Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Story. . .

 . . . About Jenn's brother.  For purposes of this story, let's call him Rob.

Rob is 2 years younger than Jenn.  In recent years, his health hasn't been good.  It hurts him to walk, so he doesn't walk much.  He's overweight, and short of breath most of the time.

Rob's wife died in January of '20, and has lived by himself since then.  Understandably, he feels lonely a lot, and we do what we can to keep him in touch from 2 hours away.

Last Thanksgiving (2020), Rob called us a few days before the holiday, and told us that he wanted to join us for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you recall, last Thanksgiving virtually our entire family had COVID, and Thanksgiving dinner was basically part of our quarantine, since all of us were sick at the same time.  We told Rob that he shouldn't come, that we all had the dreaded virus, and we didn't want him to get sick, since he was kind-of a poster boy for the category 'HIGH RISK'.  Rob said no, he was going to come, and expected to join us for dinner.  We reiterated that we didn't want him to come, but we never could dissuade him.

Thanksgiving morning came, and, about an hour before dinnertime, sure enough, Rob's car pulled up in front of our house, and he hobbled up to our door, toting a bag full of pies.

"I brought five pies with me, and I'm not gonna eat 'em by myself!" he exclaimed.

We sighed and invited him in. If he was that determined to have dinner with us, what we we gonna do? So we gave him a spot at the table.

We had a good dinner, and a few hours later, he got in his car and went home.

Every day for the next couple weeks, we waited to hear from him, or another family member, informing us that he was down with COVID and would be dying soon.  We even speculated that, living alone after his wife's death, he was effectively killing himself, and wanted to spend time with loved ones at the end of his life.

But the call never came.

Finally, after a couple weeks (while she was still in the hospital), Jenn called to check up on him.

"How are you?"

"Great! I'm fine!"

"You were in our house when we all had COVID. . ."

"Nope!  I'm good!"

We checked back in with him a few more times, but he never did get sick.

The whole situation was perplexing to us, and we kept trying to figure out how it was possible that, high-risk as he was, he came into our house and sat at our table while we were all still sick, and never showed the slightest symptom.

Then it occurred to us. . . His wife had died in January of '20.  A couple months before the lockdown.  COVID wasn't front-page news yet.  We saw photos from China, and still hoped it might not come to us.  But if anything, Rob's wife was even higher-risk than he was.  She was only in her late 40s, but she had MS, and maybe a couple other things besides.  Her death was very sudden - one day, she had trouble breathing, and within a couple days, she was gone.  Suddenly, it became clear - Rob's wife had died of COVID, even before any of us was really aware of it.  And he had been exposed to her - hard.  I don't know what symptoms, if any, he experienced at the time, but it seemed clear that he had breathed plenty of mask-less, non-socially-distanced COVID-air while he took care of his wife in her final days.  And so, when he came to our house for Thanksgiving, he had a body full of COVID antibodies, even 10+ months after his wife's death, and whatever exposure he had at our house was quickly dispatched.


And so, the punch line. . . Natural Immunity is real, and robust.  Instead of calling us un-vaccinated and part of the problem, we COVID survivors are a key component of the end of the pandemic. . .

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Science Marches On. . .


Just for the sake of saying so, Science Magazine is not a lightweight journal, and it is very far from any kind of 'conservative' political bias. . .

To state things clearly - "people who once had a SARS-CoV-2 infection [are] much less likely than never-infected, vaccinated people to get Delta, develop symptoms from it, or become hospitalized with serious COVID-19."  And, just to be clear, "they caution that intentional infection among unvaccinated people would be extremely risky."  So, no 'infection parties', please. . .

The article notes that a single-dose 'booster given to previously-infected persons reduces their risk even further, but, from the start, 'natural immunity' confers more robust resistance to future infection, and for a longer time, than does vaccination of never-infected persons.

Which is what I was saying a couple months ago.


The thing I don't understand is that, judging from public rhetoric, 'natural immunity' either doesn't exist or isn't worth talking about.  There are only 'The Vaccinated' and 'The Unvaccinated'.  People like me are counted among The Unvaccinated, when we actually have superior immunity to that conferred by vaccination.  We 'Survivors' should be counted among 'The Immunized', whether that immunity came from the natural response of our bodies to infection, or from a vaccine.  But there seems to be a very stubborn resistance to that very basic scientific truth, and I have no idea why. . .

Friday, August 27, 2021

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Follow the Science. . .

 A brief note for my well-intentioned friends who are ever-so-solicitous of my health and well-being (and who aren't, to my knowledge, among my regular readers). . .

The reason people get vaccinated is to induce their bodies to produce the antibodies which will fight off the disease, and (hopefully) prevent the disease from taking hold in the patient's body.  By whatever means, high-tech or otherwise, a replica of the actual virus is introduced into the patient's body, so the patient's immune system will respond, producing antibodies to fight off the replicated virus, which will (hopefully) be sufficient to fight off the actual virus, should it come to take up residence in the patient's body.  So - the vaccine is all about the antibodies.  Clear?

Now, if my body already has the requisite antibodies, I don't need a vaccine to induce my body to produce them.  And the antibodies which are circulating through my bloodstream were produced by contact with the actual virus, not a replica of it.  So, I maintain that my situation is no worse, and quite likely better, than if I'd been vaccinated.

In 'political' terms (and you all know just how very much I love talking about politics), when those in charge go about counting who is and who isn't immunized, I maintain that natural immunity should count at least as much as (and probably more than) immunity induced by a vaccine.

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not telling anyone else what s/he should or shouldn't do with regard to being vaccinated, and I have no quarrel with anyone who has been vaccinated, especially if they haven't had the virus; I'm emphatically NOT anti-vax.  But if I've had the virus, I have the antibodies, and vaccination is superfluous.  It's like getting a flu shot after you've had the flu.

So, my very earnest friends, I'm touched by your very deep concern and solicitude for my health and well-being, I really am.  But honestly - I'm good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Gratitude, Again (and Always)

I'm not saying anything non-obvious by telling you that I haven't posted much, of late; which. . . it is what it is. . .

For those of you wondering how we are - we are well.  Jenn is fully recovered from her erstwhile brush with mortality.  We are both fully retired now, which is nice.  We have added three new grandchildren in the last couple months, bringing the 'official' count to 12, and giving us some delightful ways to keep our retired selves engaged (and, at least in my case, out of trouble).

As life in OurTown begins to emerge from its viral cocoon, I am struck again by what has been a recurring theme in my life - Gratitude.  Gratitude for the goodness of life, gratitude for the web of family and friendship connections that make my life rich and meaningful (and which are, in their own ways, emerging from a year's disruption), gratitude for daily provision (retirement is kind of a hoot - at somewhat regular intervals, money magically appears in my bank account), and for a future full of hope.

In that vein, I'm re-posting a pair of my better old posts (at least, I think they're not too bad) (Beatle-lyrics-reference alert!) for your edification and enjoyment.

God Bless You All. . .


Sometime around the year 1420, a monk named Thomas a Kempis wrote a book, The Imitation of Christ (in the original Latin, Imitatio Christi), which in the fullness of time would become the most widely-read Christian book besides the Bible. And, in its turn, it also became one of my own all-time favorite books.

The Imitation reads like a medieval Christian Book of Proverbs - wisdom for living the Christian life from a wise old monk. It is simply dense with rich and challenging quotes, several of which have made their way into my 'Book of Favorite Quotes' (not available in stores). One of my favorites, which I commend to the attention of all my blog-friends, is this, from chapter 6 of Book 3:

"A wise lover does not so much consider the gift of his lover as he does the love of the giver."

I first came across this many years ago, but it has become one of the favorite 'bywords' that Jenn and I will quote to each other. It bespeaks a kind of humble gratitude, which has served us really well in building our marriage over the years.

On the face of it, it's pretty simple, really - sort of like etiquette for opening presents on Christmas morning - be grateful for the gifts you get, even if they're not exactly the ones you were hoping for. But you know, Thomas doesn't present it as etiquette advice; he just says, "A wise lover. . ." More like, "this is wisdom beyond what meets the eye. . ." And it works, on multiple levels. . .

As most of you know, I'm adopted. At some point when I was in college, I connected the dots, and the realization dawned on me that I had been somebody's 'unwanted pregnancy', once upon a time. It occurred to me that my very existence was due to somebody I'd never met, taking the trouble to see me through nine months of pregnancy. Jenn and I got married and began having our own children (1F was actually the first person I ever knew who was genetically related to me), and all the while, the realization of what it had cost my birth-mother for me to be alive was growing stronger. Until finally, the sense of gratitude for my own existence became my strongest motivation to find and meet my birth-mother.

My birth-mother and I have always had a great relationship. Not so much because either of us are such wonderful people, but because at the bottom of it all, our relationship is one of mutual gratitude. I'm grateful to her for giving me life, and putting up with everything that went into that, including relinquishing me to be adopted by a family that could raise me. And she's grateful, even after all the years, to have a relationship with the son of her womb (and a fine son he is, if I may say so myself). We're both fairly quirky individuals (shocking as this may seem to you, I know), and there could be a lot to be annoyed with in each other, if we were so inclined. But from the beginning, our relationship has been founded on gratitude, so the quirks just seem really minor.

And likewise in my marriage. I'm so grateful to Jenn for throwing her life in with mine, for the love she gives me every day, and for the richness of the life we share together, that her quirks (and yes, alas, she has one or two) just aren't a very big deal by comparison. And I know it works the same way from her end. It's not just a matter of 'seeing the glass half-full' or 'looking on the bright side', although both of those are good advice. Temperamentally, I'm just not a 'glass-half-full' person. But being able to receive with joy 'the gift my lover brings' (Beatle-lyrics-reference alert!), just because I know how it's expressive of her love for me (quite a separate question from how good a gift it is) (but let me be clear - it is a most excellent gift), brings deep joy to my whole life. I'm certainly not meaning to hold myself up as a shining example of superior virtue, or anything like that. But I do believe we've learned something really good and valuable. . .


The conviction has grown within me, over the years, that gratitude is, on a very fundamental level, the most appropriate response we can make for our lives. Gratitude to God, certainly, and most fundamentally. But even on a more mundane level, gratitude to our parents; to our teachers, coaches and mentors; to our brothers and sisters, and our friends.

Existence itself is a gratuitous gift, for which there is no appropriate response except gratitude. Loving relationships; food, clothing and shelter; all the mundane, daily circumstances that, individually and collectively, bring joy and meaning to our lives.

Every one of us has his/her own set of things to be thankful for, and people to be thankful to. Rather than riff off into my own 'list', I'll just encourage all my blog-friends, however briefly, to give some thought to what you're grateful for, and to whom. . .

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Back Home. . .

 Jenn came home yesterday.

Thank you all for your prayers.  She is about 90% of her normal ways.  She has basically had no exercise for a month, so even getting up to use the bathroom at night was exhausting.  But it was nice to feel her warmth next to me in bed.  And I'm sure that just being in the bosom of her family's love will go a long way toward completing her healing.

We were talking yesterday, and it seems clear that this has been, by far, the longest we have been apart in 40+ years of marriage.  Back when I was volunteering at Summer Camp every summer, that was eight days at a time.  A couple times, I went to visit my Mom in California by myself, for maybe a bit less than a week.  But this was 17 days; and we were less than a mile apart.

The road ahead is still a long one.  She'll be receiving IV antibiotics at home for another three weeks, and then checking back in for another set of X-rays, etc. while she rebuilds her strength and stamina.

But, My Beloved is home.  I can't begin to tell you how good it is to have her back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Saga Continues. . .

 Sorry I haven't kept you all up to date.  I keep waiting for a convenient 'break in the action' at which to put things down in electrons, but there's nothing 'convenient' about this. . .

On Wednesday, December 2 (the day after my last post), I took Jenn to the ER.  A little backstory - I, and our kids, were all surprised that Jenn was hit so hard by the virus, whereas I, who have been much less robustly healthy than Jenn over the years, had a pretty mild experience of it.  Of all the possible reasons for this discrepancy, we noted that I have been loading up on vitamins and supplements since before the pandemic appeared.  So, I started giving Jenn the same vitamins and supplements that I was taking, figuring that, at the very least, they'd help moderate the effects of the virus.  But her condition didn't seem to change, and she even spiked a fever, which she hadn't done for the first week's worth of symptoms.  On the 2nd, she woke up at 4:30 AM with an extended coughing fit.  At that point, the realization dawned on me that what we were doing wasn't working, so I bundled her off to the ER.  They swept her away for her intake eval, and they shooed me home (I should note that Jenn packed her cell phone and charger in her purse as we were preparing to leave; good thought, that).

For the first few days, communication was confusing.  She texted me that it was a good thing that I took her in when I did (seems like the disease is going badly), but then also that she was feeling better (seems like things are improving).  I talked with her virtually daily, and her spirits were good, her cough seemed to be improving, and she was talking about coming home soon.  Yay!  Score One for the Good Guys!

Then on Tuesday the 8th (six days after I took her in), she sent a text saying that she finally had a definite diagnosis - she had the COVID, for sure, but she also had a bad case of bacterial pneumonia and sepsis.  What the hell? Sepsis?!?  That's scary as hell. . . and it took them SIX DAYS to figure it out?  Well, no; not really.  Turns out, she had coded for sepsis and pneumonia in her initial intake eval, six days previous, but hadn't bothered to tell that to Jenn - OR ME - for almost a week.  I mean, sure, I'm only her husband, her Durable Power of Attorney, and the one who stands to be widowed if she dies.  So, it's understandable that they wouldn't feel the need to communicate those things to me (that was sarcasm, just to be clear).  So I had a very anxious couple of days.  When I talked to her on Thursday, she felt much better.  The COVID and the sepsis were gone from her body (God is good!), and the pneumonia was on the run.  She was talking about coming home Saturday (the 12th).  On Friday, they were cutting the papers to release her on Saturday, but Friday night, her pain suddenly worsened, and by Saturday noon, it was clear that she wasn't coming home just yet.

Sunday, they did a CAT scan and discovered a sac on fluid on her lung, which was basically the last remnant of the pneumonia, maybe 3-4 inches long and an inch wide.  They weighed their options, including possibly poking a tube into the sac to drain it.  In the end, they decided to switch to a different antibiotic, and see what happens.  When I spoke to her yesterday, her fever was gone, the pain had decreased to the point that she was declining pain-killers (which just means that the pain was manageable, not that it was gone), and her voice was as clear and strong as I'd heard it in weeks.  So it seems a corner is being turned.  But having heard twice already that she'd be coming home soon, I won't believe it until they wheel her up alongside my car, she gets in, and we drive away.  Hopefully, that will happen soon, but at this point, I just want her to get well.

When she does come home, she will still be recuperating for an unspecified length of time, so Christmas stands to be pretty low-key, even if she's home.  And my job, once she's home, will be mainly to manage the chaos level in the house, what with three of our kids, and two grandchildren, living under our roof.

A couple thoughts - our family's experience of the killer virus was mainly pretty benign, except for Jenn.  And her situation seems to have been more about bacteria that she picked up out of the air, than the dreaded COVID itself (6F's husband had a similar experience - he somehow picked up pneumonia along with his order of COVID, so his recovery was more arduous than everyone else's).  I don't know if COVID makes you more vulnerable to stuff like pneumonia and sepsis, but hose of us who only had COVID to deal with, experienced it as something between a heavy cold and a mild flu.

I have not been happy with the communication I've gotten from the hospital (essentially, none at all).  You don't want me up in your COVID isolation ward; OK.  Even though I survived the virus and have the antibodies; I won't infect you, and you won't infect me; seems overly cautious, especially when me just being able to see and touch her would do us both a lot of good.  Plus, the aforementioned spousal status, Durable Power of Attorney, and all that.  At one point, Jenn told me that the chief nurse was going to call me; great! Let me talk to an honest-to-goodness medical person.  Then I got a text stating that the nurse didn't want to get any of the details wrong, and so she had asked the pulmonologist to call me himself.  Of course, you know, that call never came.  Mind you, I'm not questioning the competency of the medical/nursing staff; Jenn has nothing but the highest praise for the care she has received.  But the 'lockdown' status of the COVID ward seems to provide cover for saying nothing to other family members.  If she weren't 'locked down', I would be there, the docs could answer my questions, and we'd all be happy.  At least, I'd know what's going on, instead of getting texts from Jenn that become obsolete 3 seconds after they're sent.

On a deeper, 'existential' level, I've had to look square in the face of the possibility that my wife could die (and she assuredly will, someday).  We just celebrated our 40th anniversary this past summer, and this hospital thing has made clearer than ever that we have no guarantees.  I never expected that she could die before I do - she's just a healthier person than I am - but damn, you know, she could.  There's a part of me that's a little panicked by that thought, but you know, I do trust in God, and I've got plenty of people who love me, who would help me find my footing in a world without Jenn (which. . . may it never happen).  This whole thing just brings mortality and all that's attached to it, front-and-center in my consciousness.  Which has been happening more and more in the 3+ years since I had a stroke (which itself turned out to be blessedly mild).  As someone said (a song lyric, maybe?) - No One Gets Outta Here Alive.  As you get older, dealing with that simple, brute fact becomes an increasingly urgent task. . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sharing the Experience. . .

 Our family has, for most of this year, cruised through the COVID-infested waters of life in Michigan/USA, without any of us getting infected.

No more.

Back the week before Thanksgiving, our doctor's office was sending us multiple messages of one sort or another, urging us to get a flu shot.  Now, for many years, I didn't get flu shots, but in recent years (roughly since I turned 60) I've started getting them, reasoning that the mild case I get from the vaccination could save me from the real thing, which becomes more dangerous the older I get.  So, I dutifully reported to my doctor's office on Tuesday afternoon the 17th of November, and got my flu shot.  Sure enough, the next day, Wednesday, I felt 'punky' as I often have after a flu shot; likewise Thursday.  Friday, I felt great, and figured I was on my way.  Saturday, I felt bad - body aches, a wet cough, and general fatigue.  I didn't have a fever, and I could still taste and smell, so I tentatively ruled out the COVID and resolved to get some rest.  Sunday, I felt worse; same symptoms, just worse.

Monday, I was feeling a little bit better - not well, by any means, but better.  But Jenn was complaining of the same symptoms I had - body aches, wet cough, and general fatigue.  That Monday before Thanksgiving, we also received the news that 6F and her husband had been tested for COVID.  At first, there was some confusion as to what the results were - her husband had pneumonia, and at first, that came across as he didn't have COVID, but when everything was clarified, they both had COVID.  Now, this was not happy news, because they had been at our house for several hours, several days/week, for the previous couple months.

Also that Monday, 3M (who has been living with us since August; long story) found out that he had been exposed at work.  He works for a reconstruction company, and they were working on a job involving a backed-up sewer.  Turns out the homeowner's wife had COVID, but he decided to conceal that fact from the company, not wanting to delay getting the shit cleaned out of his basement.  So Monday was not a good day at our house.

I was feeling incrementally better day by day, but it became apparent that Jenn was getting hammered.  She basically didn't get out of bed for 5 days, except for Thanksgiving.  We had originally planned on having 12 for Thanksgiving dinner, but when we called our putative guests to inform them of our status, they pretty much all backed out politely, so we ended up with 7 for dinner, all but one of whom already lived under our roof.  Jenn was completely blasted, and I was still less-than-fully recovered, so Thanksgiving, in the final analysis, kinda sucked.

Jenn went and got tested the Friday after Thanksgiving; she has a couple situations working for folks who would really need to know whether she has the COVID or not.  And meanwhile, she was getting hammered by whatever-it-was.  She has always been a robustly healthy person, and we both just assumed that, if COVID came to our house, I would be in much worse trouble than she would.  But she just spent hour after hour in bed, moaning through her lousiness.  While, by this past weekend, I was feeling about 85% 'normal'.

So yesterday, Jenn got her test results back - positive.  Which means that I had it, too, since she got it from me.  Woo-hoo!  Also yesterday, 7M and his wife, who live in our basement apartment (but who weren't at our Thanksgiving dinner) also got positive tests back.  So now, everyone under our roof, except 8M and our 6-year-old grandson, has either a positive test or an outside exposure (and of course, even they are exposed several times over just for living here).

I guess, all things considered, I'm just as happy to have gotten the COVID, given how relatively benign my experience was - somewhere between a heavy cold and a mild flu.  Jenn might disagree, although she is finally getting to the 'feeling-incrementally-better-every-day' stage.  But, given where she started from, 'a little bit better' can still feel pretty cruddy.  At least, she is identifiably on the mend.

So that's our experience.  Most of the younger folks are feeling kinda yucky, but they're already kicking it (6F's husband, with the complication of pneumonia, is having a rougher time, but he's mending)

So that's what we've been up to the last couple weeks.  Hope you all had a warmly blessed Thanksgiving. . .

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Two Things I Know For Certain. . .

. . . about every human being who has ever lived, myself included (and all of you who are reading this), no matter their 'gender', race, religion, age, ethnicity, national origin, sexual preference or any other thing incidental to the fundamental fact of their humanity:

1) They are a person made in the Image and Likeness of God, and therefore, possessors of an intrinsic dignity and worth not conferred on them (and thus irrevocable) by any other human being,  and

2) They are a sinner in desperate need of God's mercy.

It has long seemed to me that most, if not all, of the cultural/political quarrels of our day stem from emphasizing one or the other of these truths at the expense of the other, preferring to see their fellow-citizens (and themselves) as either only god-like, or only depraved.  And that those who agree with them are especially god-like, and those who disagree with them are wicked fools.

But the Christian knows (and I would submit that empirical evidence suggests) that he and his fellow-humans are neither all one, nor all the other, but both at once, holding these seemingly contradictory truths in tension.  As Solzhenitsyn said, "the line between good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart. . ."