Part of me felt like a failure. For nearly two years straight, I tried to make sure it didn't get us.
And then it got us.
For a nerd who always wants to do well and follow the rules, getting covid felt like I'd screwed up, like I'd failed.
But a virus, especially an incredibly contagious one, doesn't care if you were a good student. It doesn't check your high school transcript. It just looks for an opportunity and takes it. Simple as that.
The only reason we found out the virus was in our house was because our 17-year-old son took a three-hour nap in the middle of the day and said he was still tired. A red flag sprang up in my mind. We bought a covid home test, assuming that a breakthrough covid case had showed up uninvited. The box contained two tests, so we used the extra one on our 15-year-old daughter, since she had a bit of a runny nose but otherwise felt fine.
Minutes later, there was one negative test result and one positive -- but it was our daughter (with the runny nose) who had the virus. Our son was negative. Tom masked up and went to buy another home test, hoping the positive test was a fluke. It wasn't. The second test confirmed it.
Thankfully, Kate's symptoms didn't get much worse than congestion, sneezing and a runny nose over the next few days. She'd been boosted about three weeks earlier, so we're sure that helped keep her case mild.
But then about 72 hours later, a raw, scratchy feeling settled into my throat, while a strange headache pressed down from above. And I knew I had it, too. The home test confirmed it. I trudged into the covid cave we'd set up for Kate and crawled into bed. The next three days blurred together into a haze of severe headache, body aches and chills. By Day 3, the headache eased up and was replaced with congestion, sore throat and a cough.
Thankfully, Kate was finishing her time in the covid cave as I was going into mine. She has been able to bring me the food, drinks and medicine that Tom leaves outside the bedroom door. One day during a round of body aches, I rolled over and pointed an accusatory finger at Kate, also known as Patient Zero in our house.
Me: "Why are my symptoms so much different than yours were?"
Her: "Do you want the honest answer or the nice answer?"
Me (squinting suspiciously): "Give me the honest answer."
Her (trying to choose her words carefully): "Because you're old...-er?"
Me: "So I'm miserable with covid, and you're also saying I'm a decrepit old lady. May I remind you I once carried you inside this body for nine months? NINE months! You and your brothers have made me old."
Then she smiled weakly, passed me a box of tissues, and went back to playing games on her laptop.
One of my worst fears reared its head three days after I got sick, because that's when my 77-year-old mom (with underlying conditions) tested positive, too. We set up another isolation room for her and, so far, her symptoms are manageable. We're still hoping my 84-year-old dad doesn't get sick, too.
I'm on Day 8 now and feeling mostly back to normal, except for fatigue that doesn't know when it's time to leave the party. But my rapid home test shows I'm still positive today, which apparently is more common than I thought. So, I'm staying home and wearing a KN95 mask any time I pass through a room with Tom or my son, who are still testing negative.
The biggest thing I've realized in the past eight days is that timing is everything. And my family has been so lucky to have somehow eluded the virus before vaccines and boosters and anti-viral drugs were here to help. If covid is like a tornado, our vaccines and boosters have given us a shelter to help protect us from the worst of the damage.
Not everyone had access to shelter. I've thought so much about those who got the virus in the first few scary months of the pandemic in 2020, when the world understood so little about it. I've thought about how much more their symptoms may have hurt and how frightening it must have been for them and for their families.
It seems especially cruel and arbitrary that something as random as timing or an underlying condition could result in loss and grief for one family versus only a 10-day inconvenience for another family almost two years later.
If you're the praying kind, my family would happily accept prayers for recovery as well as for the safety of those who are still testing negative so far. And may we all say another prayer for the families of those who suffered the very worst of the storm.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected]. Her book is available on Amazon.