When Rich was first told of his NHL recurrence, we set goals. Goals for after. Goals for remission. Goals to celebrate. Goals to hold on to, to keep us going. Of his travel goals, he had an immediate response… Ireland. With a few health bumps along the way and with some very real help from friends, we got there. A goal worth waiting for. A magical place.
In the last two months, all our goals have been on hold. As with the rest of the world, we’ve been home. With lots of gratitude and more than a little frustration, I can work from home and order our needs to be delivered. We, like so many others, connect with friends and family from afar.
One by one, our plans and goals were canceled or postponed. A concert, a wedding, a gathering, travel… the list went on and on. One postponement was Rich’s ketamine treatment for his peripheral neuropathy. In early February his feet had slowly begun that relentless pain and so we booked the earliest appointment, April 3rd. In the meantime Rich would rely on medical marijuana for relief. Before lockdown, he went to the dispensary to get a supply. As March continued on, more and more plans changed but we received a letter from the ketamine doctor; he would remain open as an essential provider. But we weren’t sure… do we chance it? Then word came, the hotel we stay at during Rich’s treatment weekend was closing for the duration. Closed also were all the hotels in the downtown Manhattan area. Rich is, at best, difficult to transport after a ketamine treatment. Let’s postpone… how long could this crisis last?
We rebook… May 16th. This seems like a safe bet, particularly when the governor announces shortly afterwards that the city will reopen May 15th. Perfect. Hotel reserved. Plans made.
With the rest of the world we watch the numbers. Daily are they on the rise. Then a plateau. Bright spots in an otherwise monotonous stay safe at home protocol. We stay busy, finishing projects that have lingered too long. Time is available.
We stay isolated. Rich’s health and age put him squarely in the vulnerable status. We follow all protocols. We take no risks. We know the cost. Friends fall ill. Some recover. Some do not. We mourn. And we take no risks.
Everything coming into the house is sanitized and quarantined before Rich can go near it. Masks are worn in our own garden; our property is small and it’s too easy for someone to be too close without a mask as they walk the neighborhood. And many do not wear masks for neighborhood walks. Outside of NYC, our Nassau County on Long Island ranks #1 in covid-19 cases. We are in the epicenter of this pandemic.
Comes the day that we need to get more MMJ, I go into the dispensary. It has been over fifty days since I have been in a building other than my home and have spoken to someone I don’t know. I am suddenly incredibly socially awkward. I have no experience with social distancing inside a building. Do I throw my ID card to the person at reception? Where do I go, what do I do? Thankfully they have taped the floors and chairs to guide me in distancing. Also thankful that there is no one else there… my awkwardness affects no one but myself. The person at reception is gracious; he takes my order and brings the medication to me, leaving it on the desk for me to take when he is far enough away.
Now in May, the numbers still are too high, but Rich cannot postpone the ketamine again. Over sixty days into the crisis, the pain is no longer resolved by the MMJ. It is time. Usually we take mass transit, stay in a hotel and make a four-day weekend of it. Day one and day four, to enjoy the sights of the city and to explore restaurants. Day two and three for treatment; an all-day protocol and nights of pure wonkiness. Our normal routine is not possible; we find the hotel is still closed despite our reservations.
We impose ourselves on our son Nick who agrees without hesitation. His one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn will be our home base. He will drive us to and from our appointments. We’ll bring our own wheelchair so we will not have to return the one from the doctor’s office to Manhattan on Monday morning. We order a twin air mattress, to augment his couch for sleeping,to be delivered to Nick’s apartment as well as some foods to cover our meals while staying with him. We bring our own sheets and pillows. And yes, in the time of the covid, we bring toilet paper as well. We do all we can to minimize his possible exposure on our behalf and to leave no holes in his larder. We are grateful to him beyond measure.
Although this isn’t the time to play tourist, we feel that it may be a good time to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. Downtown NYC is not a largely residential area and the streets are fairly quiet. Day one, Rich and I drive in and stroll Battery Park promenade on this, a sunny day. There are very few people there as compared to our previous times. Our intent this time is to visit the Irish Hunger Memorial. It is a recreated Irish hillside complete with a relocated stone cottage, plants native to Ireland and boulders from each county of that country we loved. It represents people who knew a thing or two about life’s trials and how to deal with them with joy and sorrow combined. It seemed a fitting place to be.
We couldn’t experience the totality of the memorial as the entrance to walk that hillside was closed to help in social distancing, but we were transported, nonetheless. The rise of the land, the familiar stone walls, the wildflowers in bloom… we were back.
It felt like coming full circle in our journey.
On the walls that support the rise of this hillside are facts and quotes as they apply to the Irish famine. It reminds us of a time when families were separated by distance. Food and necessities difficult to come by. People helping in any way they can. The similarities with the crisis today are apparent.
In 1847, the people of the Choctaw Nation, who knew tribulations during their Trail of Tears in the US just years before, collected and sent $170 to the Irish to help feed those starving from what many call the potato famine. In 2020, the people of Ireland collected, as of this writing, almost four million dollars to repay that debt to what is now the Navajo and the Hopi reservations, whose people are suffering greatly during the covid pandemic.
Full circle indeed. We went to the memorial to remember we’re a world family; connected. And to reaffirm our love for Ireland and her people. And to gather strength of spirit.
Circumstances may differ through time, but the family of man continues on together. We remember and learn from the past.
Our experience this year in the city and in Nick’s Brooklyn was vastly different than in previous times. In Manhattan closed stores, empty streets and mask protocols felt post-apocalyptic. And yet Brooklyn was as alive and vibrant as always. The differences were disconcerting. We now understood Nick’s trepidation on going anywhere.
Our original plan was to stop on our way home somewhere to again walk and enjoy the out of doors; a park or a beach boardwalk, a greenbelt hike. But there was something different now with covid lurking about. We had an overwhelming feeling it was time to go home and close the door behind us.
Now we count the days to make sure we, and Nick, have been successful in avoiding infection. We return to our separate isolations.
For now, we’ll be together in virtual media. But just for now.