Dodging a Bullet

Everyday, almost the first thing in the morning, I read the local newspaper to find out the most recent number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in my county. The daily tabulation belies the pain and tragedies of this pandemic: 145 new cases, no deaths on Monday; 180 new cases, one death on Tuesday; 110 cases, two deaths on Wednesday. Although no names are given for the pandemic’s latest victims, the news reports give their ages and whether they were residents of a senior group home: one in their 70s; one in their 60s; two in their 80s; two of the deceased in a long-term facility.

Almost all the deaths are people over 60, with many in their 80s. Because I’m 71, it feels like death is knocking on doors all around me, that it comes blowing down the streets and paths of my town, skirting the edges of my house. I shut myself in, close the windows, lock the doors and try to turn away. But it’s out there.

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That Could Have Been Me

Sometimes you hear a story in the news that you can’t get out of your head. A friend is obsessed with the story of an older couple who refused to leave their homes during our wildfires this fall, because they thought they would be safe in their cement bunker. Tragically, they didn’t survive the intense fire, and my friend wants to know why their children or officials didn’t make more of an effort to persuade them to leave.

A story that has obsessed me for the past month is the senseless death of a 71-year-old man who was attacked while riding on a bike path not far from where I live. Apparently, his assailants wanted his bike, something scarce and valuable in a time when people feel the need to escape their homes.

Two days before I read the article about his death, I was on that same bike path, although on the opposite (west) end. I’m also the same age as the victim. I can’t help but think that easily could have been me. It’s a reminder that death can come any time, out of the blue and in the least likely places: a public bike path on a warm day, to someone just enjoying the fresh air and sun.

After the initial reporting, I searched the newspaper every day to find out what exactly happened. Although the details were sketchy, it sounds like three men went to grab the victim’s  bike, and in the process the victim was injured badly enough that he died a week later. Did he fall and crack his head or did they rough him up enough that he couldn’t survive his injuries? Or did he have a heart attack in the process?

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Making Choices in the Pandemic

I have friends who are playing golf and enjoying happy hour, and friends who won’t leave the house until a vaccine is found for Covid-19. Just as the virus reveals the fault lines between those who take responsibility and those who seem oblivious to the threat—seen most easily in those who wear masks and those who refuse—I’m also seeing the different safety thresholds in friends and acquaintances.

It feels like everyone needs to make their own decision, weighing the inherent or possible risks against the rewards. You take into account your health but also your comfort level. For some people feeling secure is the most important factor, while others, like me, need to be out in the world. Stuck inside, I can easily fall into dark thoughts. Outside, even if just a walk around the block, my mind opens up and experiences other worlds besides the claustrophobic one inside my head.

But it’s a different decision for everyone. I have friends who are staying inside and enjoying what they call the “monastic” life—quiet, contemplative and simple. For introverts, the pandemic is proving to be a legitimate reason not to be social.  

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