It’s been two long years. We thought 2020 was cursed. Everyone wanted it to just end. But 2021 was not much better. The Covid nightmare went on and on. I feel like we are finally back to business as usual. But not normal, unless you call it the new normal. People are still testing positive for Covid, but it’s mostly mild, not deadly.
Over 900,000 people have died from the virus in the United States, according to NBC news. This greatly exceeds the first estimates, which seemed extraordinary at the time. In the first year, my three children, three grandchildren and I tested for Covid at least once, all negative. In the second year, my pregnant daughter and her son tested positive, but she had been vaccinated and they both had relatively mild cases. Only my husband avoided even a Covid scare because he became a hermit.
Now that the dust is settling, I think we can agree that these two years have made some striking changes in our society. We might have hoped that fighting a common enemy, like a deadly virus, would have united us and quieted the political infighting. But no, there were new debates, whether to require masks and vaccines, whether to send children to school in person, whether to even believe the Centers for Disease Control statistics.
Compared to many other people in different stages of life, I know I have been lucky. I was already retired and could stay home. Our family was lucky that we had no weddings or other major events scheduled in 2020 or 2021. Students who had looked forward to activity-filled senior years and socially-filled college experiences had their calendars reduced to academic matters. In that scenario, I might have been tempted to quit school and go to work until this thing blew over. But wait! Many jobs disintegrated too in the pandemic, with restaurants and other contact businesses being forced to close or reduce capacity. How many brick and mortar stores have been shuttered in the past two years because they couldn’t survive the pandemic? And why, now that businesses are reopened, are they often short-staffed?
On the flip side, those employees involved in “essential services” were working more hours than they wanted, and often under more stress than usual. Healthcare workers suffered burn out and were more exposed to the virus than other people. Teachers were sometimes trying to teach in person and online at the same time or on alternate days. Students were not getting the attention they needed to keep up with their studies. Parents were often torn between trying to work from home and helping their children attend school online. Those who had younger children in the household at the same time must have been pulling their hair out.
Retirement homes didn’t fare any better. Visitors were banned, leaving seniors who counted on family visits stranded. Residents were restricted to their rooms at times when staff tested positive. And of course, until the vaccines were available, the members of this population were most likely to be dealt a fatal blow.
Many Americans report that they have felt like they’ve spent the last two years waiting. Waiting to have their wedding, waiting to have a child, waiting for that dream vacation, waiting to buy a house, waiting to start living again. When things seemed to be improving, along came the Delta and the Omicron variants, only to dash hope. Maybe the pandemic should have taught us not to wait for anything. Live for today, do what you are able to do today and be flexible. Alas, we are not wired that way. We want to plan, want to control our destinies.
In spite of the omnipresent dismal Covid forecasts on the news programs, it should have been a great time to stay home and watch television. With the addition of many new streaming services, that seemed attractive. Except that many shows were delayed for the same reasons that disrupted the rest of our lives, they couldn’t film during the cautionary months of Covid-19. I started calling it C-19, as it became more familiar and warranted a nickname. And some show writers thought it was appropriate to base storylines around the current conditions of the country, and write Covid into the scripts. Especially medical programs, who could resist all the risk and stress involved? No thank you. I still refuse to watch the whole last season of Grey’s Anatomy when they afflicted poor Meredith Grey with Covid. I don’t care how many dead previous co-stars she saw on that beach when she was in a coma.
There were some advantages. Zoom worked great, providing you had a fairly new computer and a decent Wi-fi connection. Although this may have been yet another thing that excluded elderly people. Many workers working from home took advantage of the early days of Covid to do some home improvements, even though you were not supposed to shop for non-essential products. We got government checks that no one expected. Unemployment and under-employment payments helped booster finances. With nowhere to go, I noticed my bank account swelling in the past two years until recently when inflation took a big bite and my retirement funds shrank.
I noticed something else strange about being restricted to home more. I got used to it. Instead of getting stir-crazy, I didn’t mind being a homebody. I am happy that it isn’t permanent.