Unprecedented Times

by Valerie Winans, 05/20/2020, Traverse City, Mi

Adult Category


If we just had the virus to contend with, I think we would have been ok. We had never heard of COVID-19 on January 6th, the day my husband had quadruple bypass surgery. The biggest concern after surgery was infection, as his immune system was compromised due to two years on steroids. He didn’t have a speedy recovery. When his lung collapsed, we learned he has emphysema, as well as a damaged heart, and bladder cancer. Today, I know enough to call these things comorbidity. We were using Clorox wipes on everything. We were Clorox before Clorox was cool. Friends were advised not to visit, and when they did they were asked not to touch him and to stay six feet away. We were social distancing before social distancing was cool.
Friends, being what they are, complied and supported us through this with cards, phone calls, and offers to take over jobs for us like snow plowing.
One friend, his best friend, came more than 200 miles to visit soon after we came home from the hospital. That’s when we found out he had cancer. His surgery was the next week. The news of Gary’s cancer was a blow, but we still tried to focus on the positive with prayers and hopes for a good outcome. The two men talk several times a week sharing their medical issues, and letting each other know how much they care without saying it. They’re men after all.
Along with daily procedures around recovery of open heart surgery, we learned that a new virus was, every day, becoming more of an issue. Then suddenly, it was a pandemic. Every news show was wall to wall pandemic, and we were both in the cross hairs. My husband had comorbidity, and I am elderly at 74. That sucks. I thought 74 was the new 60, but I guess not anymore.
While we were at this low point we received another blow. Our beloved fur baby, going on fourteen years old, got sick. He was in pain, and we had to make a tough decision. We stayed by his side, with masks on our faces, as he went over the rainbow bridge on April 13, 2020. Our world collapsed that day, and it will never be the same. He was essential in everything we did each day, so there is a big hole where he once was.
The house became an empty tomb. I look for him in his favorite spots, but of course he is not there. I grieve as if my loss was a person. It’s silly really – he was just a dog. My heart is broken nonetheless. It’s harder to grasp at a future without him when I see him everywhere I turn. If I was working I would be out and about and have other things on my mind, but I am under virus house arrest and everywhere I turn is a reminder that he is gone.
A walk would be good for me, but I can’t bring myself to walk without him. I know I won’t enjoy it though the veil of tears. When I think about all the human suffering during this horrific time of virus, I feel silly mourning the loss of a dog.
I have to walk again. It’s ridiculous to sit here and feel bad. I may as well feel bad outside. It was a perfect day for a walk, so I screwed up some courage and went out. I was fine until I turned the corner to head up the hill and realized I was crossing the road where it made the least sense to cross, but in the exact spot he always chose to cross. Tears started to flow.
I trekked up the hill not noticing anything but the ache in my heart. I’ve decided I’m going to do this every day and celebrate the day I can do the walk without the tears.
I love this part of the walk where there are fewer houses. He liked it on this stretch as well. What a sniffer he was. Nose driven. There he is. He looks up at me with a question in his eyes. Why are you stopping here? I reach down to rub his ears and he is gone. Onward I march absent of his love.
My husband and I were both hoping for some cheer the weekend encompassing my husband’s birthday and Mother’s Day, and indeed it started out well with cards, flowers, calls from family wishing us well. There were smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts right up to the time, on his birthday, when he learned that his cousin had died just an hour before. I could tell by the look on his face that the news hit him like a stab with a red hot poker. He rose up out of his chair and went to his office without a word. When he came out his eyes were red, and his appearance brought tears to my eyes as well. The news had broken him, but only momentarily. From somewhere deep inside he pulled up from beyond his dysfunctional heart, his diseased lungs and bladder, and his physical pain, his stoic outer shell.
Confinement is not good for us. It may be safer, but it is not good. We have a need to move beyond grief and concentrate on something other than loss – loss of health, loss of family, loss of fur baby. Social connection is such an important ingredient in grieving. Touch is healing, and that is a significant thing the virus has taken from us. Social distancing, to a degree, also means emotional distancing.
If we just had the virus to contend with I think we would have been ok.