What a hell of a year this has been. Changes in my life like at no other time. But I weathered it all and am still kicking.
I spent New Year’s Eve 2019 and New Year’s Day 2020 in St. Luke’s Hospital with fluid overload from congestive heart failure. But I was back at the office the second week in January.
In early March, my bestie told me he and his friends would be coming to Houston so we excitedly made plans and I even asked for a day off from work to spend with them, since I was fresh out of time off due to the early January hospitalization.
They were scheduled to arrive on Thursday evening, March 12. We had planned a few outings, all revolving around NBA games being held in Houston and San Antonio during that 10-day period. I arranged for a friend to create a charcuterie board for their arrival on Thursday and it was being delivered that evening. I even managed to get Friday, March 13 off from work. I was over-the-moon happy.
COVID-19 was a blip on my radar screen at that time. I’d heard of it, but assumed since it was on the other side of the world, it wouldn’t affect me. Oh, how wrong I was. President Trump made the decision to close our borders to foreign travel starting midnight Friday, March 13. My friends just got to town by the skin of their teeth.
And my bossette, who was concerned for my health, asked the firm if I could work from home. Initially, they said no, that support staff weren’t allowed to do that. But she pushed and they relented so I was able to start working from home bright and early on Monday morning, March 16. And, as it turns out, so was the rest of the support staff. COVID-19 was bearing down on us like a runaway freight train on a downgrade.
I adjusted quickly to working from home. Having a web design business, I was pretty well-equipped to handle just about everything. I had also invested in a high-dollar Fujitsu sheet-feed scanner, one year newer than the ones we had at work. I also had my own licensed copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro and Office 2016.
Even though I was tethered to my desk in the bedroom from 9AM to 4PM each day, with an hour for lunch, I still was able to spend quality time with my friends. However, there wasn’t much for them to do since nearly everything had been shut down due to the pandemic. No NBA games, no restaurants, no sightseeing. They were able to drive down to Space Center Houston on Friday before it closed down. We spent the days visiting, they cooked, shopped for groceries, and walked the neighborhood and spent time in our little community park, took drives to the beach, etc.
On April 15, one of the supervisors called me. I was excited because I had been quite bored working from home since there didn’t seem to be as much to do. I was hopeful she was calling to giver me a big project since I helped out attorneys in other offices fairly regularly, especially with appellate briefs. No. It became immediately apparent the purpose of her call just a minute into it. She had launched into what I could only call a rehearsed, canned speech about how grateful the firm was for my many contributions throughout the years … and then started to list the things I was going to receive as part of my termination. My mind heard the cash register ringing. Little did they know I had planned to retire in July anyway, after I turned 62.
I was so elated to be relieved of my duties and be given a payout on top of it. I nearly cartwheeled into the kitchen to inform my friend that I’d been “fired”. But he couldn’t make the connection between my shit-eating grin and the actual words that came out of my mouth. I told him, “be happy for me!”
Because, honestly, had it not been for my bossette, I’d have left long ago. She was always in my corner. The previous year, one of my other assignments, out of the blue and after giving me a glowing performance review, decided I was a piece of shit and did nothing but bitch nonstop to human resources. But HR learned soon after my many week-long hospitalizations in 2019 that the issue was not me, it was her. How did they deduce this? Because all the other secretaries who had to take over for me those times when I was out complained about her unclear or ambiguous instructions — if she bothered to give any at ell. And she disliked receiving emails questioning her instructions. So you just couldn’t win. They finally removed her as my assignment in August 2019, and allowed me to help other floors and other offices. It was a great decision and it benefitted everyone.
Now free to spend ell day with my friends and finally enjoy retirement, which is what I’d wanted all along — for me at least, 2020 wasn’t turning out to be a bad year. My friends and I spent quality time together, binge-watched 90-Day Fiancé, watched movies, ate, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Another friend of mine, on learning it was one of my guest’s birthday month (May), arranged for a small get-together at his house. We practiced social distancing and ate some great grilled meat and delicious sides.
Toward the end of May, it was looking like the government was relaxing some of its travel restrictions and my friends were able to get a flight back home. I was sad of course, but I know they were anxious to get back home and check on their other friends and relatives.
The most wonderful surprise arrived a few weeks after they had departed. A custom made book, entitled Fat Kitty’s Guide on How to Be an Asshole to Your Momma arrived. It contained wonderful photographs of my cat, Duncan, which they had taken during their visit, along with delightful running commentary about Duncan’s life during those few months. It is the most adorable thing, and the message at the end of it, with their photograph and thanking me for my hospitality is something I will cherish forever.
The rest of the summer went on uneventfully as the pandemic raged on world-wide; more racial unrest, and general asshattery made the world quite an unpleasant place to be. I worked on trying to revamp my web design site, launch my virtual legal secretarial business, and stay out of the hospital. In August, I was slated to have routine surgery on a diabetic wound on my right foot. I woke up the following Tuesday (the procedure had been scheduled for the previous Wednesday morning). Apparently, I had gone into cardiac arrest while being anesthetized and the procedure was stopped, and I was on a ventilator for several days while my friends worried about whether I would make it. During all this, I was out of it, blissfully unaware.
After spending the rest of the week in the hospital, I finally was able to come home. My cat was, of course, delighted. And I was happy to be home and quite happy not to be obligated to “hurry and get well” so I could go back to work. I seemed to be taking to retirement like I was born for it!
But because of the incident with the cardiac arrest, which scared more than just a few of my doctors, my cardiologist insisted that I be scheduled for an ICD as soon as possible. That procedure was performed, but only under a light anesthetic, not a full, general anesthetic like the August procedure. And that’s what we have now. It’s a pretty cool device, about the size of a small deck of cards, that was inserted into my chest above the heart. There is even an iPhone app that monitors things and communicates via Bluetooth with my cardiologist’s office. How cool is that?
When November rolled around, a friend drove me to the polling place where I cast my vote in the presidential election. The last time I did that was in 1980, when John Anderson was running on the independent ticket against Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the Democratic incumbent!
You know I don’t like to whine (well, not too much!). So I tried to keep it to a minimum this year because, well, actually, I don’t have that much to whine about! I had no idea how much pressure the stress of my job was putting on me until I didn’t have that stress anymore. And now I can barely remember those old days. I am much happier and calmer these days.
And of course now that I’ve sold my car (because my eyesight is so bad that I simply should not be driving by myself anymore), I an taking precautions to stay indoors during this pandemic and enjoy just talking to my friends on the phone daily, and small get-togethers sporadically. Such is life in the pandemic.