I felt like a brand new man.
I felt that way again this week, but not because of any athletic achievement. I felt that way because I got a shot — specifically, my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Last month when the state of Georgia opened up vaccination appointments to our age group, Stacy had gone into overdrive, searching all the websites, trying to snag any available appointments for us. There were none to be found in the Atlanta area, where we live, so she spread her search wider and finally snagged us appointments for the vaccination at a Walgreen’s in Macon, about a 90-minute drive from our home.
Actually, the appointments were at two different Walgreen’s stores about six miles apart from each other, but at least they were on the same day. Her appointment came first that day, and when we arrived at her store, we asked if there might be a way for me to get my vaccination there. We were politely told there were no cancellations that would allow the store to squeeze me in, so I got in the car, drove across town, got my shot, and then returned to pick up Stacy. We both got appointments for our second doses — again at the two different stores — but at least on the same day.
When we arrived for Stacy’s appointment, I asked the same question — could I please get my shot at this store? — and it was clear things had changed. A wonderfully cheerful lady behind the counter picked up her phone, explained the situation to someone, and got the clearance to give me my shot at that store. She even called the other store to cancel my appointment for me. Within 30 minutes, we were back in our car, headed north toward home.
As we headed up I-75, Stacy and I began talking about what our vaccinations meant to us — or at least what they would mean to us two weeks from now, which is when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they will be in full effect.
The first thing we talked about was Mother’s Day. That falls on May 9 this year, about a week and a half after we hit the “fully vaccinated” mark. The CDC’s website has a complete list of guidelines about what folks can and cannot do once they are fully vaccinated, and the first entry on that list says, “You can visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age.” Stacy’s mom, our beloved Miz Jackie, has already been fully vaccinated, and we plan to spend all of Mother’s Day weekend at her place, without masks and hugging each other a bunch.
I feel like a brand new man.
Last August, writer Jenny Taitz in The New York Times called the COVID-19 pandemic the “emotional equivalent to an ultramarathon.” Those words ring so true for me. I have discovered over the past year that I ain’t built for all the separation that has come with this long time of trouble. I am, by nature, a hugger, an extrovert, someone who loves to be out in the world with other people, especially the ones I love. All my opportunities for that have been gone for more than a year now.
But they’re about to come back. Stacy and I have already been talking to fully vaccinated friends of ours about making plans to have dinner together. Exactly what all the opportunities will be, now that we are two-shot people, remains unclear. I have a feeling our nation won’t have a sure sense of what post-pandemic life really looks like until autumn at the earliest.
I just know this. In a couple of weeks, I’ll have the chance to hug some people I love. That will get me through until the fall, as I await the chance to hug everyone I see.