A Word In Edgewise: Notes from the Briar Patch
Photo courtesy of BigStock/VadimGuzhva
Reading e-messages of quarantined work-from-homes, one would assume they’d been tossed in bottles by expiring and thirst-maddened sailors, from ghost ships becalmed in the Sargasso Sea, not tapped on pricey tablets, surrounded by family members ensconced in comfort streaming The Shining or binge-watching The Golden Girls. Clearly, many people can abide neither solitude nor total immersion in the family nexus 24/7. Social animals, people clamor for coffee houses, shopping sprees in crowded malls, or cheering the home team together in their neighborhood bar.
I realized, as we were admonished to “Stay home!” “Wash your hands!” “Self-isolate!”’ I’ve always embraced the socially-distanced life. Early on, I’d retreat to my bedroom, sprawl on the floor reading comics, consuming hard salami and crackers, drinking Cokes. Any sprawling these days is inadvertent; I now recline in a La-Z-Boy, surrounded by books, snacks, and white-noise fans. Cabin fever? Not an issue. Think Badger; Wind and the Willows. Or Joel Chandler Harris’s Br’er Rabbit, whose antiphonal response to Br’er Fox’s plans to kill him was, “Whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”
Maybe it’s genetic: Dad’s college nickname was “Flop,” Mother was a bundle of energy, went for her PhD at fifty, then wrote a dictionary of idioms for the deaf. I take after Dad. And Br’er Rabbit. But enough preening and vaunting. My inertia’s stood me in good stead, as I teeter on the threshold of my ninth decade. A sobering reminder, that, which cuts short my bragging and joking. The reason for these worldwide “at-homes” is the lethal SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) and its consequent COVID-19 (the disease). The bulls-eye of the CV target is “Old Folks,” of which I am one.
I’m fortunate to be able to work at home. Many can’t and are suddenly jobless, facing rents or mortgages and families to support. Health workers tending the stricken, fight a viral foe putting their own health and lives at risk. I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of what they face daily, as an LPN in an Alabama nursing home. MRSA was an unfamiliar acronym then, and we were instructed about the strict gloving, masking, and gowning—and hand-washing—required when tending these patients.
I comforted patients as they passed, stayed the night when tornado warnings were issued, alert to pull patients in their beds out into the halls the instant the sirens blared. Only a fraction; but I can’t truly conceive what these heroes endure today, battling a disease to which no one has immunity, for which there is yet no cure, no vaccine.
In my briar patch I joke and worry, wash my hands, and stay isolated. In the quiet of my La-Z-Boy, daily life is almost like it was. Almost. Except for the cloaked figure outside my window, motioning with its scythe, enticing me to come out and play.