2020 Hard to Forget
Sunday, January 03, 2021
1 year ago last January 2020, I thought the year would go so differently. Who didn't?
I had a work trip with colleagues scheduled for March. By February, we were getting nervous as the COVID cases started appearing in the US. There were discussions about whether we should cancel the trip. We ended up going, but we were all on edge. We were advised not to shake hands and used the elbow bump greeting. At that time, it was thought that COVID spread through contact like a cold or flu, but I had suspicions otherwise. I washed my hands frequently, of course, but I also thoroughly washed my face and hair when returning to my hotel room like a decontamination shower. This was the first week in March. We were very fortunate that none of us became sick, though we still don't really know. Maybe we did, but were the early asymptomatic ones. I recall having a brief sore throat, but it could have been psychosomatic hypochondria. Who knows?
By the time we returned home, everything was shutting down. My company said there would be no more in person conferences or trips for an indeterminate time. I'm lucky that my company moved so fast to shut down our offices. Despite being a very large organization, only one person within my immediate office became sick with COVID. Our management ordered all of us to go home, then this person became sick a week later. Fortunately, he recovered. If our office hadn't been shut down when it was, he could have infected all of us. It was the closest call I had with the virus in the early days.
So we adjusted to working from home full time. We were well setup for this in my company since we regularly work from home. However, adjusting to working from home with my husband was a challenge. At first, we shared the home office space, but he complained that I talked on the phone too much. Well, that's kinda my job to be on the phone talking with people! I moved my laptop out to the kitchen, which I didn't mind because it has a nice view of the backyard. But then my husband would come in the kitchen to make a snack or wash dishes while I was on the phone, and it sounded like I was working from a Denny's. We bought a small desk and I moved my "office" into our bedroom (also with a nice view of the backyard).
Everything was uncertain, but ok until the summer. Things just started snowballing from there.
My company started announcing plans for voluntary layoffs and furloughs, then later involuntary layoffs as it appeared that COVID was not contained. I took 4 rounds of furloughs over the summer. I was lucky to make it past 2 rounds of the involuntary layoffs, but I had to say farewell to a number of friends. Others left voluntarily, or are searching. I tried to search for other jobs too, but I wasn't able to find one. I am still employed now, but things are looking grim going into 2021. At least by being locked down, we have been able to save money, and we're on edge that we're going to need it. It seems likely more layoffs and furloughs are coming. I wish people would stay home except for groceries and let this pass, but I'm not optimistic that they will.
My great aunt on my mom's side died in July, which came as a shock to us. We didn't know she was ill. As a kid, my mom would send me to Indiana to spend the summer with my grannie, aunts and uncles. My grannie and I would go over to her sister's house during the day while my aunt worked. I spent the afternoons picking daisies and dandelions, and eating the gooseberries from my great-aunt's backyard. She died of a heart condition and didn't have COVID, but because of COVID, we didn't travel for the funeral. My mom and family were quite devastated that we couldn't all give her a proper send off with the family.
My dad had another episode with his heart around august. He was experiencing chest pains and taking his emergency nitroglycerin. His cardiologist ordered a stress test and noticed some worrying results. An angiogram showed that one of the arteries they were worried about was closed to 90% blockage. He was scheduled to have another stent put in. Because of COVID concerns, we could not stay at the hospital while we had the procedure done, which stressed my mom with worry. She didn't get to hold his hand before he went in. Fortunately, all went well, but the separation anxiety was felt.
In October, my beloved cat Shadow was having some odd nosebleeds, so I took her to the vet. The vet referred us to a specialist to do a ct-scan on her nose. A diagnosis was made that she has incurable nasal cancer. I opted not to do the radiotherapy because it was not going to cure her, so there's no need to put her through that. We don't know how much time she has. The vet gave me a painkiller to administer to her. She is doing well for now, and I'm just doing my best to keep her warm and comfortable.
Around that same time, my husband was informed that his mother was having tests done because of stomach pains and bleeding. She was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was scared, but upbeat. They scheduled a hysterectomy for November. Thanksgiving Day, actually. My husband's family lives in England, so we were waiting for phone calls from them on how things were going. The doctors said there was minor bleeding but nothing to worry about, and it seemed like things were ok. Once again, because of COVID, no one could be in the hospital or visit her. About a week later, they gave her the option of staying in the hospital or going home. Of course, she wanted to go home, but we all thought it seemed a bit soon. Still, because of the COVID situation, I'm sure the hospitals wanted to clear the beds as soon as possible. My mother in law said she wanted to be home for her birthday.
She went home, but a few days later something seemed wrong. Not to be gross, but she was "leaking" and she couldn't sit up or get out of her chair. An ambulance took her back to the hospital. It was her birthday. My husband didn't get a chance to call her before they took her away.
It seemed like a good thing that she was back in the hospital, as we previously thought she was discharged too soon. A few days later, we got the call that she had been taken to emergency surgery because of internal bleeding. Then we got a second call that she had passed away. The abruptness was a devastating shock. Because of COVID, the family couldn't be at the hospital, and no one got to see her one last time. They just got the phone calls that she was going into operation, and then she died.
We still don't know what happened, but my husband doesn't want to think about it too much either. The family is choosing to look at it as she was spared from the suffering of cancer and chemotherapy that could extend for years.
My husband made the hard decision that he doesn't want to travel to England for the funeral. Even with the best precautions, a tragedy could turn into more tragedies. The 7 hour flight with people who may be lying about their symptoms, being exposed to a different set of people in the UK, mandatory 14 day quarantine when in the UK, the mutation that has appeared in London, the unknown if we would be allowed back in the USA, and what if we bring something back and expose our friends and my parents to the virus? It's heartbreaking, but we just can't go.
We are just hoping by summer we will be eligible for the group to receive the vaccine, and we will be able to travel by the fall.
And just when we thought we could close the page on 2020, on Dec 30 my aunt got the news that her mother-in-law has COVID. She is in her 90s and legally blind. She spent many years trying to live at her home, but last year she fell and broke her hip 3 times, so she finally agreed to be moved to assisted living. She is really quite a lovely intelligent woman, and still sharp and witty in her 90s. So far she has just mild symptoms, but this is the first case of COVID within our family. We're all praying for her continued good health.
Normally I am not a person that is very good at remembering years when things occurred. My husband and I argue about what year we did what. He is much better with dates than me, and he is usually right because I don't remember correctly. I have to write events I want to remember in a journal because I am just not good at recalling events in relation to the year when they happened.
2020 is different, though, in an unfortunate way. I feel so terrible for our healthcare workers who are having to deal with the consequences, and I feel the pain of people who were separated from their loved ones in their final hours. I want to be optimistic about 2021, but so far I haven't seen anything being done better than it was. If people don't want to take the vaccine, then I hope they let others have it.