Nancy and I have rarely traveled since the start of the pandemic, so I felt apprehensive late last month when we set out for a week in the mountains of Colorado.
We’re in our middle 70s. We regularly read the reports on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. We’re aware that we’re in the demographic that has the highest death rate from complications of the infection. That’s something to think about. It has been for us, anyway.
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m really not. I’d hate to suffer, and I’d just as soon not go yet. There’s still much I want to experience, mostly kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. They bring joy to every day. I won’t give that up until I have to. And I’ll have to. I just don’t know the hour, you know?
It will happen. It already has to several high school classmates, a few old friends and several of the newsmakers I covered during my years as a reporter. It happens to everyone. I have medical conditions that have weakened my immune system. Along with my age, those conditions put me at greater risk than some of dying sooner than I’d prefer. To sum up: I’m going to die. I just don’t plan to go out of my way to have it happen anytime soon if I can take steps that might put it off awhile longer.
So Nancy and I don’t put ourselves at risk when we don’t have to. We don’t live in fear, but we try not to be fools. We follow the advice of medical experts. That hasn’t been terribly difficult. Our routine travels in retirement, even before the pandemic, were limited to visiting family, keeping medical appointments or sometimes traveling back to Pierre to see some of our oldest friends. The pandemic made us even more aware of the need for caution.
Back in March when this thing started, I didn’t figure we’d still be at it in November. I sure didn’t figure South Dakota would be seeing its highest numbers yet of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The way it’s been going the past couple of months, I’ve resigned myself to living in the midst of a pandemic for the unknown future. It could disappear suddenly, I guess, but it’s shown no sign of doing that, and the people of the state and the nation seem to be aggressively split on whether to do anything to change the course of the disease.
So, to Colorado. Our younger son and his wife have a place in Crested Butte, a mountain town known for quaint shops, ski runs and mountain bike trails. We last saw this couple at Christmas, and a guy kind of gets to missing his kids. Our son is an epidemiologist. His spouse is a neurologist. They’ve paid attention to the pandemic, and they assured us we’d stay away from people. So we went, packing food and drinks, stopping once on the way out for fuel, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer in the middle of Nebraska where few others seemed to be doing that.
In Crested Butte, everyone wore masks, indoors or outside. Well, sure. The state has a mask mandate. Some people got up a recall petition against the governor, but most folks seemed content to follow, not as sheep but as citizens who follow rules and have concern for their fellow citizens.
The air at 8,900 feet was crisp and clean, if a bit thin for my old lungs. We kept to ourselves, walked now and then and had long conversations. It was a great visit, well worth the return trip on the back end of a snow storm that stretched from Denver to Chamberlain.
We don’t expect to see that son and daughter-in-law again soon. They plan to skip traditional family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, out of an abundance of caution. We haven’t made our plans, but I’m leaning toward being pretty conservative until we see a big drop in the daily pandemic case reports.
At 76, I have less time left that most people. I see no reason to squander it foolishly.