It was the end of the year, December 31st, 2020. I was at work at Southern Oaks, a nursing home, as one of two social services directors. Tomorrow we would be off for the New Year. What could go wrong in 2021? How could it get any worse? In April, we had 97 COVID-19 patients. Several residents were lost to the pathogen back in the spring, but we beat it back. A long-term resident went out on a visit with family for Thanksgiving. She came back and tested positive within a week and later died in the hospital. Between the holidays, we rapidly slid back. The second outbreak bit down hard. The entire first floor had to be cordoned off in plastic. Then. . .we had to "bubble-off" a wing on the second floor. There we were back in isolation. I had not had to wear PPE in months. We had 20 infected residents by the end of December. Coupled with this, there were 20 employees out due to the virus.
What’s that itching on my shoulder? I thought.
I felt around my left shoulder. I forgot I had a biopsy done on a large, abstract freckle in all the excitement in the last couple of weeks. The scab had fallen off and slid down the inside of my shirt. I retrieved it and disposed of it.
The dermatologist never called back. Call them.
Anxiety started to elevate as I dialed the dermatologist's office. "Hey, yeah—I had a biopsy one a couple of weeks back. No one has called me back. I want to know the results?" I asked the nurse.
"Hang on, sir. We had to send that out to an outside lab. Those results don't always alert us," she said, "Okay. . .I found it--"
"Well, let me get the doctor to get on the phone and talk to you."
"Alright—I am just going to tell you what I am looking at—melanoma. You need to come in and get the rest of that removed. You need to be here on Wednesday the 6th. Can you come in?”
“By all means. Yes. Cut it, burn it out! I don’t care. Get it off of me!” I hung up after I entered the appointment in my phone’s calendar. Not happy. Both of my parents had died of cancer. “Goddamn! Son of a bitch!” I yelled as I put the Android back in my belt holder.
“So, it was cancer?” asked Dusty—my coworker and the other social services director.
“Whom am I kidding? I had a feeling. If I’d never called them, would I have ever known?” I picked up the phone and called my wife.
Monday, January 4th: After lunch, I was sitting at my desk madly entering quarterly psycho-social assessments on the computer. I could hear the office door open behind me. I turned around. Dusty was standing there, with a very anxious look on his face. “What?” I asked.
“I just tested positive! Shit! I’ll be out for ten days!” Dusty’s first concern was not getting sick. He was worried about me getting behind at work. He and I have known each other for 20 years. We’d been through some very tough situations before over the years.
"No problem! I got This." I was not worried that he would infect me as I had antibodies.
Wednesday the 6th: I am at the dermatologist sitting in the chair as they prep me for the surgery. On my phone, I watched as some shaman guy and his crew assault the Capitol.
We're not even a whole week into this new year, and the entire thing is already going down the shitter.
On the 12th, I received my first round of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations.
Thursday the 14th: I married my coworker and his husband as a notary public in a drive-up ceremony. Even in seemingly Gay-friendly Pensacola, finding a notary willing to marry a same-sex couple was difficult. I had no idea. That's why I volunteered.
Friday the 15th: Dusty was back, but we had an emotional goodbye for our administrator who’d taken a job at a new nursing home.
By the end of the month, our COVID residents had resolved. We're looking at getting our second vaccinations. Admissions are surging, and we are short-staffed once again.
What is going to happen next? Was this just a new beginning? Now what?
I am cautiously optimistic.
Life in the Time of CoronaWithin weeks after March 11, 2020 World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, West Florida Literary Federation offered its writers a catharsis. By April, regional writers were submitting words and images to preserve this time in history. The ongoing project began with Phase I, a special edition of The Legend published in May. It featured more than thirty juried submissions. Life in the Time of Corona continues with Phase II, updated as submissions are accepted. Here are the voices of health care workers, poets, essayists, historians, and the images of artists and photographers, documenting this time in Northwest Florida's history. The ongoing project ends with the advent of a vaccine or declaration by the World Health Organization.
Social Distancing at Johnson's Beach
Six Feet Apart
The Last Haircut
The Passage to Paradise
When Hammock Becomes Mask
Riding Out a Hurricane in a Pandemic
To Butt in or Not
Bends and Turns
Pandemic Pen Pals
Prayer to The Theotokos
Grieving Loss of Many Kinds
Why Wear Masks?
COVID 19 Sidewalk Chalk 4-16-2020
View from Within
The Enigma of Deadman’s Island
In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu
Meditations on the Coronavirus
Life in the Time, Again, of Pandemic
Only 2 Things
A Muted Life
America is on Life Support; Prognosis Poor
Crossing COVID Bay
Next Week’s Plans
A View of the Stars
Some Inland Curse
From My Soul To Yours
Eating the Mango
Blindly It Slays Thee
Death in the Time of Corona
What to Do
The Earth Lives On
COVID-19 from the Beginning
Let This Scourge Pass
Earth Day, 2020
Old School Dream
Chronicle of Fools
Ghost of COVID-19
The Year of the Virus
The Mask III
Behind the Mask
Short FictionPassage to Paradise
Mardi Gras Queen
The LegendThe Legend Special Edition Life in the Time of Corona