Four nights ago emergency workers showed up at the apartment directly across the hall from mine. When I realized they were there, I retreated to my own apartment to get out of the way. I didn’t know what had happened until I ran into my neighbor the following day. He looked stricken – disheveled and a bit ashen.
I asked him, “Are you okay?” I addressed him by name, but I don’t want to encroach on his privacy here, at least not without his permission. There are only four apartments on my floor, and we all know each other.
He shook his head. “No, I guess I’m not,” he answered.
“My son died last night,” he said.
I was dumbstruck. “I’m so sorry,” I said. I was at a loss for words. I could tell he just wanted to get on the elevator and flee, so I quickly told him we could talk later. Today, when I met him again at the elevators, I learned the rest of the story.
His son had moved in with him a few months ago. I’d seen them together a few times, but I hadn’t been introduced, and I didn’t know he actually was living there. The young man had been sick, probably with the flu, his dad said. His dad left briefly for an errand and when he returned and checked on him, he was gone. He was 23 years old.
“I think he might have choked on his vomit,” his dad said. “I was gone only about 45 minutes.”
When I asked if it might have been the coronavirus, and my neighbor shook his head. There would be an autopsy, of course. “We can’t have a funeral or a viewing until things open up more.” He was his only son, but he had two step-children who were helping him with the arrangements.
Yesterday, the company that manages our apartment informed us there was a “possible confirmed case of COVID-19” in the building. Putting aside the ambiguity of that message, knowing of my neighbor’s sudden loss has made COVID-19 exceedingly immediate and within reach.
The State of Indiana began it’s reopening process this past weekend. The local mall is open, and retail stores have begun to reopen too. Restaurants are allowed to open at half capacity. People are venturing out more. A friend said that there had been a block party in her neighborhood, complete with inflatable bounce houses.
I told my daughter Anna on Wednesday that I didn’t think we could continue to walk at Notre Dame from now on. There were too many others on the paths too, and they frequently did not move over to leave good distance between us as we passed. Yesterday we walked instead in a nearby cemetery.
Tomorrow, by the way, I will be tested for COVID-19. After processing what I learned today, I called my doctor. He thought it probably would be a good idea. I don’t have any symptoms, apart from seasonal allergies that are no different than any other year at this time. Still, if I’m infected, I don’t want to infect others.