This was a long looooooooooooooooong day. But one thing I got from it is that the vaccine centers really REALLY want us to talk about getting our vaccines, so okay, I will do that. Molly in a comment about Hanakkuh said that you put the menorah in the window to “publicize the miracle”, and that’s what I am doing. Publicize the miracle!!! Shots are good!!!
Chicago, where I live, has a real problem with vaccine distribution. There’s just soooooooooo many people. And soooooooooo many important people, like teachers and police officers and public transit workers, and I want all of those people to get their shots before me, they deserve it. And then on the other hand, somehow, there are distribution centers in other areas of the state that almost have too many vaccines. I mean, not really too many, but certainly enough.
If I could get all the people who really need vaccines in Chicago area down to the places where the vaccines are, I would. But I can’t do that. I can’t even do it on a case by case basis. This really came home to me when I was talking with a friend at movie night on Wednesday. She and her boyfriend are very worried about both their sets of parents who live in the Chicago area and cannot get a shot appointment, even though they are high risk. She has turned into a detective, tracking down possibilities and refreshing sign up lists and jumping on rumors and all kinds of things. And where she landed was “okay, I may not be able to get the old folks a shot for weeks, even playing every angle I can it is just not happening, so right now the proactive thing I can do is for us young people to go on an 8 hour road trip, get our shots, then come back home and at least be less dangerous to the old folks”. And yes, the old folks could also drive 8 hours, but really they can’t. 8 hours is a lot.
I am lucky in that I don’t have any direct contact old folks I am worried about. But if I think of it as a public health issue, I can donate my youth and willingness to drive very very far, and then return to Chicago as one additional vaccinated person adding to the overall health of the city. I can’t get my friends’ parents a shot, but I can make it less dangerous for them to be in the world a little bit.
So yesterday I looked at the vaccine lists for outside the Chicago area. Up to 3 hours outside of the city, everything is booked. But by golly the National Guard mass distribution centers downstate are all kinds of open!!! So I just went ahead and signed up. It’s a state wide state run center, anyone from Illinois can come and get a shot, the only challenge is getting there.
Now, here’s the weird part. At the end of a very very weird 12 month period, so that it almost feels normal. 150 years ago approximately, my family arrived in Illinois from Germany and settled in a growing river town called Quincy. My great great great grandparents lived there, and then my great great grandparents, and then my great grandparents. My Mom’s Dad, Poppie, grew up there and loved his hometown. It had a great library where he would read Punch magazine in the store room, he had a great high school with a couple teachers he loved, and he was surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and so on. He got a scholarship to college, hometown boy made good, went off to college, met my grandmother, got married, got a good job in the city. And for 70 years my family has been making the looooooooooooooong drive from Chicago to Quincy. My Mom and Uncle grew up going down to visit relatives once or twice a year. Then my Mom and Dad started dating seriously, and he had to go with her on a looooooooooooong drive to meet the family. Then my sister was born, and there was a loooooooooooong drive to show the baby to the family. And so on and so forth, funerals and holidays and all kinds of occasions to do this drive.
November of 2019, my spinster aunt died, the last remaining family member in Quincy. She was living in the house that her father had built, on land that had been in the family for over 100 years. My Mom and I went down shortly after she died, and did kind of a tour, went to the cemetery, to the churches our family helped build, to the war memorial with Poppie’s name on it, and so on. My Mom and uncle went down there again in the spring to start clearing out the house and put it on the market. And then on March 13 2020, I went back to Quincy to say a final farewell to the house, and attend my aunt’s internment. I came back to a Chicago in quarantine. A week later, my Mom and Uncle did that looooooooooooooong drive one last time with a uhaul filled with family heirlooms. In the middle of all the craziness of March 2020, for my family there was this added sadness of cutting our final ties to the old hometown.
And today, the only place in the entire state of Illinois where I could get a vaccine, is Quincy. This morning I got up at 6am, walked the dog, took out the trash, threw together a car snack bag with things I had in my kitchen, and then drove over to my parents to drop off the dog and pick up my Dad (my co-pilot). We didn’t bother with GPS or maps, Dad just said “you want to go over and down or down and over?” and I picked down and over. We traded off driving, barely needed to look at road signs because this route was in our bones, and then drove into town past the cemetery where 4 generations of my family are buried, ended at the convention center where my Mom and I went to a craft fair winter of 2019. We got there early, so they asked us to drive away and come back in a bit. We went to the cemetery and found the graves again and said “hey” (my aunt’s grave is all grown over with grass now, looks nice). Then went back to the convention center and I got my shot. On the way out of town, we went by the family house, the new owner has put up a fence and a satellite dish. And then we drove the looooooooooooooooooong way home.
I just can’t explain this. How is the only place in the state of Illinois that can give me a covid vaccine, the home town where my family lived for generations, where I thought I would never be again, where my aunt was buried one year ago ALMOST TO THE DAY??? How did my covid year start and end in the same town, in the same cemetery? How did it start with me standing there with my mother and end with me standing there with my father?
But somehow, it doesn’t even feel strange. Everything has been so strange this year. So, why not? Why not have it all somehow be bookended by the same trip to the same town, and have my life saving miracle be looked down upon by my relatives buried in the cemetery on the bluff above?