Good Lord, I can be lazy. It’s been almost three months since I posted here on Free Craic.
So I’m using Advent as a good excuse as any to get back on track. I’m even wearing a purple shirt while I write it. I washed the top in soap that smells like a votive candle, too.
Plus Dec. 10, when I wrote most of this, was my mom’s birthday.
I’m named after her old boss. He was an attorney, not an archangel. My mom played piano. If I remember the story correctly, her father chopped up her piano upon her getting married to an Irish guy.
My mom was Lithuanian. I’m not sure if that was the reason. Maybe my mom just lost interest in playing – and they didn’t have Craigslist back then.
I certainly have happy memories of my mom. The piano story just seemed apt for this weird, scary year.
So I opened the Dec. 10 door on my Moser Roth, Utz-approved Advent Calendar in her honor. I’m not sure if what I had was a chocolate or a truffle,
I broke down and bought an Advent calendar this year. Actually, I bought quite a few Advent calendars. At Aldi, where the beer and wine ones have become trendy, wait-in-line holiday buys.
I nabbed those two, one holding organic dog treats, another holding “Frozen” story books, and some candy ones. For some reason, I passed on the hard seltzer Advent calendar.
Three of the Advent calendar purchases are at Best Fest Buddy Tom’s house. Out of harm’s way, they are, and so am I.
As I live alone, Tom’s immediate family have been my only COVID-19 2020 quarantine buddies. Tom’s raising his three toddler grandchildren pretty much all by himself and has been doing so for most of the pandemic.
Long, sad, complicated story. Funny one, too, as it involves me babysitting most of the summer and on occasion into the fall. But the Manny/Nanny Mike tale’s on hold.
Why? Well, the kid’s mom decided to hold a birthday party for her middle child last weekend. Tom didn’t go. He had to work last weekend. Common sense – and COVID-19-related stories about deadly family gatherings – kept me away.
Mom and her friends don’t read COVID-19 stories (or much of anything). Not that she’s much different than others I’ve seen posting on social media, showing off their special birthday bashes, or the politicians of all stripes holding holiday parties or heading off to vacations or wedding receptions in warmer climes. This has been a hot mess of bad decisions, denial and hypocrisy across the board from the get-go.
Me, I don’t want to tempt fate anymore than I already have. So now I am staying away from Tom’s for the time being.
What could possibly go wrong, right? I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t already gone to Irish breakfast at a place a couple months ago, only to learn more than a week later that a bunch of people from that place came down with COVID-19. A few of them were bed-ridden for more than a week.
We planned to sit outside, but it was cold. We entered, it was slow and we found a spot tucked away from the few eaters there. It was the first time I sat inside that place in months – and the last since.
Per the above. I made an appointment and tested negative at my doctor’s office – actually, they administered the test in the medical office parking lot.
I had come down with a lingering sinus infection around the same time. So, past the doctor visit, I headed out on a windy Sunday a few weeks ago to one of those free pop-up testing sites set up at the local high school. Yeah, I wanted to be tested again. NBA players were tested everyday, OK? So call me a Laker, and leave me alone.
I should have left two hours into waiting in the line of cars, but I’m stubborn Irish that way. Plus, I had nothing better to do on a crap weather day.
The ridiculously long wait also gave me a chance to catch up on reading and to listen to CDs stashed in my glove compartment for years. “Rum, Sodomy & the Lash,” remains an Irish classic, by the way.
All told, I sat in my car for five hours – until a big guy walked around the snaked line to tell people they wouldn’t be testing anymore because it was too damn windy. Yeah, it was really windy from the get-go, but this is how 2020 goes. You get about 20 cars from being tested, and they call it off at 2 p.m. because of a wind that was whipping in 50 mph gusts since before sunrise.
Because 2020 just doesn’t know when to quit, past my non-test, the next night Tom’s dad, Steve, died. Alone. Steve’s health had regressed during the autumn to the point he couldn’t live in an assisted living facility anymore.
Senior care places. You know – the places where staff, most of whom make low wages, can come and go, but the residents were and are again on lockdown. Well, Tom’s dad took a fall in the fall, wound up in the hospital, then wound up at a palliative care place – where he caught COVID-19, which rudely contributed to him dying.
But since I was using an Advent calendar riff to launch this ramble, let’s at least try to keep the candy sweet, if bittersweet. He’s how I remember Steve.
Or we could go cold turkey. Since Tom was born in New Orleans, I bought a Popeye’s turkey for Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s a thing, too, much like the Aldi Advent calendars.
The first Popeye’s – which, coincidentally is next to my local Aldi’s – took my order. A couple days later, they called to claim they couldn’t fill it because of COVID-19.
Like a lot of things the last nine months, that excuse made no sense. So I found a Cajun-seasoned bird at another Popeye’s.
Meanwhile, a buddy of mine who lives in New Mexico came back to the Chicago area . His dad, Ed, needed a valve replaced in his heart. His dad also has cancer.
Doctors decided to replace the valve first – and my dad’s buddy was in the hospital by himself. No one could visit because of the pandemic. Zoom calls ensued.
Post-surgery, Ed eventually came home. Less than two days later, he was back in the hospital. He had COVID-19, and more than likely picked it up at the hospital. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure this out as the source, since the hospital was pretty much the only place Ed had been.
Well, Ed had a mild case. Family members who were helping out at home became ill, too.. Ed recovered enough that they started treating him for his cancer. Then he came down with sepsis – the day after my buddy headed back to his own family in New Mexico.
So Ed’s back in the hospital, by himself but for the doctors, nurses and the Zoom calls. He’s pissed, probably scared and feeling alone. He wants to be with his family.
Ed told his wife he wanted me to write about him. So that’s what I’m doing.
To borrow a catchphrase from a Letterkenny (a pandemic binge watch find), when a friend asks for help, you help them.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with these images from my last babysitting stint – kids tempting fate from a hill and another in a tube, as if trapped in a Christmas ornament. So 2020.
Tube Boy bit the steering wheel on my Camry over the summer. That’s another story, for another pre-Christmas post.
Thanks for writing. This piece left me teary eyed.