In the 11 years I have written a weekly column, I have had writer’s block less than a half dozen times. All day long today, I have struggled with what I wanted to say. If I am honest with myself, I do not have a writer’s block at all; I just do not want to write about it. Covid, I mean. More specifically, vaccines.
Vaccines are a toxic subject, especially in the rural south. You can lose friends and family in a hurry by taking a strong position, one way or the other. That is the problem, though, for me. I am losing friends and family literally.
This past week has been especially trying as I have heard of the passing of school mates from elementary school, high school, and college. I have lost friends from my life as a businessman and as a politician. Everyone knows someone that has had Covid and probably someone that has it now. I never believed, however, that I would know someone dying of this virus almost every day.
The number of deaths of my acquaintances or friends from Covid now is over three dozen. In actuality, the death toll of my friends is probably much higher. Some of these circumstances break my heart, especially those who died before the vaccine became available. I could be wrong, but those lost friends I knew the best would have all taken the shot in a heartbeat.
I get personal freedoms. I get the injustices that have been done in the past to certain groups. I get the fear of needles. I get trust, believe me I do. I do not get, however, how simple comments on Facebook can turn into visceral arguments from people posting online. There is some ugly stuff out there. What a shame.
Mary Lou and I did not have any more knowledge about the vaccine than anyone else. I am not a doctor or a scientist. I am a person, however, who recovered from a terrible illness many years ago. I was saved by doctors, most of whom I did not know. I trusted them when they discussed experimental treatments. I trusted them and they saved my life.
When it came time to decide whether to take the jab, I did not rush to get the vaccine. Neither of us did. Instead, we discussed it with our doctors in Donalsonville. Living now in a town with a medical school, a nursing school, and a major university also gave us the opportunity to talk with other people in a position to know the real scoop. Not once were we advised to skip the vaccine. Not once were we given any words that would cause us to doubt the safety of the vaccine.
After much research and soul searching, we moved ahead and took the vaccine. It was our personal decision, nothing more and nothing less. But if I am honest with you, the day of the first shot ranks as one of the top ten days of my life. I felt euphoric. I felt like my wife and I had won the race against an unconquerable foe. I felt safe. I felt alive. I felt thankful.
Since the second shot in March, we have lived life to the fullest. We have not traveled extensively, but we have not been sequestered by any sense of the imagination. We have visited more frequently with my mother, and Mary Lou’s father, who are 89 and 90 respectively.
Over my years in business and politics, many people have asked for my advice. To my knowledge, I have never given less than an honest answer. I have been told more than once that I try to see both sides of a situation to a fault. My brother called me a Devil’s Advocate, because I would always try to see both sides of every story. I took that as a compliment.
So, if you were to ask me, personally, over a cup of coffee, without the distraction of cable news and social media, what I would advise you to do, my answer would be this. Take the vaccine. If hesitant, talk to your most trusted doctor, not ones on TV, but the one you would go to with your most serious and intimate problems. The doctor that you would trust with your life, or even more importantly, with your children’s lives. Ask them what you might ask me. Doctor, would you advise me to take the vaccine?
That is what I did. That is why I did it.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org