Vexations and Conundrums

By Katina Pontikes


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After about six weeks in self-isolation in the U.S., hidden away from everyone and everything with my husband and our host, I can report that there is increased anxiety, no matter how nice a place you land in.

We share our mornings with cows and horses, in a bucolic setting. Yet, every time I crave Mexican food and a perfect margarita, I am reminded the restaurants are closed. When I miss my friends, I recall I can’t see them right now. I long to get dressed up, wear pretty shoes, and go out.

One gets a quick slap-in-the-face about what matters. COVID-19 claims victims indiscriminately across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. While there are definitely some populations more at risk, no one is outside the virus’s reach

I live near a Target store in Houston. After we returned here, I noted lots of customers shopping, unmasked, despite the fact masks are mandatory in this city. If the restrictions were enforced, an awful lot of people would be fined in this store alone. Yet I don’t see anyone making an issue of it. Believers vs. Non-believers. Tomorrow masks won’t be mandatory.

And leadership? No wonder there’s so much confusion as to what to do and when to do it. Directives are ever-changing, and the insinuations of the president frequently conflict with directives from state governors and local mayors, each state operating like an independent country.

My husband and I are the ultra-careful people. We stay isolated except for urgent medical needs or drive-in banking. Groceries are delivered. We are fortunate to have masks, gloves, sanitizer, spray disinfectant. But even these can present risk: My mask cut my eye when it slipped up on my face. These are the issues we deal with.

My son’s work is construction management, deemed essential, as though he is doing brain surgery. When I asked if they were working on hospitals, bridges, schools, I was informed most all of his construction jobs were deemed “essential.” I sadly informed him he would have to isolate for 14 days before we could see each other. He didn’t act crushed. There was no pleading or persuasion for an exception. The Plague Truth is brutal.

Still, we attempt humor, as macabre as it sometimes is. My husband knocked on the door after a drive-up bank visit. I asked who was there. “The Virus,” he responded.

Side dramas of life continue. Here, a short list:

  • Our host in isolation was called by her doctor’s office to say she may have been in the examining room right after a COVID19 patient and that she should quarantine 14 days. We were already there at her ranch with her, so we held our breath, kept distance, and hoped. Days later, the office called with the great news the patient had tested negative. Joy!
  • Just as my friend was driving up to drop off emergency groceries, her 95-year-old grandmother suffered a massive stroke. My friend beat the ambulance workers, who arrived in near-HAZMAT suits, and informed her she could neither accompany them to the hospital, nor go in with her grandmother. The new way. She signed forms and we waited anxiously until her grandmother was back at home, due to the miracle shot which was administered in time. Gratitude!
  • We had a sick dog and a wounded horse on the ranch. The vet made a personal call to treat the animals. Afterwards, he came up to the house to report on medical issues. We pushed our chairs back six feet and welcomed his human companionship. That was an exciting “happy hour,” with intellectual outside company. The 17-year-old arthritic dog was running around like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. I wondered if steroids were involved in its treatment.

I realize I may not succeed in the COVID-19 future because, many of my age group enjoy social media, it’s never caught on for me. So, while others are raising a glass during a Zoom cocktail hour, I’m avoiding mirrors—not to mention cameras—because of the gray skunk stripe in my hair (no hairdressers). I’ve also applied no makeup since isolation began. So I leave Zoom-ing and FaceTiming to my friends.

Continuous illness and death numbers tally on the daily news. It’s awful. I don’t know when I can return to my beloved Mexico, where COVID-19 arrived later. How long can we stay in this suspended isolation, masked, gloved and alien to our former selves? That is the six feet under question.

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