2020: the lost year of covid

March 13, 2021

in Me

Like many Americans, today for me marks the one-year anniversary of lockdown or stay-home-stay-safe, depending on your viewpoint and attitude. Mine was the latter, and we’ve been successful.

In 2005, I did a fair amount of reading and research on zoonotic viruses, because as an ornithologist I was “involved” with H5N1, doing testing on migratory birds. So I followed the news of covid last January and February. Each time I went to the store, I’d stock on up on a few more things; in general we have tended to be pretty well prepared materially for short-term disasters. On March 13, 2020 I went to my Pilates class, the store, the pharmacy, and the vet to pick up supplies for poor Juniper, who had developed a major health issue a month or so before. I remember feeling more uneasy than I had during the bird flu threat because clearly this was much worse. Still, we thought we might need to stay home for a few weeks or a month, going out only when needed, and taking precautions. (That stint with bird flu left me with spare real N95 masks!) Kingfisher was able to continue working full-time from home.

I think April and May were the worst months for me. The virus was spreading; the federal government was not simply failing to launch an appropriate response, but was going through stunning display of denial, ignorance, and incompetance; the uncertainty about both the short and long-term future was peaking; and the political divides were accelerating. The stories about people dying alone in overwhelmed hospitals brought me to tears each day.

At this point, as well, Juniper was not really responding to any treatment of what we initially thought was just a UTI. Of course, I couldn’t be with her the times we had to go to the emergency vet. I spent many anxious hours in the car while she had several ultrasounds, an x-ray, and exams. Some of the vets she saw sort of settled around some sort of tumor in her lower abdomen, but unless she had more invasive procedures for a diagnosis — at a specialty clinic at least an hour away — we would not know for sure. Given her age (14 this month!) we would not subject her to surgery that would not add much to her life expectancy, we settled into doing everything we could to make her comfortable. Our hearts were shattered to think we were going to lose her.

I’ll skip to the end of that story — as time went on it was clear she did not have cancer, because things really didn’t worsen and she had no other signs other than a bad reaction to one of her medications. Once we squared around her medications, supplements, and diet her symptoms became much more managable. She is happy, goofy, and very active for a senior cat, although her condition will likely always be categorized as “idiopathic cystitis.” There is some sort of auto-immune component, I think, as her entire life she has suffered from food and skin allergies. Among the things I have become grateful for this past year is the time I’ve had to do research and understand feline health, and especially be here for her constantly to provide the care and routine she needs. I worry about how to maintain it when things become more normal, but the other thing 2020 taught me was to be prepared as best you can, and not plan or worry too far into the future about things you have no chance of anticipating.

Over the summer, we expanded our veggie growing game and improved our pantry organization (I tend to go hog-wild organizing things when other aspects of life seem out of control). We received all our groceries and other goods via delivery or occasional curbside pickup. Our human contact was extremely limited — talking briefly at a distance with neighbors, a few necessary medical visits, a couple trips for Kingfisher into his office to exchange technology and clean off his desk for the long-haul work-from-home gig. We cut each other’s hair, and managed to stay out of each other’s hair. We did not have any sort of social visit until August 31 when my completely awesome pet-whisperer and friend came by and we talked outside, masked and distanced in the driveway (she kept me sane all year and her friendship is another silver-lining to this dark year).

This was also the summer of BLM and enormous political upheaval. We binge-watched a lot of pretty bland but pleasant British television shows to distract ourselves, starting with “Cruising The Cut”, basically a guy with a go-pro puttering through the English canal system on a narrowboat; we’re currently on “The Great British Menu.”

I have to stop here. I was going to try to list all the shows we’ve watched as well as the cozy British detective novels I’ve been reading before bed as a sort of roadmap through 2020 but it now just seems so trite.

I told myself I was going to write about the past year for myself and for history. And now I see that I can’t be more than just superficial here. I’m not as anxious as I was at the beginning of 2020, but so much has happened that has changed my life even though we have had it so, so much easier than most people. I’m not ready to tap into the anger and despair, the incredulity and disappointment, the outrage and sorrow, the surreal experience of living through a year with multiple historic events unfolding simultaneously. My world has become both very small, while at the same time tapped into the churn and turmoil of the global community.

I feel today hope and caution, resignation and weariness. Maybe later I can add to this. Then again, who knows what tomorrow may bring.

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