I walked back to my truck twice today. The heat index was over 100 degrees and it was truly a pain to return to my vehicle to retrieve what I left behind. I had not forgotten my shopping list, my wallet, or my glasses. No, it was something perhaps even more important than that. It was my mask.
We are now at least four months into the Covid-19 pandemic. We are tired of being isolated, tired of the bad news, and tired being told what to do. Wearing a mask is an inconvenience at worst. It is a life saver at best.
Like most, I watched in horror as the death toll rose in New York City in the early days of the current health crisis. Yet is was far removed from my daily life. Even so, I took the threat seriously by wearing a mask and socially self-isolating.
I shopped at Kroger and Wal-Mart on their early morning Senior Citizen Days. Frankly, that was about the best thing I can say about turning 65 this past year. I bought anything made by Lysol and gave up eating at restaurants, one of my favorite pastimes in this life.
After a while, things seemed to ease up. The horrific number of infections and death became more acceptable. Like many, I became numb to the bad news. I yearned for hugs, interaction with others, and a return to normal.
Reading about a second wave was something I could put off until later. I bought my football tickets for this Fall. I shook a few hands. I entered stores without a mask. It felt so liberating.
I have spent the past three weeks in Florida, which is becoming the new epicenter for this virus that just will not go away. My mother joined us at our lake house, which heightened my awareness of the risks of being careless or even irresponsible. At the age of 65, I am reluctantly in the at-risk group for severe Covid-19 symptoms. At 88, my mother is a target.
It is discouraging to have to redouble your personal efforts at minimizing your risk of exposure to this deadly virus. We were ready for the pandemic to be over and unfortunately it is not. We may not like it, but there are not a lot of good alternatives at this point.
How did we get to a point where wearing a mask for our own safety and the safety of others was a sign a weakness? How did wearing a mask become politicized?
I have long considered myself a moderate in life. Somewhere along the way, that became politicized as well. I do not have to wear a mask everywhere I go. But if I am heading into a crowded space, with poor ventilation, full of people without a mask on, then look for the blue mask on my face.
Like many, if not most Americans, I have been locked down and isolated. I have washed and sanitized my hands until the skin became dry and cracked. I was faithful in my precautions, then not so much. It is time to climb back on the wagon.
It has been said that behind every mask is a face and that every face has a story. Unfortunately, those stories have not had a happy ending for some I knew and loved.
Because of the resurgence in the infections and deaths in most our country, I plan to be more diligent in my precautions until there is a vaccine. I will do this for my wife and mother. I will do this because I want to be around as my grandchildren become teenagers. I will do this because this virus is no hoax.
Do your part and be part of the solution. It does not take a tough man to forgo a mask. It takes a tough man to wear one.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org