It Could Be Worse

By Janet Lucas
It’s good to be back home in New Hampshire. I was away caring for our mother while my sister worked the last few months before her retirement. They live in Florida, another red state headed by a trumpist governor. Together we witnessed the general election and its chaotic aftermath, the Holidays, the January 6th Insurrection, and the Inauguration. We learned that the first COVID vaccinations given in Florida went to the governor’s wealthiest supporters in upscale retirement communities in the state’s central and southwest areas. At least 3 women in Clearwater were outraged by that little news item. Mom has a habit of speaking truth to power. After her last stroke relieved her of her filter, her pronouncements have been much more, er, succinct. Eventually my sister was able to schedule their vaccinations and they are fully immunized.

Unlike the flight down, my return was fully booked, except, seemingly the middle seat in my row. I had just returned a thumbs up from the woman in the aisle when a man rushed onto the plane and wedged himself between us. As soon as we reached 10,000 feet, he lowered his mask, leaned forward to rest his head on the seat in front and proceeded to devour the contents of a shopping bag the size of a carry-on. Evidently he feared sudden onset starvation during our under 2-hour connecting flight. So occupied he missed my face-shielded and masked full-on glare. The flight to Manchester was less crowded and no one seemed compelled to ingest a smorgasbord so I relaxed a bit and planned my antiseptic entry into home quarantine. Sherrill and I would use separate bathrooms and bedrooms. We communicated by phone and she left meals in the hallway that I gratefully retrieved after masking up. I left the house for long winter hikes on foot and snowshoe, returned to read, work 1000 piece puzzles and look forward to Pfizer #1. Soon we would be fully immunized and ready for a long-anticipated excursion to Maine.

We looked forward to visiting with a childhood friend and then to see some of Sherrill’s family—mostly seniors, all immunized. My friend and I had reconnected on social media and communicated for the first time in over 50 years. Our mothers were best friends in high school and they made sure their offspring (a total of 5 girls) had lots of playtime in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. We drifted apart as life happened and went our separate ways.

Upon arrival, my friend opened her door at our first knock. One glance, quick hug and we reassured each other that we hadn’t changed a bit. After a quick tour of the abode, we headed to a sunny spot on the deck to begin this amazing reunion. After a while, the decision was made to bring my friend’s dog, a rescue animal, from the barn for a meet and greet. This pup found his forever home at age 5 with my friend and her husband. The dog was adjusting to these new circumstances when my friend’s husband became seriously ill and then died during the 2019 holidays. A few months later, this socially-challenged dog, suffering the loss of one of its loving owners, was deprived of outside companionship by the COVID shutdown.

After a year of no exposure to friends, let alone strangers, the dog came onto the deck, gently sniffed my wife’s arm and then walked over to inspect me. I sat quietly and thought I’d been accepted. I made a mistake. I glanced down and inadvertently made eye contact. In a split second, I saw 10,000 years of canine domesticity disappear into his dark pupils. Inevitably, he swiveled his head, growled and bit down on my wrist. Sherrill, my friend and I took some time disengaging 40 lbs of dog from my arm.

Three hours later, as we were leaving the Emergency Department, I wondered if this visit could be salvaged. My friend was equally, if not more traumatized. With the dog sequestered in another part of the house for the duration of the stay, we would do our best. We tentatively sat down for a late evening meal and bravely planned the next day. Over the next two days we hiked, looked at old photos, admired collected art work, traded stories about life after childhood and generally had a wonderful time. My friend plans to return the visit, without dog, to see her beloved White Mountains. We went on to see Sherrill’s family and during a walk, by the hushed whispers behind me, I gather Sherrill explained to her sister I might be a little jumpy if we encountered any dogs. We did and I didn’t even leave the sidewalk!

Yes, its good to be back in New Hampshire, where I found only 2 ticks today after planting some rhododendrons. We’ve had some drought-easing rain. First thing tomorrow I’ll go online and register my opposition to several bills that seek to suppress voting and reproductive rights and interfere with education and support a bill that will lower the acceptable level of PFAS in drinking water and groundwater.

There is plenty of trouble in our country, likely the most we’ve had since my friend and I last saw each other in the 1960s. I believe our country, like my old/new friendship, will survive the challenge of understanding the difference between what has actually gone wrong and what might go wrong.