The C-Word

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The C-word. After Doni’s recent article on the subject of cussing, you might think I mean ‘that’ c-word, but I don’t (yet). These days there’s another big bad c-word in town. You guessed it: coronavirus, or COVID-19 if you prefer. Speaking of cussing I sort of want to call it that f***ing virus for the duration of this column, but I won’t, or I’ll have to PayPal Doni a lot of money for her swear jar (plus, my mom reads my column, so…).

In response to a recent blog post in which I mused about what to write next for ANC, a dear friend (hi, Erika!) suggested an article about coronavirus, and the impact it is having on us, here. At the time my reply was something like, “Eh, I think we’re all so tired of hearing about this, who will want to read even more?” But I’ve realized that this topic isn’t going away anytime soon (oh, that it would!), so rather than ignore the virus-laden elephant in the room, here I am with a few more c-words that I think are relevant right now.

~Coronavirus (obviously): I won’t repeat the things you’re seeing and hearing everywhere about hand-washing, social distancing and sanitizing etc. – you know what to do. I have to say, though, I am terrified of coronavirus. My husband has asthma, COPD and bronchiectasis on top of kidney failure. He is a prime example of an at-risk patient. My worst fear in the first instance is that I will get the virus and pass it on to him. I don’t want to kill the love of my life. I feel this fear deep in my guts; I actually recoil, inwardly, if I think about it too much. This is of course followed closely by the desperate fear that Sem will get it from anyone at all, because he is my life and I don’t want to lose him. He has fought so long and so hard to stay alive in spite of so many health issues, and it seems especially cruel that this particular pandemic is aimed directly at people with respiratory illnesses, like Sem (and probably some of you or your dearest loved ones, too).

~Coping: So how do we all cope? For starters, follow the WHO-recommended things. Don’t believe nonsense. Double-check sources.

~Common sense (okay, two words, but still…): Have to go shopping for groceries? Do so with care (and follow up with all the WHO-recommended things). Don’t buy 734 rolls of toilet paper. Limit travel. Bored, and want to go out with all your pals? Please, just don’t. Get your preferred beverage and Skype your friends, or Facetime them, or whatever – we certainly have plenty of ways to be together virtually, rather than physically. No, it’s not the same, but it’ll do.

~Calm: How to be calm, when it feels like an invisible, invincible foe is rapidly charging to surround and attack us all? (Or is it just me who feels this way?) I wish I could address this one better. I think about COVID-19 just about every waking moment, and some of the sleeping ones, too. But I’m trying to find ways to distract myself. I’m immersing myself in books, but there are also some really cool things happening online, especially useful if you are self-isolating and/or keeping socially distant. You might have seen these already, but the Metropolitan Opera will be streaming operas for free and there are museums which have provided virtual tours so you can always get a little more of another c-word: culture! (Have any more great links? Please share them in comments!)

~Community: I saw this notice posted today on the Facebook page of our former village: “Community Transport are putting plans in place to help the over 70s if they have to self-isolate. We will have a contact number for them to call and we will deliver what they need (…) as we need to work together to look after our elderly. This will be a free service, so let us help you.” I got kind of teary-eyed when I saw that, and wished fervently that we still lived there because that’s just how lovely they can be. But a few minutes later I spotted a notice on one of the community sites for our town, about a new Facebook page set up specifically for the same thing: getting supplies to vulnerable folks in this area. The response was immediate, with people volunteering to do shopping for others, to bring hot meals if needed, or to just check up on folks. I was wrong about this town; there’s still a lot of heart in it.

Sheep, socially distancing themselves.

~C-words (yes, THAT c-word); see also: con-artists, charlatans: Because of course no disaster is complete without those jerks who will do their utmost to exploit people who are afraid, alone, and vulnerable. You know they’ll find a way, if they haven’t already. Help anyone you know who is vulnerable not to fall for scams, even if it’s to ask them to check with you first, if they are offered unsolicited help from strangers.

~Call: Feeling isolated, whether you’re self-isolating or your family/friends are doing so? Call. These days we’re all so used to texting and emailing that it might feel kind of weird to call someone up for an actual chat. Make a cup of something nice, sit back, and have a good old-fashioned ‘blether’ as they would say here. Maybe try not to focus solely on coronavirus fears even if it means setting a time limit. “Let’s give ourselves ten minutes to freak out a little bit about the virus but then let’s talk about other things,” is one way to go (I plan to implement this soon with my twice-weekly calls to my Mama, who probably already gets tired of my desperate keening about our already-dominated-by-health-woes life, and doesn’t need me to add endless virus-fears to the list). Before Sem and I got married, when we had to spend long months on opposite sides of the ocean, we played Battleship online with much trash-talk and laughter throughout. There are ways to spend time with someone that don’t have to involve being face to face, thanks to the phone and internet!

~Compassion: People are scared, and if they are more scared than you are, it’s NOT okay to be a cretin about it. Scoffing at their fears just makes them feel worse, believe me. Compassion also extends to anyone you deal with in situations which are now stressful – in grocery stores or at doctor’s offices, with people who are already feeling stretched beyond their limits. Just because your local shop doesn’t have any hand sanitizer this week does not mean you should take out your frustration on the people who work there. If your doctor’s office has to postpone a routine checkup, realize that right now it’s not all about you. Which brings me to the next c-word…

Consideration: Similar to compassion. Please think of others. Sem and another dialysis patient are currently trying to deal with another patient who refuses to cover his mouth when he coughs – and he coughs a lot, explosively, all through the four-hour dialysis session. They complained to the nurses about him (weeks before coronavirus appeared, by the way) and for a week or so he was moved to a side room. The nurses must have had a quiet word with him because when he was allowed back in to the main room, he covered his mouth when he coughed… for about two days. Now he covers his mouth if he thinks someone is looking at him, but mostly he’s back to his old, disgusting ways: hack-splutter-wheeze straight into the room. This is a man in his 60s who should have learned to cover his mouth decades ago. So, yeah. Don’t be that guy. Be aware of how you interact with people – personal space is a must, right now, as is not coughing in people’s faces, or all over the produce aisle. Cover up!

~Charmin/Cottonelle: STOP STOCKPILING TOILET PAPER. I know I already mentioned it, but… seriously.

Drawing credit: Sem.

~Cheer: Share good things. Whether it’s coronavirus-related videos like Italians singing with each other through open windows above deserted streets, or Spaniards applauding every night at 10pm in honor of the healthcare workers who are going out each day in the face of this awful thing, or funny cat videos, or clips of babies laughing or dogs greeting owners they haven’t seen in a long time… Share the things that will give someone a lift. We all need a break sometimes, before we square up and face the pandemic again.

~One more: Cherish. As in, cherish those you love and care about. I have cherished Sem from the very start, and since his kidney failure diagnosis in 2009 I have treasured every moment we have had together so far – even the tough ones. Health issues create that kind of focus, and Sem has had too many near-misses for me to take one single day with him for granted. Love is strong but life is fragile… we know that all too well, and these days I think more people feel it, too, if they haven’t already felt it before.

I’m sure there are plenty of other c-words that apply to this situation, but we all have dictionaries so I’ll stop now.

So far we’ve got two confirmed cases of coronavirus here in the Highlands, but officials are refusing to say where (‘the Highlands’ covers a large area), so I don’t know how close it is to our town. I think the safest assumption is that it’s pretty much everywhere. Sem and I went shopping yesterday to get a few things and when we got home we decided that there would no more trips to the store for Sem, for a while, and I’ll be going out at an absolute minimum. Unfortunately Sem has no choice but to go to the hospital three times a week for hemodialysis, but he will take care while he’s there, hand-washing and so on. The good thing is that he doesn’t have to touch any doors to get where he needs to be, but I understand and share his trepidation at being in a hospital during something like this.

A final note: if you are someone who is dealing with this hands-on, in whatever capacity (medical, supply chain, emergency services, caregivers), I want to say thank you. To paraphrase something I recently read: when the world takes a step back, you all take a step forward. We can’t get through this without you… so thank you, from my heart.

We also can’t get through this without each other. Whether you contribute by doing something practical for someone, or the way you’re helping is by socially distancing yourself and being a conscientious hand-washer, thank you, too. Some governments are stepping up, while others still aren’t, but more and more it seems like people are taking it upon themselves to be sensible. I think that will go a long way towards easing the situation. If we keep each other in mind, in all the things we do, we can at the very least help simply by not making things worse.

Be safe, dear readers.

Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands, sharing life with her husband, a Highlander she stumbled across purely by chance on a blog site. They own a small business restoring and selling vintage fountain pens, which allows Deb to set her own schedule and have time for photography, writing and spontaneous car rides in the countryside. She is grateful to the readers of ANC for accepting her into the North State fold.
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37 Responses

  1. Avatar Erika Kilborn says:

    I am, of course, completely ferklempt after reading this. This is exactly the piece I hoped you would write when I made the suggestion. Sensible, honest, and only slightly gut wrenching.

    Things are scary here and everyone is jittery and feeling insecure. Our government is absolute crap in their handling of the crisis and it is hitting us all in very personal ways. My daughter got laid off just before things got bad and her job hunt is pretty much on hold during this insanity. My son is a teacher and his school is closed until at least April 1st and his grad school classes are all online. My future daughter in law is a hair salon manager and stylist and she’s had to cut everyone’s hours, including her own. No work means no pay, so she’s pretty panicked. I’m worried about my own job, for other reasons, but it all adds to the constant churning in my stomach. I’m trying to keep calm for the sake of my family, but it isn’t easy.

    We will get through this. But what we think of as normal will be changed forever.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you for planting that little seed in my mind, Erika. I’m glad the piece lived up to your expectations!

      Our government in the UK is not doing very much better, and our Prime Minister is like the plummy-voiced blonde version of Trump, which doesn’t help. I’m so sorry to read that your family is getting hit on all sides, for different reasons, as a result of all of this.

      These are frightening times even for people who will remain healthy. All we can do, I guess, is hang on, and try to be there for each other (at a proper distance, sigh)!

  2. Avatar Buffy Tanner says:

    Everything you just wrote is ????????
    Hoping neither you now Sem catch this and you weather the storm.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thanks Buffy 🙂

      I don’t know what you mean in your first sentence, though… are all those question marks actually emoticons that didn’t translate?

      Stay safe xo

      • Deb, I think she was trying to do a more complex emoji, which won’t come through in our system. So sorry. 🙁
        (I think I shall go in and replace those question marks with happy faces, OK, Buffy?)

        • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

          I thought it must have been something like that, Doni. It’s a shame all the emojis don’t translate well across all platforms (but I love emojis so maybe it’s just a shame in my opinion haha…)

  3. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    This piece got me in the feels more than anything else I’ve read about this terrible time, and I write with tears in my eyes. It’s happening so fast and things are changing every hour, it’s hard not to feel like we’re all standing on the deck of a ship in a storm. (Another C word relevant to this issue: cruise).

    I’ve seen nothing but kindness all around me, in the stores, with the other shoppers, with the cashiers, with my coworkers. I figure everyone scared too, in some degree, and we’re dealing with it.

    Thanks for your words Deb, as always. I know I’m not alone when I say I think of the two of you so often, and wash my hands with more vigor. Stay safe and strong, we all need you.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Matt, for your lovely response. I’m glad it got you in the feels in a good way, and I’m so happy to hear that people are treating each other with kindness, where you’ve been.

      Trying to stay strong, hoping to stay healthy for Sem’s sake more than mine, I have to say… I’m grateful for your thoughts and for the extra-vigorous hand-washing!

  4. Thanks for the update from The Highlands, Deb. Please stay safe and take care. For a little perspective, in 1948 my uncle, 13 at the time, was quarantined in a Los Angeles hospital with polio. His parents relied on a single phone call per day to get updates on his condition. I can’t even. We live in an amazing age of connectivity. And while things are awful now, at least we remain part of an online community.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Trying our best to do just that, Erin, thank you and the same to you, please be safe.

      We really are fortunate in terms of communication. The internet can be a source of anxiety and stress but if we look in the right places and see how people are trying to help each other cope, going through this together-while-apart, is really beautiful. Thank goodness for kind, caring, helpfully informative online communities!

  5. Avatar Jacqueline Breedlove says:

    Thank you, marvelous!

  6. Avatar Janet says:

    Thank you for this, and for the tears that it evoked.
    My c word for you is Charming, I so enjoy your sharing with us here in the ANC community.

  7. Avatar Shelly Shively says:

    “C”-word: Calm, in your Eloquent & poignant words Debra.
    Thanks for sharing your heart.

  8. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    ~Children: I broke my own self-imposed quarantine yesterday to go south to Sactown and extract my youngest daughter Hanna and her boyfriend Joey to the relative safety of Shasta County. They’re now doing their own 10-day quarantine in a small camp trailer in our orchard. They came from the Bay Area, which is a hot spot, and they don’t want to infect any of the rest of us in the unlikely event that one of them is carrying it. The extraction involved 2 vehicles so that we didn’t have to travel together.

    While I was in Sacramento I visited my oldest daughter Katie and the two grandkids belonging to her. Katie strictly enforced a six-foot social distancing edict, even on our 3-mile hike. It’s the only time I’ve been around my grandkids where they’re not climbing all over me. Brutal. Nothing so far has so tested my resolve. I made up a game called “bubble people” with the 4-year-old that she grudgingly enjoyed. We each had 3-ft bubbles around us that protected us, and we had to make sure that they didn’t touch and make the bubbles pop.

    Anyway, if you’ve got kids in your life, take care of those little asymptomatic carriers! It’s important to make this as anxiety-free as you can for them.

    Glad to hear there’s a very small number of confirmed cases in Scotland—almost as few as Shasta County. Maybe the peat phenols in Scotch whisky have preventative properties. I don’t care which experimental group those seeking treatments put me in: The experimental Scotch group, or the Bourbon control group. I’ll sign up for two fingers every evening in the name of science.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Heh! I like your willingness to be part of the Peat Trials, Steve.

      Glad you could be with your children and grandchildren, and it’s super that you’ve got a camp trailer nearby for quarantine, that’s handy.

      The reason our ‘number’ is so low here in the Highlands is because they are refusing to test anyone. You only get tested if you end up in the hospital, sick with coronavirus. I don’t know if it’s because tests are difficult to source, or if they want to deliberately skew the numbers, but people are pretty upset about it. Our main hospital in Inverness set up a drive through testing tent early on, which I have now heard has been taken down… We are working under the assumption that there are hundreds of cases if not more, everywhere.

      Bring on the peat phenols, I say!

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Same here for Shasta County and beyond. I keep hearing that the whole thing is overblown because supposedly so few people in the U.S. have contracted it. But there are almost no test kits to be had, and on a per-capita basis, UAE, Iceland, and South Korea are testing 50-100 times more people that we are. The U.S. is just ahead of Thailand and Vietnam on testing rates. The U.K. isn’t among the leaders, but still testing at 6x the rate of the U.S.

        The response here has been embarrassing.

        • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

          It’s terrible, and naive on top of it, to not test people. Frustrating as well because I think it lulls people into a false sense of security, thinking there are “only” so many cases, when in reality it is bound to be much worse.

        • I heard from a reliable source that at one local hospital the joke among some staff is the reason we can say that we don’t have COVID-19 cases is that we’ve not tested enough to know. No test means no test results. No test results means zero cases, right? Maddening.

          By the way, for the record, it’s been almost a week since I sent questions – including some posted by readers here on ANC – to public relations representatives at Shasta Regional Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center. Crickets. No replies.

          I figure one way to get the answers might be to show up at one of the HHS -sponsored press conferences with my list and start asking, to see if maybe HHS can help get us the answers about what’s happening at the hospitals.

          • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

            It’s like that here, too, Doni, or at least that’s the suspicion a lot of us here feel. Burying their heads in the sand by not testing feels so irresponsible, and opens up far too much room for people to say, “See, there’s not that much of it here,” and then just go about their daily lives, possibly infecting dozens of people every day.

    • Oh, Steve, your post brought tears to my eyes. Yes, the grandkids … it’s brutal. Just heartbreaking. this makes me want to gather everyone I love on a plot of farmland together. I have family and people I care about scattered all over the world, and I find myself feeling like a mother hen who wants everyone in one place.

      I coordinated with my daughter-in-law today to start reading to the two oldest grandkids before bedtime via Skype. I’m going to read chapters from Little House on the Prairie, which I think we’ll all be able to relate to right now.

      Really, I think a lot about the impact this will have on kids; not being able to say goodbye to teachers and friends at school, no big family birthday parties, Easter, etc.

      At some point, maybe it will be determined that we’ve all been exposed, and that most of us have actually had the virus, and survived. (There’s a scientist in Singapore who’s working on the very test to determine that very thing, that could be ready within weeks.) I wonder if, at that point, it’ll be like leper colonies, but COVID colonies, where the infected will be grouped together apart from the vulnerable?

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      One thing I’m realizing from social distancing is that I’m kind of a slut for hugs. Most of my musician friends are huggers, and with gigs and open mics canceled, I don’t see them.

      What really hurts, though, comes from our agreement as a family to institute our own social distancing. I *really* miss hugs from my wife and son.

      Plus, they’re taking things just a little too far. It’s time to let me back in the house.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        That last line made me chuckle, Hal. I’m a hugger, too. Still hugging and cuddling under our roof, but the daughter in the orchard is staying strong and keeping her distance.

        The wife and middle daughters’ employers are apparently exempted from the so-called “shelter in place” edict by the Guv’ner, which appears to me to be a bunch of hand-waving anyway. Not helping my sense of fatalism.

      • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

        Thanks for the much-needed last-line laugh, Hal.

        I said to Sem the other night, “We probably should stop kissing/hugging,” and he said, “Deb, if one of us gets it the other one will, too, there’s no avoiding it.” Our apartment is small, we have only one bathroom, we have no separate spaces to sleep, I get all his meds together for him, etc. so I see his point. And I think he is feeling very fatalistic about it, so he wants to hold on to every bit of life and love we’ve still got.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Morbid observation alert! Avert your eyes if you don’t want to know.

          Our Governor has stated that absent rigorous mitigation, >50% of Californians will get COVID-19 over the next few months. It’s the nature of the disease that those dying in hospitals can’t be visited by their loved ones. They die alone.

          If I’m going to end up dying in a critical care tent in a hospital parking lot, I don’t want to be lamenting that I didn’t hug my kids and grandkids over the previous month or two. If it were up to me, I’d take my chances and be hugging them as much as possible right now.

          Alas, it’s not up to me.

  9. Dearest, dearest Deb, once again, in our darkest hours you manage to share writing and photos that give us just what we need, and remind us that even though we are on the other side of the world from one another, we are all truly in this together.

    Thank you, Deb. I echo what others have said here, sending love, appreciation, gratitude and wishes that you and sweet Sem hunker down and stay safe.

    With love, your friend and fan,
    Doni

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Doni, for the lovely response and for always getting what I’m saying. I saw your reply to Steve, above, and I love that you are going to read bedtime stories via Skype. It’s so important for us all to find ways to be close to those we love, even though we can’t actually be with them. I hope with all my heart that people start taking this more seriously, and think of each other and not just themselves. xo

  10. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Dear Deb, I will invoke the Scottish ‘c-word’ : canny. (For anyone who doesn’t know it, it is a general term of approval, and also someone who is not easily fooled.) I believe you fit easily in this category, but also way into compassion, and kindness, which unfortunately does not begin with a ‘c’, oh well. Your description of your fears for Sem brings me to tears, really, and I was also struck by ‘call’. It’s so true, there are few friends I actually call and chat with at any length, and I miss that!
    And thank you for the beautiful photographs. I remember those chimneys, they have an atmosphere all of their own.
    Be safe, dear Deb and Sem. Your friends here are thinking of you and wishing you both very well.

  11. Avatar Connie Koch says:

    I always look forward to your articles! You NEVER cease to disappoint when you write…you capture me with your passion, your honesty and the ability to make me think, deeper than I normally do. Thank you!

    Hoping you and Sem will be safe from the dreaded C-virus!

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Connie, I’m so glad you enjoy them! As for the virus, I hope we dodge it too. Wishing for safety for you as well – the sooner there’s a vaccine, the better, though I know it will take time. At least there are lots of people working on it; I take heart from that.