Barry Rueger is a writer living in Vancouver.
In August, I received a frantic text message from my sister. She has been our mother’s primary caregiver for many years, but Mom is 92, settling into dementia, and now had gout. The time had come to finally help her to move out of the family home and into care.
Even though I hardly ever make the drive from Vancouver, where I live, to my home town Kelowna, obviously there was no choice. I cancelled a day’s work and was set to go.
But I didn’t. I still don’t feel entirely safe visiting my mother. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have COVID-19, but that isn’t 100 per cent certain. I’m even less sure that my brother and sister aren’t carriers. The retirement homes that I had planned to visit are still not allowing visitors, but unlike in January or February, they no longer have a waiting list for new residents.
At the end of the week, we decided that my sister would do some leg work to find out about increased home-care and I would sit tight.
These events describe almost every part of my life these days. As I watch the numbers of infections in B.C. climb, I’m convinced a bigger, nastier wave is approaching.
My business, dog-walking, wasn’t shut down in the initial lockdown in March. We weren’t deemed “non-essential,” and most of our clients wanted us to continue, so we masked up and sanitized our hands, and did pickups from backyards and driveways. I feel that we handled things safely, but as October approaches I’m wondering if it will be enough.
My wife, Susan, initially moved her piano-teaching business to Zoom. What was an exciting novelty quickly became a burden. Now she too is asking how she’ll run her business in the fall.
When the curve in B.C. seemed flat, we booked a short vacation on Salt Spring Island. When numbers climbed, we cancelled it. We honestly both need a break – neither of us has had a holiday since December – but we keep asking each other whether travelling, or even visiting family, is worth the risk.
We’re both at high-risk ages, but we’re also concerned about Susan’s ex-husband, a heart transplant patient, and her three small grandchildren. COVID-19 might not be a serious issue for us – we’re very healthy – but do we want to risk passing the virus on to other family members?
We’re the kind of people who go beyond Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s daily statements and watch news from Europe, Asia and Britain. We’re seeing climbing numbers caused by false starts at reigniting the economy. We’re watching other countries that thought they’d beaten the virus experience new flare-ups. When we look at the global experience, we have to think that Canada’s low (but rapidly rising) infection numbers weren’t because of our health care system or our management of the pandemic, but actually reflect pure blind luck.
For eight months we’ve felt the weight of COVID-19 on our shoulders. Many days it feels like it’s growing heavier as we see people abandon masks and governments open bars, restaurants and strip clubs.
After eight months, we’re tired. Tired of the virus, tired of people who refuse to take it seriously, tired of the many, many restrictions that we’ve placed on ourselves in an effort to protect the people around us. Some days it feels as if we’re battling COVID-19 single-handedly.
Mostly though we’re tired of the uncertainty of it all. The uncertainty of how bad the virus will become in the fall, or how many people will die, or even what the long-term health effects will be.
With the flood of coronavirus misinformation on social media, I fear that nothing short of a government edict will prevent the pandemic from exploding here as it has in the United States. What frustrates me though is that I don’t know if our elected leaders will ever stand up and act to protect Canadians.
I don’t know what we’re going to do with my mother. I don’t know how many clients I’ll continue to have, or whether schools will stay open, or how many people will find jobs to replace the ones lost to COVID-19. I don’t know if I’ll manage to avoid infection, and if I do get infected how bad it will be. I certainly don’t know how widespread a second wave might be, or whether a working vaccine will be developed or be available.
More than one report has told us that the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought a spike in depression and anxiety. When I watch people at the supermarket or on the street, I can see that strain whether or not they’re wearing a mask. The grim look I’m seeing isn’t caused by a virus, it’s caused by an overwhelming uncertainty, and by the unmistakable understanding that really there’s nothing that you can do to solve it.
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