Saturday, March 28, 2020

a frightening wake-up call

Last night, a wake-up call, both literal and metaphoric: after my last perky post here, after a bit of TV - Steve Paikin interviewing fascinating experts on the future of our world after this crisis passes - and reading, I went to bed at 11.15 and realized I felt strange, wide awake, my body tingling and speedy, no possibility of sleep. And then - OMG, my throat felt sore. No, not possible. Fear. Lay for ages worrying, finally got up to make a hot drink, which I've heard we should take because it washes the virus from the throat to the stomach; chewed a zinc table though it's not the chewable kind and tasted vile, and went back to bed. They're saying that those over 70 are most at risk; I'm 69 1/2. Speedy, tingling, sore throat.

My first concern was that if I had the virus, I might have infected my friend Mary and her husband Malcolm, whom I'd visited that afternoon. Yes, we sat six feet apart outside, but I took them some of the cake John had brought by the house that afternoon along with a bag of birdseed. I'd washed my hands with soap before cutting the cake, but still...

And then I thought about death. Yes, I know, a big jump from a tingly body at midnight to death, but that's the world we're living in now. I was glad I have a will and thought I'll get it out of the file drawer so it can be easily found, in case. I thought about the things I'm proudest of: Anna and Sam and Anna's sons, my dearest friends - I made a list, thought of each one, the people I turn to and would turn to for advice, help, companionship in a crisis - the house and garden, my many hundreds of students, and - yes - my slender output of books and essays. I thought, even if I'm sick, I will at least finish the memoir and get it out. What about the books I've been meaning to write, the stories I want to tell but have not yet because of distraction and busyness, and now would never be able to?

But I hoped I would not die, that should this actually be the murderous virus invading my body, my relative fitness and positivity would work in my favour.

I sat up and read more of Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair, that I'm enjoying immensely. And then, at 2.30 a.m., I took a sleeping pill, finally fell asleep, woke at 11.

I think I'll live - at least a few more years. No cough this morning, no sore throat, not feeling 100% but not actually sick. But yes, a wake up call. I will not be cavalier about this bug any more. I will take isolation seriously. Anna is going to rent a car for a few days and offered to buy me groceries, and I said heavens no, I'm fine, I can go to NoFrills. I was planning to ride my bike to the market this morning. No. There's lots in the freezer, and I will ask my daughter to get fresh stuff next week and leave it on the front steps. Line dancing will start again next week and if I'm feeling better I will go but will stand rigorously far from the others.

As everyone is now realizing, this is the new normal and may be for months to come. People have compared this to 9/11, but it's completely different because it's affecting every person on earth. Most are struggling to survive financial and personal disaster; I have the luxury, the incredible gift of relative security to use this event to contemplate what I hope to achieve in whatever time I have left.

This is what John brought yesterday: a freshly-baked cake, a jar of his wife Sylvie's pineapple jam with "May you find hope and joy this Easter season" printed on top, a handmade card with images of Paris, and an Eiffel Tower keychain made by his daughter Emilie. Also in the shot, a spring bouquet of rubber gloves I found under the sink, and my mother's battered
measuring cup, unearthed when looking for the gloves, that brings back countless times watching her bake. Treasure. Thank you.


  1. Take care, Beth. I wonder if it's a little easier here because we have such an excellent provincial medical health officer in Dr. Bonnie Henry and even the Minister of Health Adrian Dix who offer such firm but reassuring advice at every opportunity. Yesterday they went through data and projections thoroughly and intelligently and somehow I felt more optimistic than I've felt in more than 2 weeks.

  2. Yes, we've heard the reassuring Bonnie Henry. Here our provincial government has stepped up in an amazing way considering that Ford is Trump lite. But - this thing is hovering we know not where. I would think of all the people in the world who are safe, it's you and John. So rest easy, dear friend.