The Stranger in the Mirror: A mini-memoir during the pandemic

Random current personal observations on the day after completing GOA5 and the day before starting the Countries book…

My wife and I had an advantage going into the shelter-in-place (we’re in Alameda County, Calif., one of the six Bay Area counties to S-i-P before almost anybody in the US): we’re both introverts.

For us, s-i-p has meant missing the usual monthly dinner with our best friend, and more difficulties with shopping. Oh, and wearing masks whenever we’re in a public space (except walking, where we can always stay 6′ from other walkers). For me, it’s meant doing without the 2x/week going out to lunch I used to do–but am getting takeout once a week, from one of the same restaurants. And doing without library books and a weekly 2-5 mile amble with acquaintances (but my wife and I still do our daily 2-mile brisk walk). For my wife, it’s meant not doing the library-related work she was doing (volunteer) at the local history organization, because that’s been closed.

That doesn’t amount to much by most standards. We believe we both had Covid-19 around the start of the year, me a mild case, her a more severe but not quite hospital-grade case–but we’ll probably never know for sure. I’ve been tested twice for it within the past three weeks, for reasons that will come up later, and tested negative both times. And yes, we both take care–because we can’t be *sure* we’ve had it, because we don’t know whether we’re immune, and mostly because we don’t want to help spread it.

As for weight gain…well, I was in the hospital twice during the holiday season; the second time was an upper bowel obstruction which is probably always going to be with me to some extent (adhesions, probably from prostatectomy), and that had the effect of reducing my weight from 162 or so down to 148 or so. Well, and completely changing my diet in ways that make it difficult to get enough calories every day. (No rolled oats; no unpeeled fruit or vegetables; basically no raw vegetables; no nuts; pretty much nothing fibrous…and I stopped eating junk food and fast food, and sodas, a long time ago.) Once I regained the energy and stamina I’d been missing for months (that was the first hospitalization, a LONG one, from a massive staph infection resulting in a 60-day antibiotics regimen), I found that I was healthier at 148lb. than I had been at 162 (itself down from the 165-167lb. I’d been carrying most of my adult life). So I’m just trying to stay around 148-150lb. (I’ve shrunk to about 5’9″ from a former 5’11”, so I’m now at the lower side of a healthy BMI range, rather than the upper limit.) That, as it turns out, means averaging 2,200-2,400 calories a day; without Ensure, I’m not sure how I’d get there. (It also means five small meals a day instead of three larger ones. And aiming for “satisfied but not full” as a benchmark.)

The complicating factor in all this was that I needed cataract surgery in both eyes–and was scheduled for June 4, that schedule made just before S-i-P.

As it turns out, the opthalmologist’s office and the outpatient surgery center I planned to use reopened just in time–and, surprisingly, I was able to keep the dates (June 4 for one eye, June 18 for the other. Plus lots of associated office visits–and because the outpatient surgery center, part of Stanford Health Care/ValleyCare, is currently requiring a Covid-19 test the same week as any surgery, two visits to the drive-through test facility, one agonizingly slow, the other very quick, in both cases reported the next day to my healthcare account.

This was all much harder on my wife than on me, for a variety of reasons, in part because I can’t safely/legally drive until at least late this week.

Oh, and our 20-year-old dryer started leaving scorch marks on clothes, so add to that the need to acquire a new washer & dryer. Interleaved with everything else. And, of course, donning masks even indoors when delivery and maintenance people were here. (So far, in my experience, *almost* everybody wears the masks when they should, but there’s always a jackass or two…)

Oh: the title? I’ve worn glasses pretty much all my life, ever since I told my parents I was having trouble in first grade because I couldn’t read what was on the blackboard. So for, say, 68 years, I put on glasses first thing in the morning and took them off last thing at night, And they would be coke-bottle lenses were it not for the miracle of high-density plastic.

But with both eyes done, my eyes appear to be around 20:30 (they’ll be changing for another few weeks, but that seems to be where they are now). So I have drugstore glasses for the computer and for reading (different strengths), and dark glasses for outside for the moment, but otherwise don’t have glasses, Which means I see a stranger in the mirror–a stranger that looks something like my father, albeit less handsome. (We’ll stick with “readers” for a few months as everything settles down, then see whether prescription reading/computer glasses make sense. Because of difficulty getting consistent readings, only my right eye has a toric lens to correct astigmatism, but I don’t seem to have left-eye problems that would suggest serious astigmatism. We shall see.) Oh yes, and as you’d expect, things are much brighter than they were last year. Much. And apart from corneal edema, right eye only, that required a week or so to heal, the surgeries were just as painless as advertised.

So that’s my non-story. I was only slowed down on the Gold Open Access project by about a week, and will start on the Countries book tomorrow. The public library has started doing what looks to be a safe-for-them, safe-for-us circulation (place holds. make appointment, show up, call #, open trunk, they bring out the bag of books–and if you feel the need to return old ones, there’s an outside book drop, but they keep moving due dates forward, and they abolished fines last year), and I may start using it after I can start driving again. Which may be late this week or early next. I hope. Not because I love driving–I don’t–but because it relieves pressure & demands on my wife. I’m hoping we can go back to the occasional dinner with our friend in a month or so; a distanced version of the weekly hikes/ambles starts in early July; and maybe some day I can go back to eating lunch out from time to time. When it seems to be safe…or safer.

I feel sorry for the people really damaged by the pandemic. I do not feel sorry for the fools who did their damnedest to ignore Covid-19 for months, are now busily reopening, having beach parties, and generally risking their own and other people’s health. I guess the US needs to be #1 in something, and we’ve squandered moral and ethical leadership, so maybe MORE PREVENTABLE DEATHS AND ILLNESS is our big claim to fame. Whoopee.

[Not that anyone will read this. If you do, maybe leave a comment.]

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