During the 16th century, a young couple in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, lost two of their children to the bubonic plague.
The pair barricaded themselves inside to protect their 3-month-old son — William Shakespeare. . . .
Waves of the bubonic plague killed at least a third of the European population across centuries. A year or so before Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet,” a powerful plague struck London in 1593.
Theatres closed for 14 months and 10,000 Londoners died, says Columbia University professor and author James Shapiro.
The writer reminds us that the ending of Romeo and Juliet turns on the plague: Friar Lawrence sends a message to Romeo in Mantua that Juliet isn’t really dead. But his emissary, Friar John, is suspected of lodging in an infected house and is quarantined–and so Romeo never gets the message. And believing Juliet is dead, he kills himself; seeing him dead, Juliet kills herself. . . .
Shakespeare lived because his parents quarantined themselves. Two of his characters died because a third was quarantined by the authorities.
I’ve been mostly barricaded in my home for twenty months, leaving to go only to medical appointments. The same for my husband; he picks up groceries at curbside. We get a lot of meds through the mail.
I’m grateful I’m in a position to stay home. I’m grateful for workers who make it possible for me to have food and other necessities.
I’m grateful for vaccines and boosters, for scientists who develop them and people who take them.
I’m grateful for masks and people who wear them.
Shakespeare was right about so many things. I wish he were right about this: We shall every One be mask’d.
If everyone were, maybe we could stop being masked sooner.
As always, I’m delighted when readers comment. But comments claiming that wearing masks or refusing vaccination limits freedom, or anything of that ilk, will be deleted. Too many people have died, too many are behaving responsibly in an attempt to stay alive and to keep others alive. Feel free to disagree with me, but do it on your own blog.
I purchased the ones I’m wearing three years ago, about a year after completing several months of chemotherapy. I’m not surprised that my vision has changed since then. I am surprised that distance vision has improved.
I take my glasses off when I drive, a no-no in the sight of the law. If the DMV ever opens again, I’m going to run right down, take the test, and get the corrective lenses restriction taken off my license.
If the ophthalomologist ever opens again, I’m going to run right down and get a new prescription—clear glass (polycarbonate?), with a near vision bifocal.
Although, who knows? Given enough time, maybe the near vision will straighten itself out, too.
Regarding victims: I’m not one.
I’m sitting in my living room with husband and cats, a view of trees and grass, occasionally a dog leashed to its walker, squirrels skittering by. TV, laptop, e-reader, wi-fi. Food on the shelf and on order, retailers ready to ship or deliver. Taking care of myself, being taken care of.
I’m not having the time of my life. I miss sitting in a coffee shop with my critique group, attending Sisters in Crime meetings, wandering through bookstores, going to movies, doing what I want, when I want. I need a haircut and some new clothes, or I would need new clothes if I were going anywhere.
I’m classed as high-risk, so venturing out can be scary. I’m sad. I’m worried. Some days I’m depressed. I can’t imagine a future any different from today.
I’m angry at government corruption and mismanagement and negligence in the face of the pandemic. I’m angry at ignorance and stupidity and selfishness and cruelty displayed by people old enough and smart enough to do better. I’m angry at the arrogance of Rugged Individualists who proclaim that the government has no responsibility at all in this crisis, that each person is responsible for his own survival, period.
In fact, I’m a lot of things.
But so what?
I haven’t lost my job. I’m not waiting for an overdue unemployment check or worrying that my business will fail. I’m not a single parent homeschooling my children while working from home, or while not working at all.
I’m not a doctor or nurse or respiratory therapist. I don’t clean hospital rooms or keep the A/C operating. I don’t do other essential work and wonder if my mask and gloves are protecting me, and whom I need protection against.
A friend’s mother has died of COVID-19. A former student, now a medical doctor, has COVID. A cousin can’t visit her husband at the nursing home where he lives; they’ve been married more than sixty years, and she can’t visit him.
I haven’t lost someone I love. I haven’t been barred from seeing someone I love.
My husband is here with me and he’s well.
I’m bored, and I need a haircut.
If I want to be a victim, I’ll have to come up with a lot better excuse than that.
Regarding videos: Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it’s good for the immune system and the emotions and can be an effective painkiller, and a movie that makes you laugh is a joy forever.
I went in for a regular infusion appointment today. In place of a purse, I took a large zip-lock bag containing driver’s license, insurance cards, phone, cash, two pens, three sheets of copy paper (used to be typing paper), a package of Kleenex, keys, and hand sanitizer; and a blue pillowcase containing Chromebook, mouse, and Kindle.
The zip-lock bag is my new washable purse. The pillowcase is my new washable tote. They make me feel a bit like Little Orphan Annie.
I also took my cane. Just in case.
After passing the temperature check in the foyer, I tripped over my cane three times getting to the waiting room fifteen feet away, signed in, sat down, and put the zip-lock bag into the pillowcase. It’s easier not to trip over your cane when possessions are consolidated into one faux handbag.
Three hours later, back at home, I tossed my clothes and the pillowcase into the washer and myself into the shower. I used an alcohol wipe on Chromebook, Kindle, mouse, phone, Kleenex, keys, pens, zip-lock bag, and hand sanitizer. I trashed the copy paper. I disinfected cane, door knobs, light switches, and bathroom. I dumped driver’s license, insurance cards, and cash into a drawer rarely opened, where they’ll be quarantined until I need them, probably three weeks from today, when I go back for another round of drugs.
Here’s the thing:
It’s like, once upon a time, people took a shower and then went to the doctor.
Now, they take a shower and go to the doctor, and then go home and take a shower.
For the second year in a row, I’ll participate in April’s A to Z Writing Challenge—twenty-six posts, one every day in April except Sundays. So far, nearly four hundred blogs appear on the master list, here. About half have announced themes: history, books, education, animals, gaming, parenting, personal, women’s interests, and on and on.
I didn’t do a Theme Reveal post, because because that would require me to know the theme. I registered under Other and Miscellaneous. I’m not about to say, “I’m going to write about _____,” only to get stuck at Q. If a theme emerges, we’ll know in May.
If I were going for the obvious, I’d spend April posting about sheltering in place. This is day 16. David has picked up groceries at the Walmart parking lot several times. We’ve placed small orders, trying to fill some gaps. Tonight I found myself considering which I would prefer, Wolf Brand Chili or sardines. The surprise was that both sounded appetizing. I chose something else.
Federal social distancing guidelines now extend through April 30. Davis household guidelines were extended that far two weeks ago, and we’ll go further if necessary. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the contagion, and we don’t want to expose anyone else. We’re grateful for those whose work allows us to retreat.
I hope reading this post isn’t as dull as writing it has been. If it has been, please don’t mention that in the comments.
As to comments, I want to thank the folks who’ve been reading, liking, and commenting while I’ve been doing none of those. I’m on my way to get a good night’s sleep, after which I’ll work on getting up the gumption to do better.
We saw a couple social distancing in the green space yesterday. A walk in the park can be gumption inducing. I’ll put it on tomorrow’s agenda.
Day 10, 11, or 12, I don’t remember, of sheltering in place. I stayed in for a week earlier in the month, then went out twice, the second time unnecessary and stupid. Anyway, it feels like more than 10, 11, or 12 days.
But self-quarantine is necessary for David and me, and for the rest of the city, the state, and the country. I could look on it as my patriotic duty. Because it is.
I fell off #ROW80, in part because I’m so good at falling off challenges, but I shall pick it up now.
My goal, after a late start, was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Tomorrow is check-in day. Well.
I got the goal down to something like 2100. I can’t do that much in 23 hours–or maybe I can; I think I’ve produced that many words in a day before. Once.
Best case scenario, I’ll get down to business tomorrow and write a couple of scenes. Last month I did two without dithering to get them almost perfect. I might do that again.
We shall see.
Now about Sheltering Place.
I’m good at it. I’m good at anything that allows for sitting around. I’m beginning to have an itch to get outside and walk up and down the sidewalk. The small outdoors on the other side of my window is usually empty. A few people walk their dogs up and down the sidewalk. I could walk all over the complex without meeting anyone. Or could, when people were working elsewhere. Maybe they still are.
I’m also getting the itch to write. I think about the WIP every day and have mentally composed a lot. Mental composition doesn’t always transfer to the page, though, especially when I look at the blank page and forget what was in my brain. Characters stop talking and there goes the sparkling dialogue.
That’s what I haven’t been doing. What I have been doing.
Washing cheese, frozen entree packaging, and cottage cheese. We leave delivered and picked up food in the trunk of the car for the time it takes for the virus to die, and longer to make sure, but perishable items come inside, where they meet soap and water.
I used hot water, of course, and in so doing probably cooked the cheese. The frozen entrees are in the freezing getting freezer burn. The boxes collapsed from the scrubbing, so I trashed them. The thin sheet of plastic covering the food doesn’t provide adequate protection, hence freezer burn. But I don’t mind a little freezer burn. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
When David, the shopper, tried to buy hand sanitizer, shelves were already empty. I ordered some from Amazon. It was supposed to arrive the 13th, then the 16th, then the 29th, but it showed up on the 23rd. I soaped it up. This brand was the only one with 70% alcohol available when I ordered. I bought several 17-ounce bottles and two small ones we can carry with us. The labels are in Chinese. There is some irony in that, but irony is all it is. I’m grateful to have it.
Alcohol wipes are on the way. The 29th, I think today’s email said. We have some isopropyl alcohol (70%); our alcohol swabs are about an inch square. Not the best for disinfecting more than an inch square.
Tonight I wiped down the recliner with sanitizer gel on a paper towel. I don’t know if that’s effective in the first place, and in the second, I don’t know why I picked on the chair, since I’ve been sitting in it forever without concern. Anyway, after a while, Ernest the Cat jumped onto the footrest and lay down and stayed for about thirty minutes. When he jumped down, I realized there might be a problem. I wetted a towel and managed to wipe down his right side before he gave me a dirty look, flew down the hall and disappeared under the bed.
Knowing he was capable of holing up there for hours, David sprayed some calming mist under the bed–we use it to get him to the doctor–and later I found him in the living room. I was able to wipe down his left side and his paws. He didn’t like the paw part but was too calm to get up and leave. I was still worried, because I don’t know that rinsing with a not very damp cloth is sufficient, and I didn’t get between his toes. He sticks his right paw in water several times and licks it before drinking.
On the other side of the issue, by the time I got to the footrest, the sanitizer had receded into the paper towel, there wasn’t much on it in the first place, and the paper was almost if not completely dry when I finished. I don’t think much was transferred, if any. And I’ve never seen him wash anything except his face and paws. Guy cats don’t appear to bathe as often as girl cats.
I thought about putting him in the bathtub and shampooing him. Under the circumstances, he would be justified in shredding me, and I would take it as my just due. It’s a small bathroom with a small closet. Nowhere to hide. But it wouldn’t have been pretty.
I worried. Then I didn’t. Now, thinking about it, I’m worrying again. I wonder if we should take him to the ER (his second home). He seems fine. I don’t know whether to go to bed or sit up and worry. It’s already after midnight, and I need sleep, but he’s my baby. And I’m programmed to worry.
So here we are. A 300-word post about #ROW80 becomes a post about decontaminating packages of cheese becomes another cat post. And words, words, words.
Not necessarily a positive. Composing anything gives me the feeling that I’ve written. And it satisfies the itch. Getting down to business tomorrow may be more difficult that I thought.
But in difficult times, I think about the British. Bombs aren’t falling. This isn’t the Blitz. They did what had to be done. So will I.
In the early 1970s, I watched the British series Upstairs, Downstairs—the original, which was called the best depiction of the effects of World War I on the upper and lower classes that had been produced up to that time.
In one episode, James Bellamy’s wife, Hazel, contracts the Spanish flu. A brief synopsis of the next episode, published in the TV section of the newspaper, said James and Hazel would leave London for a quieter life in the countryside. At the end of the show, however, Hazel dies.
I cried for a half-hour. Maybe the shock value was worth it to the producers, but I felt betrayed by the false publicity.
That was my introduction to pandemics. At that point, I was protected by both a television screen and time.
A hundred years later, the world faces another pandemic. Experts said ten, twenty years ago that we were overdue for it. There’s no vaccine. We’re told to wash our hands, disinfect surfaces, and avoid contact with other people.
But we see from the experience of other countries that personal measures alone aren’t sufficient; governments have to take action. The U.S. lags far behind in attempts to delay the spread of infection.
What to do? Keep Calm and Carry On. Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands.
One psychologist says—I wish I could remember who and where I read it—that instead of Keeping Calm, we should feel some fear, because fear can prompt action, such as admitting the gravity of the situation and acting on the advice of medical experts.
And if you’re elderly, recognizing their advice as a warning.
My husband and I are elderly—I don’t know when that happened, but the experts say we are—so we have soup, tuna fish, TV dinners (for junior citizens, frozen entrees), canned everything, frozen fruit and vegetables, orange and cranberry juice, and other non-perishables in the pantry for self- or government-mandated quarantine. And Cheetos, of course.
We’ve also stocked up on medications and other necessities.
We’re not hoarding. We’d have trouble if we tried: David, the shopper, says shelves normally housing toilet paper and hand sanitizer are empty.
We canceled a trip to Florida. We’ve reduced—practically ceased—our out-and-about. I’m sorry about Florida, but we can reschedule. I’ll hardly notice the out-and-about; it’s not like I get out much anyway (lazy). Maybe I’ll finish that eternally-budding novel.
There is a certain irony in being more concerned about a contagious disease than about cancer. The cancer belongs to me alone; I continue treatments; I’m in remission; I don’t worry about my husband contracting it; I can be in a crowd without catching or transmitting it. At some point it will recur, but I don’t often think about it. Uncertainty exists, but within limits.
With this virus, uncertainty has no boundaries, for any of us. It’s everywhere.
But about fear: We need to smile, too. It’s good for the immune system.
Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles, says that smiling has been shown “over and over again” that happiness boosts the body’s resistance.
“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”
In a sense, the brain is a sucker for a grin. It doesn’t bother to sort out whether you’re smiling because you’re genuinely joyous, or because you’re just pretending.
Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. . . . Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
When I was in chemotherapy, I tried to maintain a smile (a beatific one I like to think). That may be one reason I’ve done better than my oncologist predicted. It at least seemed to make him feel better. My radiation oncologist appears genetically programmed to smile. She made me feel better.
Anyway, I take the advice of these experts as seriously as I do the epidemiologists’: We’re washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, stocking up, staying out of crowds, and laughing as much as we can.