High costs of COVID, but some savings

Almost every calamity that happens in our lives cost money, sometimes big bucks. But when it’s a fire, a flood, a hurricane or a mudslide, the human cost is exponentially more expensive than the act of nature. I don’t think anyone ever gets over the anguish of losing loved ones, their home, or their belongings. Life is never the same. This cruel monster called COVID is no exception, but harsher, in that it affects all of us.

Beyond the nearly half million deaths, I can’t imagine the legions of victims for whom the pandemic has meant job loss, business closings, or using their life savings trying to hang on.

Then there are the rest of us, for whom Covid has been merely the most inconvenient year of our lives … not completely life changing.

Sure, we’ve stayed home. We’ve given up holidays, birthdays, special occasions, life rituals and our friends. Dear Richard and I were lockdown quarantined for a month after having COVID. And yet, I think we are the lucky ones.

​Last week I had a guilty day — I let my credit card loose among the online merchants. I ordered a birthday present for an old friend; I treated myself to a jigsaw puzzle and a book; I succumbed to some of the flower catalogues and ordered some spring plants. I rationalized that we’ve spent less money during these terrible times and what are a few indulgences to make some sunshine on a gray winter day?

Then I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I kept thinking about those who are struggling to hang on to their home, their way of life. As a niggling little elf of conscience was scratching for my attention, I offered thanks for being safe and well and warm, and that my family and friends are also. I realized how blessed we are with our comforts. Eventually, I slipped off to sleep, thinking that the prospect of joyful spring plants was worthwhile after all.

Actually, saving money has been a surprising side effect of our hibernation. Staying home has saved on dinners, movie tickets, trips, and the gas to get there. My car? I recently put in its third tank of gas since March.

Our entertainment during confinement has been ridiculously cheap. We discovered Netflix just before COVID, a relatively small investment in pleasure. And I rediscovered jigsaw puzzles, entertainment that is hard to beat dollar for dollar

The last 1,000 piece monster occupied the dining room table for a month. Sometimes it took an hour to put in five pieces. The only fun cheaper than that is watching the cat lust after birds at the window feeder. I do admit a little envy for the outdoor crowd who entertain themselves with exercise.

Being homebound certainly doesn’t require much dress up. We don’t go anywhere and no one comes. During our quarantine, I found myself putting on the same clothes I slipped off at midnight. Sometimes even a second day. Ergo, laundry expenses are down and who’s buying clothes for special occasions when there aren’t any?

I miss those occasions. I miss seeing my friends in person. I miss not just the hugs, but the laughter, the sparkle in their eyes, their change of expression. Their kindness however, was in great evidence. I felt their affection in every dinner, soup, and dessert they delivered to our front stoop. Thoughtful cards and emails propped us up at our sickest and loneliest. I felt the importance of friendship as never before and the memory won’t fade soon.

None of us will ever forget this horrible intervention in our lives. In the years ahead, we will remember where we were on our life paths when we hunkered down in months of cooking,reading and Sudoku immersion. Some of us even cleaned closets and sorted pictures, but I don’t think our attempts at filling our days will be our strongest memories.

Were I a betting woman, I would say that many of us will rethink what is really important in our lives. Many new pathways will be explored.

I, for one, having survived a tough case of COVID, am grateful to be alive and all that means. But I’m challenging myself to use this time purposefully, to accomplish some goals. I don’t want to look back through a long lens to 2020-21, struck by how I wasted all that opportunity.

I don’t imagine I’ll recall how much money we saved. It has been the compassion, the genuineness of nurses, therapists,neighbors, and the world’s dearest friends that will linger, probably forever.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their bi-polar Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com


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