I know, everyone was just waiting for my little book report about King Henry VI, Part 1, the sixth Shakespearean play of the 42 I intend to . Not to worry! I’ve watched it while following along in the text. I made my notes. But this week had other, perhaps parallel, dramatic adventures in store for our family, as first Eleanor tested positive for Covid, then Victor and I developed symptoms, and finally Jason succumbed. I’ve been shocked at the severity of our symptoms, notwithstanding the fact that we are all as vaccinated as a family can be – each child twice, and each adult thrice.
“… this loathsome sequestration…” – Mortimer
We had unfortunately hosted a college of Jason’s last Saturday for dinner. Jason tested negative on a pharmacy test, then Victor and I trooped off to the pharmacy for official tests to reassure. All three negative. Eleanor refused to test, and we let it go rather than argue with her. We all felt fine that evening.
“Alarum!” – like approximately five times every Shakespeare history play
Sunday morning dawned though, with Eleanor crawling into bed around seven in the morning. Cough, cough. Cough. Cough. Good lord, Eleanor, I said, of all of us yesterday you should have been the one to test. Jason rolled his eyes. I biked off to St. James for mass, and halfway through the first reading a messaged popped up on my phone: Eleanor’s positive. I bailed out of the pew and biked home. The pharmacy test confirmed the home test. Eleanor would be home for the week. We expected her to have none to mild symptoms, but that wasn’t the case. She did feel it.
“My thoughts are whirlèd like a potter’s wheel.” – Talbot
Eleanor trooped through a week of remote learning, perched in front of her vanity in her bedroom. Her symptoms were milder than those of her parents and brother, but we didn’t know that then, as we three were all testing negative until yesterday. Social isolation is very hard for Eleanor. She hated being kept away from Victor. She cried in her play loft. She refused to bathe or shower, and would not remove her mask in the apartment, even as Victor and I began to sneeze and cough and have headaches. She wrote me little notes in poignant block letters in English.
“Plause my disey is getting bader. I se swourlse.” – Eleanor [trans: Please my dizziness is getting badder. I see swirlies.]
Jason and I kept working through the week, with both kids at home in remote learning, peering responsibly at their laptops. We decided to keep Victor at home too, since he and Eleanor are paper and glue, and the chance of his exposure to the virus was, like my blood oxygen, approximately 100%. A few parents helpfully advised me that I could send him to school. That we was fully vaccinated and did not need to be at home. I thanked them kindly for their input and followed my own intuition about where all this might be heading.
“Vexation almost stops my breath.” – Richard of York
Negative test after negative test. This can’t be, I said. A hypothesis was floated that maybe we had a parallel cold. This seemed less likely to me. By Wednesday night I felt like I had malaria. Chills, body ache, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose, dizziness, and of greatest concern, it felt like my chest had been clamped in a vise. I checked on our oximeter and my blood oxygen saturation was 100%. Why did I feel like someone had dropped a barbell bar on my chest, in any position?
“Make my ill be th’advantage of my good.” Richard of York
Now, on Saturday afternoon, it seems that Victor and Jason and I have turned a corner, but it is also true that our symptoms have been cycling – lighter in the morning, stronger in the evening and at night. I’ve woken myself up coughing a few times every overnight. (Don’t worry, I am sleeping on my stomach.) I make the rounds a couple times each night to check on all the sleeping critters in my charge. Luckily we have a guest room, and everyone is sleeping in their own pod right now. I am grateful that no one in our family has had a fever or vomiting, but we check off almost every other symptom in Omicron-2. Victor, most alarmingly, now has a mouthful of canker sores. Eleanor had a rash on her forearms that resolved after a few days. It’s clearly a full-court press on the immune system.
“Malevolent to you in all respects.” – Westmoreland, King Henry IV, Part 1 from last week
Two years ago, Italy had not yet locked down against the virus. It was the strange plasma-state weekend of ill-advised freedom. I’d just had that extremely odd event with the heart and the emergency hospital visit – a morning on which, I remember very clearly, my oxygen saturation was close to 90%, as the doctors worked on me and Jason tried to keep our kids out of the living room.
We had planned a week in Portugal on a beach close to Lisbon. A weekend in the capital with the kids. Ceviche e vinho verde. Café e medialunas. The quiet waves rolling onto the sand. Sunny Sintra. All cancelled last Sunday. I’m wrangling my trip insurance now for refunds. Note to self: don’t ever buy tickets again on Ryanair. They won’t let you cancel a flight, and then they produce some document for the trip insurance provider that you were a no-show. I suppose to shift fault to the traveller. The trip insurance provider plays dumb: You mean Ryanair won’t refund you? They won’t, and they won’t save or timestamp my customer service chat either. These are not the sorts of details one wishes to be addressing with a headache and a monkey jumping on your chest.
“Care is no cure, but rather a corrosive / For things that are not to be remedied.” – Jean la Pucelle
Once more I feel my experience is out of step with the insistent tone of the media and various world leaders, who repeat that it is time to get back to normal, the pandemic is over, we must learn to live with it. I too would like to believe the pandemic is over. But my observed and lived experience tells me it is not so. Not yet.
“….what madness rules in brainsick men.” King Henry VI