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A COVID Christmas sets up prospect of a Happy New Year

by Candace A. Gray —

’Twas the day before Christmas. While some families were making their final preparations for the holidays, wrapping presents and starting to cook lavish holiday meals, other families were trying to get tested for COVID-19. My family was one of the latter. 

Our 2-year-old had a runny nose and cough for weeks, but isn’t that par for the course with all kids in daycare? He never had a fever, so we didn’t get him tested for COVID-19. (Mistake number one.)

Toddlers are very attached to their parents, with almost no clue of what personal space is or means. Our son is no different. He’s recently started “meowing” and even licking our faces like a cat. All part of the learning process, right? But what he doesn’t understand is that he might have given his cold (or COVID-19) to Mommy (and maybe even Daddy – that remains to be seen). 

I started feeling weird the Tuesday (Dec. 21) before Christmas. I called my husband and said, “I feel weird. Not bad, just weird…maybe like Vertigo? Just wanted you to know, as I’m doing some last-minute running around for Christmas.” 

He suggested I go home, but said he’d call to check on me later. I ran my last few errands, while continuing to wear my mask, sanitize, social distance. ALL THE THINGS. (And yes, we are vaccinated but just haven’t had a chance yet to get our boosters.)

Later that night, we had a rare and impromptu date night at Huey’s, as my aunt said she’d watch the tot for a few hours. We enjoyed our time out and made sure to sit at the bar (away from people). Before bed, I had a little cough, but no fever. So, I pushed through, like all the other days of entrepreneurship, wifehood and motherhood.

Wednesday (Dec. 22) I was looking forward to the evening, as I was attending “Hamilton” for the first time at the Orpheum with a friend and music colleague whom I KNEW would enjoy it as much as me. (Was life finally getting back to some level of normalcy? Maybe.)

I was taken aback when I drove by the vibrant, marigold-lighted marquee, and saw the crowd quickly forming beneath it, but I hoped that maybe seats would be skipped inside. No. Every seat in the Orchestra section was full. That made me a little uncomfortable, but gosh – we had waited for SO LONG for Broadway’s come-back – surely things would be OK…. 

The rhythmic musical was AMAZING – and most people complied with the “masks required” policy – but a part of me simply couldn’t relax because this was the most confined space I’d been in with a LOT of people since March 2020. (I’d sang at the Grizzlies game a few weeks prior, and Hope Church the week before, but didn’t feel as uncomfortable, as we were on stage, away from the crowds.)

Thursday (Dec. 23) morning brought about a headache, coughs, sore throat, body aches, a soak in the tub, still no fever, and one last day of prep and running around. The day’s agenda: quick trips to Buff City Soap, Bass Pro Shops, Costco and finally home. 

My sister-cousin had arrived from Florida. We had separately finished buying all the ingredients for a perfect holiday feast we’re known to make, now that our mothers and grandmother have gone on to glory. 

As we caught up, between my coughs, she urged me to go ahead and take the last of two home tests we had, the first of which my husband took a month prior, which yielded negative results. “I will, I will,” I kept saying…right after I do this, and that, and…

I took the test. Positive! I was POSITIVE it was a mistake. I sobbed. Said it couldn’t be true. Retraced my steps. Wondered where I went wrong. WHY ME, LORD? I was so hurt. I mask up, sanitize, social distance, work from home most days with very little contact with the outside world, except an occasional trip to Aldi and Costco…but still caught COVID-19. I was devastated. All the preparations, plans, presents…were now up in the air.

Thursday night and Friday morning (Dec. 24), we frantically searched for testing sites and made an appointment at ZupMed in Laurelwood. Hubby and the toddler were negative, thank God. I cried more before heading home to quarantine. Christmas was officially canceled.

Seeking to make the best of a difficult situation, Candace A. Gray looks out her office window as her family celebrates Christmas on the other side. (Courtesy photo)

Christmas Day (Dec. 25) was weird and nothing like we planned. But we tried to remember that for US, Christmas was about God giving us the greatest gift ever – eternal life and FREEDOM through his son, Jesus Christ. 

As I watched my family open gifts on our porch through my office window, I was reminded of God’s goodness and mercy. We are alive and not in hospitals on ventilators. The doctors mentioned that this new Omicron variant is highly spreadable and contagious, but the symptoms are lessened if you’re vaccinated. I can attest to that. 

My biggest mistake? Getting too comfortable. If I had to do it all over again, I would have done more online shopping. Date night would’ve still been takeout in the backyard. I wouldn’t have gone to the musical. I would’ve tested the toddler earlier. There is no way to pinpoint where and when I contracted COVID-19 but this was my wake-up call to be even more vigilant, almost TWO YEARS into this global pandemic. 

We are not out of the woods yet, people. Please proceed with caution. I know the urge to be around your people is strong, especially after YEARS of isolation. But be careful.

Wear your masks. Social distance. Get vaccinated. Stay at home if/when you can. 

My last day of quarantine is Dec. 31. Just in time for a Happy Near Year – at home. 

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