People plan and COVID laughs

So many of my favorite people have gotten off Facebook saying it’s too hard, it’s full of nasty politics, comment trolls, or Russian bots trying to exert an emotional response. The fun is gone from Facebook. It’s not fun because it’s not personal. People repost, sharing other content — articles, videos, memes. That share button is addictive cuz the darn cat videos are so frickin’ cute. Or the otter I posted rubbing his eyes? Adorable. My point is I do this too. If we want connection, we need to SHARE ourselves.

Some overshare, and this might be an overshare too. If you don’t like it, scroll on, hide or unfriend me — it’s up to you.

We are NOT on vacation.

I wish we were and I could post awesome beautiful pictures for you. But unfortunately no, we did not leave Saturday for 6 glorious days in Grand Tetons National Park. We did not enjoy Enrique’s pre-made, delicious, bacon-filled breakfast burritos after finding the perfect campsite at Jenny Lake. We did not set up next to a perfect lake surrounded by the most beautiful mountains you can ever see. We did not take deep breaths of the clear and cool (75 degrees as the high) mountain air. We did not use the new camping shower that holds up to 5 gallons of sun warmed water to rinse off after our long drive.

We didn’t use the handmade camping toilet that Enrique fashioned with a hacksaw, two buckets and a standard toilet seat bolted/glued together (using the sawdust we gathered last weekend after a construction project). Or the stupidly cool pop up privacy tent that I purchased two months ago on Amazon for both shower and toilet needs. We won’t find ourselves resting comfortably in the huge tent we borrowed from a friend or take a cool little paddle across the lake in a small raft borrowed by another friend. We won’t devour any of the five pre-cooked meals that I destroyed the kitchen making on Friday night, (salmon, chicken, turkey burgers, tilapia, and chicken sausage along with a plethora of sides was on the menu). Or the chocolate chip pancakes that were going to thaw out just perfectly for Tuesday morning’s breakfast. We won’t read the books we hand-picked for the trip or play the board game we carefully selected based on size and enjoyment.

As you can see, we were set. But instead, the day we were leaving, I woke up with diarrhea. (this might be the oversharing part) and was completely exhausted despite a good 9 hours sleep. It didn’t go away by mid-afternoon. Folding a couple blankets to pack in the car was so overwhelming I had to take a break. That’s when I heard from someone else that they had diarrhea also — someone we saw the previous Sunday, someone who was currently in the ER getting a COVID test. It came back positive. Given our proximity 7 days prior and similarity of symptoms, (what are the chances we both ate bad Mexican food and woke up with diarrhea? We don’t live in the same city.), Enrique and I sprinted to the car. As I drove, he looked for a testing site on his phone.

The Pepsi Center COVID testing site in Denver was the first to come to mind. A family member went there and got through without issue… but it was 3:30 pm. They were closed. So we drove towards three different Urgent Care’s only to find out they wouldn’t take walk in’s and were booked for days. Finally, one called us back — they could test us. We sat in their parking lot on our phones — following three links to sign up, fill out a long questionnaire, and do the check in procedure. Then a phone video conference with the physician. (How do you do this if you don’t have a smart phone?) And then a nurse/technician in full gear came out to the car and swabbed us through the window. We came home to await our results which would take 3–4 days. (All rapid testing sites only took appointments and we couldn’t get in until Tuesday.)

My symptoms continued the rest of the day. Although now I looked at them more closely, skeptically. The three hours driving around trying to get a test had sent the stress response to code red. I had a headache but headaches are my typical stress response. I sat there wondering, is this “shortness of breath” or am I just so mad and anxious that I can’t take a deep breath? But as of Sunday morning, all symptoms had subsided. What was left was just anxiety.

COVID ruined my vacation.

We could sell t-shirts — there’s so many people in our same situation. More importantly though, we pray that COVID doesn’t ruin our lives… or take our life from us. I guess if the tests are negative AND the person who is positive gets a lot better, we could still go camping. But it’s not quite the same and to reconfigure might take more energy than I have.

We are in limbo. The car is still partially packed. We sit with the vague and unsettled feeling that comes when our lives reveal the certainty that nothing is certain. And we think of the old Yiddish proverb: “We plan, God laughs.”

Part of me wants to use this time somehow. To have a camping experience at home. We could set up the tent in the yard, cook the food on the Coleman stove and what…? Poop in the bucket? With the house right here? Not gonna happen. Plus it’s high 90’s every day and the fires in Colorado make the air quality dangerous, especially if you are awaiting results of a respiratory virus. We talk about setting up the tent in the living room. We continue to eat the pre-made food that we were going to bring with us. Including the many snacks — they aren’t gonna last long in this situation.

The house looks like a bomb went off. I don’t want to unpack, but stuff is piled up and spilling out all over. We could spend our vacation cleaning it all up? Cleaning the house? Rearrange the furniture? Make the place look like a hotel? Find some way to look at the house differently, the house where we have felt somewhat trapped for the last for five months.

I guess it’s human nature, but I keep wanting someone to blame. Joking: “This vacation is crap — this Airbnb house is sooo dirty — that travel agent should be fired — someone need to fix this!” But there is no one to blame.

Since we had signed up at the Pepsi Center COVID site, we went there on Sunday morning to get tested again. Better to have two tests to fully confirm our status. Days pass and we still don’t have the results. The Urgent care said 3–4 days so those results could come in as early as Tuesday at 4 pm. The Pepsi Center said 2–10 days so that would be Tuesday at 9 am. It’s Tuesday at 1 pm and we haven’t heard from either. We don’t have any symptoms. The person who tested positive still has symptoms. Is it likely that our symptoms are just less? Could we be negative and the diarrhea I had is just a coincidence? Could her test be a false negative? There are too many questions.

And we can’t do anything. We have to stay home, real quarantine style, until get the results. No hiking, bike riding, seeing friends even at a distance as we have done in our previous version of quarantine. Even in our own house we have divided up the rooms, so we aren’t in the same one for extended periods. A friend lends us an air purifier with a HEPA filter that is supposed to not only filter allergens but also viruses. It’s running all the time. Plus the swamp cooler pushes air into the top of the house and with both bedroom doors closed, we can sleep in separate rooms with separate air. But during this stressful time, it’s very difficult not to hug and be close with each other. Do we need to be separate? Is it possible that one of us could be positive and the other negative? What do we do if that is the case? Fully separate in this space?

We try to focus on what we can control. We look for small things to look forward to since the large thing we were looking forward to for weeks is gone, poof, right out of our hands. We put in a movie to watch the first night and it kept skipping, making us wonder if we could control anything. I know many people who have had vacations cancelled, but none of them had ACTUALLY packed and then had to turn around and unpack. We were hours from leaving. It’s like someone reaching out to give us the greatest gift and then pulling it back suddenly and cruelly.

I see friends posting pictures of their last camping trips of the year. I see other friends posting pics of their kids going back to school. I am such a planner that I had gone to the trouble to query my friends with kids as to when their kids would go back. Picking this week specifically because so many schools were “starting” classes. Seeing these pictures makes me feel like someone is pricking me from the insides. I want to wail.

After such a hard year, I had this perfect image in my mind of this trip. Actually, the image was the one from the Grand Tetons National Park website of one of the campsites there. Setting up our tents, sitting next to the lake and reading a nice book, watching the sunset.

I had printed out many pages of things to do at the Grand Tetons park. I had packed all the most relaxing and comfortable clothes, pillows, and comforts of home. But now that we have to stay home, those comforts don’t really feel all that comfortable. I itch for the discomfort of being somewhere else.

I’ve maintained my sense of humor but it’s tinged with bitterness. At lunch, I realized why people die of COVID — they are quarantined with their partners who eat the last remaining slices of pizza that you had hidden carefully so they couldn’t find them and violence ensues.

We tried to have vacation in the backyard. It was 95 degrees, so I brought a quirt bottle to spray myself with every few minutes. Vacation a la Casa de Squirt bottle features include: very close to home, instead of a lovely lake — there is a nice view of the neighbors fence and the back of my house, the soft feel of your camping mattress with a wool blanket, a stomach ache from drinking beer in a hot and dry climate, the smell of smoke and ash from Colorado wildfires and bad air quality for sensitive groups, the sounds of sirens in the distance and the neighbors squawking parakeet. It’s a full sensory experience. Just not the one that I was hoping for.

By 6 pm on Tuesday, felt owed the results — like we waited this long. When you are told you only have to wait so long you keep it together until then and every moment after is excruciating. I tried to watch the Democratic National Convention on TV but found it sort of sappy — but tears were under the surface of everything.

At 10 pm, we were reading when my phone pinged. I had been checking it all day and frustrated every time another spam message made me think it was the results. Sure it was spam yet again, I literally LEPT up when I saw labcorps in the inbox and tore up the stairs to my laptop yelling labcorp, labcorp!! Enrique knew exactly. We logged in at the same time. And there it was:

We were so relieved. We hugged. We realized we hadn’t done that for over three days. Three stressful days that would have been reassuring to rest on his shoulder. Three days where we talked but kept mostly apart, trying not to yell our frustration and make it worse by sharing it over and over again with the partner who was feeling it too.

What now? We went to sleep. We have half the week left. We will check in on the friend who was positive to make sure she is doing better. And maybe camp a bit in Colorado. Or maybe Enrique will work and save his vacation days for another possible trip. Vacation Take Two, maybe in October. I’m already picturing it: cabin on a lake anywhere in a days drive from Denver. Anyone know of such a place? Please send it to me. Or maybe we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much. COVID and 2020 are a bad combination — better to keep our expectations low.

Always an English major, I write short non-fiction about my experiences. Talk to me.