The Eternal Relief of Having Vaccinated Parents
Back in March, here at Medium, I lamented the uniquely exhausting generational plight of the Gen-Xer. (Or, if you’d rather not play the generational game, “someone in their mid-40s.”) This pandemic did not necessarily make us terrified about our own health — obviously, Covid-19 is a brutal virus that affects everyone in different ways, but the mortality rate for those in their 40s was, and is, decidedly lower than in older age groups; this is no reason not to take the virus seriously, of course, it is just a scientific fact—but it put us right in the middle of two different generations to be worried about.
That’s to say: Gen-Xers like myself found ourselves worried about the mental health of our children (mine are currently aged nine and six, perhaps the worst age for virtual learning) and, mostly, for the physical health of my parents. This has been the single biggest stress of this pandemic for me personally, and there have been … a lot of stresses. My parents moved from Mattoon, Illinois, to Winterville, Georgia, just outside of Athens, when they retired from their jobs as an electrician (Dad) and emergency room nurse (Mom) so that they could be closer to my two sons, their only two grandchildren. (That I was also here didn’t factor into their consideration much. When you reach a certain age, I’ve found, your parents start thinking about you less as their offspring and more as a conduit toward premium grandchildren access.) They had a foolproof plan. They’d buy a house out in the country where Dad could have his garage and workspace and Mom could have space for her morning runs, they’d be able to see their grandkids whenever they wanted and, in the spaces between, they’d do all the travel they never got to do while working on their feet 60 hours a week for 40 years. They had earned it as much as anyone has earned anything.
And then the pandemic came, and it turned their retirement into an indeterminate sentence of house arrest.
I am fortunate: My parents, unlike many in their generation, were not Covid denialists: They knew the dangers of the virus, and they also understood their obligation to their community and their fellow citizens. They stayed indoors, and cautious, and…