A Birthday in the Time of Pandemic
by Karyn Strickler
They share a cosmic coincidence of profound significance, Allan and Sam. They are father and son, born on the same day. It’s a complete accident that any of us is here at all, but what are the chances?
This year, we are sharing priceless time together in the time of an unprecedented, global pandemic with COVID 19. I doubt we’ll have any trouble remembering this birthday as a result, but what are the chances?
When Sam’s kids ask, what did you do during the pandemic, dad? He can say, there was really no place to go since everything was shut down by order of the Governor. Since the real heroes: doctors; nurses; grocery store clerks; pharmacists; food delivery people; police; EMT’s; firefighters and other essential workers could not stay home to help to “flatten the curve,” as they say, we were fortunate to be able to stay home and grateful that we could.
Yes, it was so boring, it made your bones hurt. Sometimes you felt the weight of the world and you cried. You kept busy, taught classes virtually, worked on your non-profit, made music from ocean sounds, played the guitar, binge watched TV series and movies, but still you sometimes felt like you might lose your mind. You washed your hands until they became raw and previously had no idea how often you touched your own face, which had to stop. You practiced social distancing, at least 6 feet, to the extent possible on those rare occasions when you did leave the house. You shopped online for food and supplies. You never thought you would face a toilet paper shortage, but you did. What are the chances?
It didn’t feel like we were doing much, because staying at home was passive, but it worked to slow the rate of infection in other countries so it’s what responsible, civic-minded people did. Some States were slow and others still did not issue stay at home orders, despite clear evidence that it works, exacerbating the problem and lengthening the social isolation period. We made donations to food banks, blood banks, doctor’s groups and a mom and pop operation in Texas who were making hoods to help to fill the gap between the paltry number of ventilators we had vs. the number needed. We ordered take-out food to support our local restaurants. That is the best we could do to save lives and keep our economy from collapsing, but what are the chances?
Humans stopped moving around the Earth by plane, train and automobile in such numbers that pollution dramatically diminished. There are even reports that the Earth itself vibrated less during the slow down. You could actually feel the slower pace. What are the chances that nature itself may be revitalized as human dominance diminished?
The sickness itself can range from symptom-free to deadly. It’s a kind of pneumonia that can rob you of your ability to breathe. Most people don’t know if they have Coronavirus because there is a severe shortage of tests nationwide. So you don’t know if you can’t breathe, in sympathy for those who are sick, or if you actually have the disease. And there is no way to find out.
Some have lost loved ones without ever having the chance to say goodbye. Hospitals are becoming so overwhelmed that they are using refrigerated trucks as morgues. Military hospital ships have been deployed to NY and CA, in an attempt to separate COVID 19 patients from other sick people. The Army Corp of Engineers built a hospital in Central Park. Telemedicine is evolving, but it’s hard to do heart surgery that way. We know that this pandemic will test our strength, character, humanity, and our devotion to one another, individually, as a community, a state, a nation and a world. We’re thinking this pandemic is as bad as it gets, but then there’s climate change. What are the chances we will rise to the challenge?
As America climbs the epidemiological curve, the leadership from our President has been abysmal, initially calling the pandemic, the latest Democratic Party hoax. Governors have had to step-up to fill the federal leadership void and supply shortages. We don’t know exactly what to expect. We believe that the worst is yet to come, as America recently became the nation with the most Coronavirus cases worldwide and the most related deaths in a single day. As it becomes increasingly clear that we need new, national leadership, we all must wonder what will become of the 2020 Presidential election, all the while preparing to vote by mail. What are the chances, we’ll get this under control before hundreds of thousands, maybe millions die?
In times like this it is nice to have someone by your side. Someone to check-up on you. Someone to workout with. Someone to sing and dance with. Someone to keep you on your toes. Someone to poke you. Someone to hug. Someone to wrestle. Someone who gives you hope beyond this pandemic. Someone to show that there is still love and life. Someone who will always be there with you, for you. The chances of being able to say that are slim in these times. We are the fortunate ones.
Karyn Strickler is president of Vote Climate U.S. PAC, an organization working to elect candidates to get off of fossil fuels and put a fee on carbon pollution in order to slow climate change.