The Best of Chippewa Falls Volume One's guide to the riverside city » Presented by Mason Companies, Leinie Lodge, Northwestern Bank, and Go Chippewa Falls

The Rear End

THE REAR END: Awkward Immunity

time for another big dose of reality

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |


The other night, we made appointments to get vaccinated. It felt momentous and mundane all at the same time.

After all, we were just booking a doctor’s appointment. But after all, it was the first truly game changing thing we’ve done to start moving away from This Pandemic Life.

Mind you, it’s just a start. I assume we’ve still all got a long-ish way to go. We’ll still be dealing with masks and early morning grocery trips and limited social outings and awkward online outrage and, you know, breathtaking national death tolls for some time to come.

We’re still in the woods. But booking a vaccination appointment made me feel like the trees are getting thinner. Like we can see a little sky up there through the branches.

We did it right before bed, almost as an afterthought. Just a, “Whoops, we better do that,” kind of thing. For my part, I was largely oblivious to what it all meant. And how lucky we are to have a vaccine available to us at all. It’s astonishing. All that started to sink in the next day.

My wife booked her needle-centric appointment first. After a normal amount of button clicking and data entry, we both had our times locked and loaded. It was more time-intensive than, say, shopping online for a new spatula, but not by much.

I’m not even sure I’ll remember how to interact face-to-face with other people. I feel like there’s a good chance the first time I try to shake hands with an old friend, I’ll end up awkwardly hugging them, and then they’ll somehow end up in a headlock, and as they slowly pass out, I’ll say, “Sorry, I’m really rusty at this. I’ll get better. What a year, right?”

MIKE PAULUS

We each got an email reminding us of dates and places and what to expect. We’d be going to a church for this, much like we do to vote. Except instead of making tick marks on a ballot, we’ll be having a small amount of fluid injected into our arm. This fluid will teach our bodies to make a protein that will trigger an immune response causing us to produce the kinds of antibodies needed to protect us against COVID-19 infection. But basically the same thing.

It’s just a shot. And yet it means so much.

 

Like many of you, we’re deeply settled in to our pandemic routines. Sure, these routines are built atop a foundation of eerie uncertainty mixed with constant reminders of how deadly COVID-19 can be, but we generally know what we’re doing and what to expect. We’re lucky that way, compared to many. But here we’ve been, holding on to some predictability in a storm of unprecedentedness.

And now, here comes the shot, which will eventually pull us back to … what? Life as it was? Some kind of post-pandemic newness? A set of routines we can’t yet imagine?

If you’re a certain kind of person, this is yet another rung on the ol’ anxiety ladder.

And I’m feeling torn. To be clear, I’d gladly disrupt every single one of my beloved routines to help out my family and my community. If it means less people get sick or die or suffer mental illness? If it means small business owners can hang on? If it means our kids can hang out with each other free of worry? I’ll do it. I’ll stay home. I’ll get a shot. I’ll remember to be kinder and more thoughtful every damn day. I’ll do my best.

But big changes are traumatic. And as much as I miss the many things we left suspended in time so we could beat this disease, I’m worried about transitioning to something new. I’ve discovered a lot about myself and I’ve grown closer to the most important people in my life. Will we toss away the lessons we’ve learned? Will we just pretend it never happened?

I’m not even sure I’ll remember how to interact face-to-face with other people. I feel like there’s a good chance the first time I try to shake hands with an old friend, I’ll end up awkwardly hugging them, and then they’ll somehow end up in a headlock, and as they slowly pass out, I’ll say, “Sorry, I’m really rusty at this. I’ll get better. What a year, right?”

These are things a vaccine can’t fix. But because of the vaccine, we’ll have to deal with them. It’s nothing we can’t handle. But it’s something I hope we never forget.