As predicted, this was a hard winter for most people around the globe. The third wave of COVID wreaked havoc and has taken a harsh toll on people physically and mentally. Yesterday, we kicked off our first day of Spring in the United States, and it felt like that in New York City. The parks were crowded. People lazed in the sun and soaked in the warm rays. I hope wherever you are that you are managing ways to bring sunshine into your life.
One year ago, the coronavirus tore a destructive path through New York City. It was new; there were lots of unknowns, and before many of us understood what was happening, we were sick. I wrote the following about what occurred to my family during that terrible period. The lone update I would add is how many friends and family have reached out to say that they would have helped us. I am grateful for them and each new day.
In Mid-March, right as New York City, coronavirus cases were starting to go off the charts, my wife and I became very ill.
It started the day after the Mayor declared a state of emergency, and the sickness ran for more than 45 days. Three weeks of that time were pure hell. Hallucinatory in some ways.
The sickness started with a slow windup – about a week of nose runs, fever, sore throats, and general weakness, but even then, it felt like nothing we had ever had before. I tele-healthed my doctor, and he said that we should stay home because if it was coronavirus, all you could do was “ride it out.”
The worst part of the illness occurred over four or five days. At this point, we were having trouble breathing and getting out of bed. Walking twenty feet from the bedroom to the kitchen felt like running a marathon. It came in intense waves that would ring us out.
We, of course, have children as well. Two beautiful daughters – 4 and 8. They became sick, but it only lasted a few days, and their symptoms were mild. My oldest was aware of what was happening. She learned about coronavirus in school and was also very cognizant of masks and the talk in the subway and street corners.
When we were at our most severe, she would try to make us get out of bed. If we got up, she thought that we would be okay. One day, she asked me if dying was good. I was confused by the question, but then she explained, “If dying isn’t good, why is it happening to so many people right now?” Crying, she told us that she didn’t want us to die.
My wife was much sicker than I was. While she didn’t get out of bed for four days or so, I could at least make it to the kitchen and take care of the kids (they watched a lot of Disney +). Her breathing became worse and worse and more labored. She tried sleeping with the pillows propped behind her, but that only helped minimally.
On the turning point night, I thought my wife would have to go to the hospital. It was dark outside, and her breathing stopped and started. At that point, we could no longer avoid discussing what might happen to the kids if we were hospitalized or worse. One of the insidious things about the coronavirus is that we couldn’t call our parents or friends to help. We were trapped. If we called our parents, we risked making them sick, and if we called our friends – who would want to endanger themselves or their families?
Luckily, my wife didn’t have to go to the hospital, and incrementally, we began to get better over the following weeks. Unlike other illnesses I have had, the coronavirus took at least an entire month to recover from.
As we got better, though, I was unable to sleep for nights at a time. I would get up regularly to make sure that everyone in the house was still breathing. This continued through the recovery, and I am still working on processing what happened.
A couple of things that were godsends during that period – I have been a regular meditator for many years, and at my lowest moments late at night, my mind would return to my father, who has been dead for ten years and the camping and fishing trips that we took every weekend of my youth. I guess that was when I felt my safest and most secure.
Our recovery has been long, but we are incredibly grateful for all that we have. There were multiple times when I was sick that I would think of my life and wonder how a boy from Oklahoma ended up stuck in the middle of a pandemic in New York City. I imagined a lot of scenarios in my life, but that one never crossed my mind.
I was a Goth in High School, replete with red hair and a black trench coat. In the late 1980’s such minor acts of rebellion provided an easy bullseye for bullies (of which there were many in my small town), and that was kind of the point. The bullies were going to get you one way or another. You might as well as be yourself, and if you were going to be pummeled, be pummeled in style. Besides, the farm boys and jocks could only torment you during the week – the weekend was a different matter.
One of my best friends lived in an apartment complex in Tulsa, 45 minutes, and a world apart from where I was. Every weekend, I would drive my parent’s Plymouth Sundance up and enter a vibrant universe of limitless-seeming possibilities and a feast of music outside the big hair bands that ruled the airwaves in that era.
The anchor of all this was IKON, an industrial/goth club on Peoria, not far from where my father worked his day job. Thanks to an archaic law, dance venues in Tulsa could stay open all night as long as they didn’t serve alcohol. The city would close this loophole in a few years and put the kibosh on our (and future generation of teenagers) good time, but that didn’t happen until later.
My friend, myself, and the revolving cast of characters crashing at his place teased our hair, applied make-up, switched into black garb, and arrived at IKON around midnight. We entered a world of flashing lights, dark corners, distinctive personalities and flowed with the tide of adventure. There was always someone to meet or an unforgettable story to bank into memory. Mainly, it was just fun. At some point, we migrated to the club’s back and home base – a sagging couch, where we caught our second wind after dancing ourselves silly. Every weekend was a chance for reinvention outside the confines of our rural towns and suburbs. Before long, the sun rose, and we emptied onto the Tulsa streets, like vampires taking in the approaching dawn.
IKON was a refuge for the bullied, maligned, artistic, and folks who were different. It was our magic portal in a sea of conformity dominating everything around us. My mind and ears were opened to music outside saccharin Top 40 hits there (and through the crackly reception of KTOW on my boombox). I also took in many touring shows that played there (The Dead Milkmen, PigFace, Ethyl Meatplow, and The Legendary Pink Dots, to name a few). I dutifully memorized music recommendations given to me and ordered them at Mohawk Music and Starship Records. I may go back to the beatings and harassment at my school, but I could take that music with me and the expanded possibilities that it offered. Like IKON, it taught me that there was a more exciting world out there.
I culled some of that music (along with new tunes that captured the ambiance of how I felt) into a playlist for a novel I am writing. I realize that this will be a very different set of tunes than other folks who were regulars there. After all, we are all different. Let me know in the comments if you have suggestions to add to the list.