"...The world weighs on my shoulders
But what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy
But I worry about you
I know it makes no difference
To what you're going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg
And I worry about you..."
–Rush, Distant Early Warning
Five days earlier, my wife Amy didn't feel well. She had chest pain. It burned slightly like labored breathing after exercising. She was also more tired than usual and she had body aches. No fever and no other symptoms, though. Although she did smell weird smells that no one else smelled.
She worried; I worried. She never feels like that, and considering we're in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic, she knew it was best to contact our doctor. So she scheduled a video call for the next day.
Our collective worry began to build at this point. COVID-19 is a virus that seems to affect different populations with symptomatic variance. The common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. But then there are aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and/or diarrhea. Then there are those who are asymptomatic and who could carry the virus for weeks.
Her doctor went through a checklist and decided Amy should go to the drive-thru testing center. The next day she did just that. It only took minutes, but was very uncomfortable. A long swab was stuck up one of her nostrils and then moved around to get as much gunk as possible. Then another swab in the back of her throat. After that, they told her they'd have the results in 24-48 hours.
Then we waited and lived our next day as any day prior to that: home schooling, working, isolating, exercising, loving and supporting each other, eating and drinking (probably one too many of those), and driving each other a little bit crazy in between. I went to the store for our family and that's an existential adventure in and of itself, although Trader Joe's has today's new shopping experience very well managed.
Amy and I again worried about what to do if one or both of us got sick and what would have to with our daughters in a worst-case scenario. Our doctor had asked Amy could we self-isolate if need be, and we could, but not optimally. Add to that all the loss and economic uncertainty and the tip of the iceberg begins to look pretty good. Right now all we can do is live day to day in the newest normal and plan for multiple scenarios of what may or may not happen.
Governments, medical professionals and epidemiologists aside, who the hell plans for a pandemic? Some of us have living wills and designated family or friends who could take care of the children if something untimely happens, but we never think about a global health care crisis. Like ever. The seasonal flu, yes, but not death by flu, at least not at our ages. That added layers of stress thinking about what if and all the scenarios with coronavirus is the iceberg underneath.
On Thursday afternoon Amy got the note from her doctor that the test was negative. Amen, although it didn't help that some friends and family reminded her that coronavirus tests have roughly a 70% accuracy rate, with about 30% of the tests producing a false-negative result.
But we're going with negative, and there was no better positive news than that. However, the weight and gravity of the unknown is always right there under the surface, absent of any warmth, and yet it burns at the touch. And both our girls felt its weight and cold fire as well, especially after us talking about what was going on and what may or may not happen. That night we all had a big family breakdown with a mixture of bittersweet relief, fear and tears.
That emotional sigh of relief carried us into a warm Friday afternoon to the beach, face masks on and boogie boards in hand, and we rode those rogue waves that buoy the icebergs in the distance.