Category Archives: coronavirus

The Exceptional Stranger.

The gurney is hard, the fluorescence above it humming. Nubbing legs dangle over the side of the frame, an IV port pinching the tender skin on top of my hand every time I forget not to move it. A single, nearly square corkboard on the wall beside holds a smattering of 9×12 memos, one of them hot pink. I stare at that one, mesmerized. How many among this newest crop of strangers will have seen their memo, that day, and would they be ready for the moment of my death?

The half hour preceding, high drama. Arrival, gasping with terror, the creeping itch encircling my face and crawling between my bosom, around, under my arms and across my back, and then the rear of the tongue rising to meet the pharynx, daring to close entirely, heart racing, skin clamming, the lights, lights so icy bright, the smell, always the smell of sterility.

These are the minutes over which nobody has any control. The roughly twenty odd ones after the puncture of Epinephrin and IV push of Benadryl, during which our father, Time, the only sure indicator of ongoing life vs. cardiovascular collapse. And, after four of these in one year, again left alone by strangers in the ER bay to ponder the outcome, mind attached to body gradually succumbs to the antidote of semi-coma.

Strangers. At the moment of theoretical death.

This is the realm of the anaphylactic.

Unlike those stricken with terminal illness or even massive stroke, the anaphylactic cannot feature the luxury of familiar faces, phone calls, cards and letters, even bedside caregivers who’ll call us by our name. If we’re lucky as well as fastidious, we’ll carry with us the proper packet of antihistamine or the Epi-pen, provided we are also completely able and willing to inspect every ingredient contained in every appetizer, entree, salad, and dessert offered by anyone beyond the scope of our own, protected kitchens.

Were we to be anybody outside of our actual selves, we might observe the scene at the neighboring table on a Friday evening – server, hunched over the menu, squeezing a pencil, forehead pinching, corners of the mouth twitching neurolinguistically to mask cursing annoyance, fixated guest rattling on about oils and additives next to a bewildered date mentally reviling why he’d been so determined to know this woman.

We’d not have been able to enjoy our own meal, what with the server hastening off to the chef’s lair to consult, report back, consult again, report back, smile assuredly, take the order, bring the order, take it back, the date leaning in toward the anxious female, arms folded across the table’s edge, eyes sucking into his head behind a smile stretched to its breaking point.

We might have left the restaurant with a social checklist ticking across our own foreheads. We’d have recognized the woman from having seen her on the various pages, she with her dubious references to multiple former lives. We’d have concluded many things. Clearly a narcissist, judging by the texture of her dark hair and the angle of her nose the spoiled daughter of he who sold back room numbers, she would just have to be spending everyone else’s time in public grasping for singular attention. Yes; siphoning the entire room of its last particle of energy, in her own mind she would be exceptional.

Exceptionality. The curse of the oblivious.

Cosmopolitan life renders a certain mass anonymity. When merely dozens are displaced by hundreds of thousands, that which is distinguishing fades from immediate view. Blending is both habit and practice; that which doesn’t easily finds enough of its own kind to forge new criteria for acceptability. By contrast, in small towns anything or anyone who is unavoidably different can become quickly pigeonholed, marked, recognized, and not in a good way. Traits borne by these are subconsciously dismissed as, ultimately, forms of weakness. Exceptionality becomes a force which both pulls and pushes, and that against itself.

The coronavirus has at once rendered every civilized center, regardless of size, homologous. All are flanked according to appropriate distance, masks obviating familiarity, no one a stand out by either class or station.

All, that is, except we anaphylactics. Our fears are inextricably distinguishing. Virus, or vaccine; we face the threat, of death, whether we do or we don’t. Statistically a tiny minority, exceptionality neither our excuse nor our defense, we remain the stranger.

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© 2/26/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, including translation without written permission from the author. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Stake of Argument.

In the wake of the violent assault which January 6, 2021 wrought in our United States, does anything beyond acute shock remain?

On the one hand, the divide we already knew as the “two Americas” is intensified. Those who are indirectly implicated by the acts of that day are largely stunned, if momentarily, huddled in regrouping retreat from their otherwise opposing friends on social media. Those who were represented politically by the “other” side are as vociferous as ever, some even emboldened.

But, what of their disparate arguments? Has anything about these changed?

I am a registered Independent. My Republican friends who have ventured into the arena of discussion seem unified in their intent to juxtapose the violent protests and looting of the past summer, largely represented – it is alleged – by the BLM and Antifa movements, against what has been termed the Capitol Insurrection.

But, can these be fairly compared?

What the two scenarios do share cannot be denied. Both drew throngs of people. Both were colored by passionate, emotionally driven behavior. Both resulted in the loss of life, and that at the hands of brutality.

But, what of the reasons? Can the behavior of mobbing humans ever be rationalized?

In both cases, we must give regard to motive. We must first reach some understanding of that which brought each about if we are ever to either define, defend or, ultimately, quell their destructive effects.

Initially, the spread of the coronavirus through communities largely poor or otherwise underprivileged impacted their cultural inclination to gather together. The killing of George Floyd by several law enforcement officers sparked a smoldering, long standing rage among those already prevented from taking to their own neighborhoods during this pandemic; in droves, the disenfranchised black and, further, Latino and LGBTQ communities rallied in defiance of this one, pivotal act of aggression against them which represented an endless number of such abuses. Backlash against being physically restrained took fuel from decades of societal suppression, yielding demonstrations in the streets of a scope rivaling those many of us witnessed during the Vietnam conflict.

Initially, those of either the same mind or who sympathized viewed these demonstrations as acceptable, even peaceful, several locales managing them without incident. But, when reports came down the pike that many had turned aggressive, destroying privately owned storefronts and damaging Federal buildings, those of opposing mind capitalized on the news and featured such footage repeatedly on choice broadcasts until the prevailing interpretation became one fraught with violence, looting and conflagration.

Rumors also entered the fray. The Black Lives Matter movement, dissenters argued, had its roots in aggressive social disruptors; further, subgroups like Antifa, deliberately radical but subversive, had taken cue to mobilize. Defenders of the protests blamed both for the unfolding violence. Those standing in accusation faulted certain politicians and the major news media.

As the Presidential election loomed, and in vivid contrast with the dark, fiery demonstrations, political rallies for Donald Trump increased in frequency and fervor. Those of the opposing party cited a noticeable absence of compliance with pandemic protocol, and worried about a massive surge in cases of the virus. Trumpers, in turn, looked at the demonstrators and called foul. The issue of masks vs no masks took to the mats; which side was more culpable in the coronavirus spread?

But, even as nothing would prove more persistent than Covid-19, the rift between those in favor of social equity and those loyal to Donald Trump widened. If subversion was the fuel, both Q Anon, a conspiracy-led fringe group, and the white supremacist Proud Boys were the armies flanking the President who, himself, would not publicly denounce them. What ensued would prove more pernicious than the now ubiquitous disease.

Many have appeared in print suggesting that the White House knew what was brewing in the pipeline. The demonstrating disenfranchised had made their point; the election results were proof enough. Oh, but wait; now, the validity of the entire vote was in question. Recounts were called, and completed; tabulations were made, round two. Results confirmed a new President had been elected. But, the division among the people had matured to grotesque proportions, leaving no American sure: had their votes meant anything, at all? Which President would be installed on January 20th, 2021? Up to and including the day Congress convened to certify, even the oldest among military veterans was experiencing PTSD in anticipation.

Nearly a week has passed, since the outcome of what began in the halls of the United States legislature and ended in terror. To compare anything which preceded the acts of that day to their ultimate effect on every person still capable of breath is to deny them utterly. Social unrest with historical precedent, however widespread, has its roots in legitimate protest; but, such action does not threaten the very foundation of the government of a civil society.

With the advent of the attack on our Capitol, we’ve moved far beyond the sake of argument. Winning the debate is futile. Our core beliefs about that which constitutes civilized behavior have been cut with shrapnel. Our confidence in the institution which governs our democratic process has been mortally wounded, first by poisonous propaganda and finally by a war waged between mere loyalty and that which is worthy of our trust.

If any common ground remains upon which to place our shaking feet, it is to be sought after with avowed focus and determined effort. Let us put aside grievance, accusation, grudge, and vilification, and put our precious energy into saving the nation into which we were born, bred, or brought. That which divides, conquers; we must be made whole, at last, while we can still call ourselves free.

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© 1/10/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying in whole or part, including translation, permitted. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for your respect of original written material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

2020 : The Living End.

The sun streamed in, through the window. Her final three breaths formed pockets in her throat, as we held hands for the last time.

Those are the moments which color my memory of the end of my mother’s life.

Her death had so many merciful aspects. Wracked by arthritis for many years, her body’s terminal diagnosis came on the heels of an apparently painless encroaching brain malignancy, glioblastoma. Those five and a half weeks transpiring from biopsy result to hospice were a swift decompensation of all faculties, her smile being the last to go.

Normally an acute observer of human behavior I had inexplicably missed any telltale sign that she was gravely ill, as stunned as the rest of the family when the news came down. I’d been particularly certain that the successfully excised melanoma fifteen years prior meant we’d have our Mum well into the ninth decade, just like her mother before her.

In the years following her passing, many features of her departure would provide increasing comfort. The timing. The tempo. The absence of protracted agony. If she had to leave us then, at least she hadn’t lingered into the confines of old age or been forced to endure any awareness of her body’s decay. And, most of all, I was grateful to have been there, by her side, in her final weeks. There would be no match for presence, I’d realized, particularly when my beloved father was already gone minutes before I could appear at his.

Today, we wait alone in our homes, imagining the countless strangers – at whose bedside those they have only come to know within days to hours stand, sit, or watch. Perhaps each has been half consciously aware as the nurse assigned to them makes every attempt to make all moments meaningful. Perhaps both feel the other’s hands in their own. The angel beside the bed cries the tears of a thousand loves, as the rest of us wail in our hearts with collective mourning.

Thus will be our memory of the living end of 2020.

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Pray for the nurses.

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© 12/29/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com