poor. I have heard little good news about any state.
Scheduling an appointment in Maricopa County is difficult. However, the distribution is remarkable for its efficiency. With our hard-won appointment confirmation in hand, we drove into the stadium lot at 8:45 and out at 9:15, never leaving the car, moving leisurely through the checkpoints, chatting with the attendants. The drive allowed time to schedule the next appointment while lingering for the 15 minute post injection recovery
With a sense of relief and happy to take part in history in the making, Mike and I enjoyed a breakfast in the park, proudly wearing our vaccine badges for no one to see.
As my friend Nancy observed: who would have imagined celebrating after getting a shot?