Note: As I post this article, Larry and I had just finished up our Special Olympics Florida state meet with our track and field team. We had a wonderful, exhausting, and incredibly rewarding two days with all of our “stars.” In this article, I reflect back on last year’s 2022 SOFL State Games and its aftermath.
Guess who contracted COVID?
After months and months of being careful, I had pressed my luck. As Special Olympics Track and Field coaches, Larry and I attended the Florida State Special Olympics game with eleven athletes from Osceola County on May 20 and 21, 2022. All of our events, which took place in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, were supposed to be outdoors. Plans changed quickly when torrential rains and strong winds swept in moments after we had parked our car. Our team, along with several other teams from a variety of sports, spent the first two hours sheltering in the Advent Health Building lobby. The “close encounters of the super-spreading kind” happened again that night when rain delayed and then finally resulted in the cancellation of opening ceremonies. Although Larry opted not to wear a mask, I made sure I had my KN95 covering my face whenever I was inside. Outside, however, I eschewed protection, hoping for the best.
Fortunately, the weather improved the second day of competition. By Saturday afternoon, however, I was exhausted. I tried to hydrate, but I was totally wiped. “Maybe I’m getting too old for this,” I thought to myself. Or maybe I was just feeling the effects of two sleep-deprived nights, two mornings of 6 a.m. alarms, and my putting on at least eight miles corralling our athletes to various venues in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity.
By the time our last athlete had claimed his second place medal in the 400 meter walk, even Larry, who had shown no signs of slowing down, was ready to get out of the heat and go home. We stopped for a late lunch, drove home and collapsed on our couch. After a slow walk on Sunday morning, we went to Publix for our second booster shot. Then we spent the rest of Sunday with a repeat performance on the couch.
On Monday, I attempted my usual walk but felt as if I were plowing through mud. By Tuesday afternoon, exhaustion was accompanied by congestion and a runny nose. “Just a head cold,” I thought. It took me until Wednesday to administer the home test.
You know how it usually takes 15 minutes to see the results? Forget that. Within thirty-seconds of putting the disgusting drops into the assigned spot on the test strip, the “positive” line showed up.
“I have COVID,” I texted my husband, who was at a ROMEO [Retired Old Men Eating Out] luncheon. Unfortunately, he didn’t read the text and only learned the news on a phone call when he was driving home. His passenger quickly put on a mask. Sorry Rich! That is the proverbial “Shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.” Fortunately Larry and he didn’t come down with it.
I never have been a good “patient” in that I have no patience for being sick. When Larry came home from his outing, he found me on the computer, a box of Kleenex and a cup of tea by my side, interviewing someone for my Holocaust Torah story while typing away. “Get off the damn computer, put on a mask, and go lie down,” he told me.
Exhausted, congested, and realizing that I couldn’t leave the house anyway, I gave up. I spent the next three days sacked out on the couch catching up on Outlander. Note: There is no better way to veg out than spending twenty hours with Jamie and Claire as they romped their way through pre-Revolutionary War America.
Later than evening, Larry made dinner for both of us, something he did every night for the next eight nights. And to top it off, he made me an ice cream sundae every night to help “soothe your scratchy throat.” At least that is the way we justified 350 calories of pure bliss. Larry, meanwhile, was earning enough “Best Husband in the World” points for a lifetime.
By Sunday, I was feeling well enough to resume my work on the Holocaust Torah story. I even had enough energy to take a short (masked) walk and to water my drooping houseplants. As was the case for so many others who contracted “the plague,” however, it took me another two weeks to get over the fatigue.
Do I have any regrets about going to the Special Olympics State meet? Not one bit. Seeing our athletes competing in their events, coming down off the awards platform, finding their way to their parents, and beaming with pride, brings so much joy it was worth spending the two days in a sure fired “petri dish.”And how could I not hug my athletes when they finished a great race or threw the softball farther than they ever had or showed me their medal?
So where do we go from here? Yes, I may get COVID again, but having it may have helped me build up some immunity. Larry was spared this round but will he contract it in the future? Only time will tell.
On March 25, 2020, Jewish World published my first “pandemic” story. “As I write this, we are in the second week of our own national crisis,” I stated. “Larry and I worry about our friends and family—especially our own children.” Over the ensuing months, I wrote about how COVID and its forced locked-down impacted us: our first sad Passover seder for two; our hours and hours on Zoom; our trimmed down wardrobe (on my not slimming down body); our hopes for a more sensible approach to COVID with a new president; our tentative steps back into the world with masks and bottles of hand sanitizer and vaccines and boosters; our joy in finally reuniting with our children and grandchildren, and, of course, my baking dozens of loaves of challahs I baked throughout the long months.
It is now time to put all these stories, published every two weeks in Jewish World, into a book. Keep Calm and Bake Challah: Surviving the Pandemic, Politics, Pratfalls, and Other of Life’s Problems will be finished and available on Amazon in June 2023.
And it is time to move on. Yes, we will test before visiting our children. Yes, we will mask when necessary, especially in unavoidable crowded venues including planes and other public transportation. Meanwhile, I will continue to keep calm, bake challah. and learn to live in the “new normal” in the Age of Covid.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Jewish World News, a bi-weekly subscription-based newspaper in upstate New York.