COVID-19, Personal

Weekend update

I was sad that more people didn’t come to Rana’s memorial service, which was last Saturday. I know she touched far more lives than those who attended. I was pleased that my brother came, and my old friend Michael and his wife. I was blown away that the woman who runs HR at my company came.

This is the most time I’ve spent in the same room with my ex-wife since she divorced me. On the one hand, that wasn’t comfortable, as we had a terrible marriage and ugly divorce. On the other, I think both of us were comforted by the other, as during our marriage we shared in the bulk of the time Rana/Ross was a child.

Rana’s mom had pre-arranged for a number of people to speak during the service, to share memories. I had declined to speak, but at the service she implored me to, so I did. I told a couple of stories of Rana, who was still Ross then, while I was married to his mom. They were stories I’d told before, and all I had to do was tell them again, so it wasn’t too hard to do. People seemed to like the stories.

I went to the service alone. That wasn’t the plan, but in the week before the service Margaret came down with COVID. We knew this was a possibility as she had cared for her son while he had it, after her other son’s girlfriend exposed us all the day after Christmas. Margaret and I have been isolating from each other since then to lower the risk that I’d get it. I bought a stack of in-home COVID tests and tested every couple days leading up to the memorial service. It came back negative every time, thank heavens. It would have killed me to miss the service. But I wore a surgical mask at the service anyway.

For months, Margaret and I had planned to spend last weekend together in Chicago. We had tickets to a play and reservations at a very nice hotel overlooking the Chicago River. The hotel was not refundable — I won’t ever book a room that way again just to save 30 bucks on a weekend. I would have rescheduled our weekend away for a time when we were well past our COVID experience.

Margaret urged me to go alone, to get out of my box and out of my head for a couple days. The room was paid for either way. It felt weird to go alone, but I did it, and it was overall a good thing. I went to the play, and I drank scotch at a bar I like, and I shot 3½ rolls of film just walking around the Loop and the adjacent River North areas. I’m sending all of that film to a lab for processing and scanning so it will be a few weeks before I can share photos.

State Street at night
Nikon F3HP, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max P3200, 2018

Chicago requires masking indoors in public places, and proof of vaccination to sit in a bar or restaurant. This is a sharp contrast to Indiana. There are no COVID restrictions here anymore. Authorities strongly suggest masking and physical distancing, but that’s all. These differences correlate to these two states’ differing politics: Illinois is blue and Indiana is firmly red.

I had brunch with a couple of colleagues on Sunday in Chicago. It was so good to catch up with them. It was soothing to know that everyone in that restaurant was fully vaccinated.

At the same time I couldn’t shake a feeling that Chicago’s measures were theater. After all, Margaret’s son was double vaxxed, and Margaret was triple vaxxed, and they got COVID anyway. Who knows how many people in that Chicago restaurant had been exposed and were busy unknowingly transmitting the virus?

I know, I know, the vaccines were never guaranteed to prevent transmission. It is thought that they slow transmission, and there is good evidence that they make COVID less severe if you do get it. Margaret and her son were both pretty miserable at the height of their illnesses, but neither required medical attention. Margaret described it as being a very bad cold, with heavy congestion and cough. Perhaps both of them avoided a more severe illness thanks to their vaccinations.

Anyway, it was otherwise very good to be out of my box and in a different head space for a few days. It wasn’t that cold for Chicago in January, with daytime temperatures in the 20s and low 30s (-6 to about 0 C) and, crucially, the wind was only slight. I spent most of my time either watching movies in the hotel, or walking and making photographs outside in the cold. I brought two cameras with me: a Minolta Maxxum 5 that a reader recently donated, and my trusty Olympus OM-2n. I rather enjoyed the Maxxum and ended up using it most.

I drove home Monday afternoon and on Tuesday I returned to work. I wasn’t entirely emotionally ready, but it also felt right somehow to plunge in anyway. Sometimes the way to become emotionally ready for something is to just dive in, do it, and build that readiness as you go. I have felt unusually irritable, and have had to choose my words carefully lest I say something that cuts. But otherwise it feels good to return to normal life — it is a fine distraction from my feelings.

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21 thoughts on “Weekend update

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Speaking as a life long bachelor (not necessarily because I want to be), I’ve had many a nice “weekender” with significant others of the day, but I have to say, there’s a real joy for me in doing things alone. I would imagine a weekend in Chicago by yourself would in a way be cleansing. Glad you decided to go.

    • I’ve always liked being by myself. I chose Margaret because she’s an excellent companion — we fit when we’re in the world together. So I missed having her along.

  2. I hope your isolation time from Margaret is at an end by now. That must be a terrible trial beyond everything else. And I hope she is feeling better.

    It is hard to know why someone does not come to a funeral service. Surely a fear of Covid kept some away. But it can sting a little when certain people don’t make it there.

  3. So many things to say Jim. I doubt you will find this comforting because I certainly don’t but funeral attendance in my area is on the decline and it has been since before Covid. Many attend the calling hours of the timing is convenient but it is heartbreaking to sit at a funeral and see how few bother to give up an hour to honor their friend.

    Also, I am pleased that you spoke and that your ex-wife gave you that opportunity. The dynamics of these situations can be touchy but, in asking you to speak, she acknowledged that you belonged there and that your relationship with Rana was important.

    I’m also proud of you for taking the trip. It was good for you to get away, a palette cleanser of sorts, before returning to the real world. I once booked a nonrefundable hotel reservation. Weather was preventing me from going so I laid it on a little thick when I called to cancel. I let them know how silly I felt for wasting my money but rules are rules…. The girl volunteered to just reschedule my reservation to the next weekend so I wouldn’t lose my money and I learned a valuable lesson. It sometimes pays to be nice and maybe a little manipulative. :)

    • I wonder if funeral attendance is down everywhere then. What a shame.

      Yes, I guess you’re right, my ex asking me to speak is an acknowledgement of my importance in Rana’s life. She was so difficult toward me for so many years that it is hard to believe the grace she is showing now.

      • It’s a terrible shame but I have seen some of the shortest funeral processions in the last several years. It makes me sad to think about all the people you expect to show up but who don’t.

        Honestly? I think people just don’t view it as a priority anymore and they don’t do things they don’t want to do. It is uncomfortable and it can be inconvenient but it means the world to a family to see the community support them in their time of grief.

  4. Michael says:

    That explains why Margaret wasn’t there, and it was a nice touch that your HR person showed up. Connie was quite graceful. I suspect she carries guilt wrt Rana.

    I believe that theater is where Helloween was supposed to play in Oct 88 (and then failed to show at the Thirsty Whale)?

    • Oh! I didn’t even think to explain to you.

      Was it really the Chicago Theater? I don’t recall. I just remember the venue changed and you threaded your leviathan automobile down some narrow streets to the new venue.

      • Michael says:

        I’m sure you had a gazillion other things flowing through your thoughts.

        I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be there and the sign does look familiar. I don’t believe I’ve ever been by that theater again.

  5. Shirley B. says:

    What a rollercoaster this week was for you. You were invited to speak: from what you wrote many times before, this seems miraculous. How sad that covid prevented Margaret from coming with you.
    Like her, I’m 3 times vaccinated and yet I tested positive last Friday. Symptoms are doable, though, and I’ve been improving every day. With just 2 vaccinations, it might have been a lot worse.

    Like you, we also used to book hotels nonrefundable. And like you: we won’t do that anymore.

    It will be a less than normal return to work for you, but it will hopefully help you on your 4oad back to normal. Good luck.

    • I am puzzled by how open my ex has been toward me through all of this given how closed and unkind she was all the years our sons were growing up. I suppose staggering grief changes things.

      Good luck as you push through COVID.

      • Shirley B. says:

        Overwhelming grief, and perhaps, time? Whatever the cause, I’m grateful that this was the case. You had enough to deal with, so this unexpected behavior was positive.

        And thanks. In my case, covid behaves like any “regular” cold would do. It also responds to the things I do to get over a regular cold. So I find I go with the flow, like I would normally do. That’s a relief.

  6. DougD says:

    Well that was a challenging week but you did what you needed to do. Good on you Jim.
    Sorry to hear that Margaret got Covid, but it seems inevitable that we will all get it in some form or other. At least with multi vaccines her immune system had some practice in fighting it. I hope you can do your next weekend trip together soon.

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