I know I will get flowers on my birthday because nearly every year, it’s when the Texas wildflowers bloom. A dense field of Texas bluebonnets waving in the wind creates the optical illusion of water. It’s a tradition to photograph children among the bluebonnets. This is more challenging than you might think because in Texas, you can’t set a baby down anywhere without first performing a thorough investigation for fire ants. I enjoyed the wildflowers yesterday as I drove back to Houston after visiting my 94-year-old mother. I was making sure she was settled comfortably in her house with enough coffee, Darjeeling tea, opera CDs, books and needlepoint thread to last for at least 3 months while we monitor COVID-19. Incredibly, Mom is on no medications, lives alone and once a week drives 180 miles round trip into downtown Houston for a needlepoint class. Despite her extraordinary good health, she’s in a vulnerable subpopulation due to her age which means for the foreseeable future, she stays home.
Mom was philosophical about the concept of “social distancing.” When I left yesterday afternoon, she was sitting beside the fire reading yet another history book. The uncanny thing about mother and history books is that any moment she might look up and say matter-of-factly, “You know, that Bulganin was a scary man – his blue eyes could look right through you.” It’s hard to ruffle a woman who saw McArthur, met Khrushchev, tightened her belt on hunger during the Great Depression, lost school friends in Pearl Harbor, endured WWII rationing, listened to Roosevelt’s fireside chats, and survived the Cold War. I think we could all use a little of that perspective.
When I got home, I finished my own preparations so that if it becomes necessary for me to self-quarantine, I can isolate myself from the rest of the house. I am not worried because a healthy person like me has about a 97% likelihood of sailing through an infection with COVID-19. In fact, my odds of COVID-19 being a non-event could be more like 99.9%. If you promised me those odds at table in Las Vegas, I’d happily gamble my money. Like most people, I will be fine, however, hospitals’ operations could become challenging as the number of vulnerable people needing admission to intensive care begins to grow. That’s why as a family, we decided to isolate Mom and then return to business as usual ourselves (with a lot of extra hand sanitizing).
COVID-19 is a challenge we need to face with some courage but honestly, compared to previous generations, we have not had THAT many challenges. It is a potentially serious cold, but it’s not the Cold War. It occurs to me that the real problem with COVID-19 is not that we lack a vaccine, but that we lack perspective.