• Eric O'Dell

Life with COVID, Again


I turned 50 at the beginning of March. A more sober sense of what you can and can't do settled on me like the grey hairs easing up around my skull. Today I awoke with a crippling headache brought on by a recent positive test for COVID-19. It's my second go-around, according to testing (the first round noted in an earlier blog had no real physical affects on me outside of worry and perspective). This time I've had symptoms. Congestion, surprisingly strong aches in my joints, and a pervasive exhaustion. A headache this morning caught me off guard. For the last week headaches were more background low-key throbs from a groovy ambient song, this one was full on guitar solo front and center.

I have not had a fever at any point.


That calm first week of last year's March obviously changed. A pandemic closed campus and hastened a fast forced march to virtual pedagogy. One daughter graduated from high school and started her freshman year; another daughter began student teaching, she graduates in May and will be married next November. Loved ones and friends near and far have kept us sane and also worried. After Christmas, I traveled out of state to set some gifts out for my dad on his driveway. It was good to see him, his full gray head, masked, as we resisted the urge to get too close or hug. I breathe way easier because Dad was restrained and smart and distanced when we met. We talked about some family who had lost everything in a fire, and he said 'Give my love' to his grand daughters. Like our voices, it was a muffled joy.


In the past week we have re-started classes. Here in Georgia, the eyes and opinions of the world bore down as a Senate run-off occurred. Election night on national news was like watching the local weather in blues and reds as that remarkable evening unfolded. Georgia became Surrealean Blue. That morning, I took a couple Tylenol to watch the Congressional affirmation of President Elect Biden and VP Elect Harris. As I inserted dates for this semester's syllabi, C-Span transformed into a crowd-sourced reality show. A battle flag of Northern Virginia fluttered across the marble halls of the nation's house as pistols were drawn at the entrance to the inner sanctum of the world's longest running democracy. Despicable and riveting.


Covid took over 4,000 Americans yesterday, and 365,000 over the past year. Those gone have closed the circle around all of us, hitting closer and closer to home. I think about this as I receive the obligatory reminders to do attendance reports for the classes I teach. Someone, a colleague, will affirm that my own children are 'there,' so to speak. I had an entire semester in the fall where I was not able to paint and I fear that is the case for the current term. It is another low dull throb of anxiety as I have no idea if I am teaching well or not.


While watching the latest banality of leadership emanating from the White House, and trying to put more shape to my courses, I sent a total dad text to my youngest reminding her to email an administrator about her insurance status. Her response? 'Yep, did it Monday.' A student let me know she was 'Excited to start!' when sending some details about a course earlier. My headache is gone, the gray hairs continue their ascendance, and these young folks are taking the edge off of the exhaustion. I strongly suspect they are going to take the edge off our national exhaustion as well.

Sure enough dad, I'll tell them. I love them too.





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