I am Peter Gorman. I have been writing for the Fort Worth Weekly since 2004, not long after I moved from New York City to Texas for family reasons. I am 69 years old. Not too long ago, I was released from Huguley Hospital after a 13-day stay. It was my sixth time in the hospital in four years, all of the stays due to issues that cropped up from my second job, which is as a guide and medicinal plant collector in the Peruvian Amazon jungle. Those recent stays included time for dealing with flesh-eating bacteria that attacked my legs, a ruptured intestine, and, most recently, sepsis when my kidneys failed, among a host of less life-threatening problems.
It is just the way things are for me and I have not changed over the last 35 years and probably won’t. I love the Amazon jungle, even though it will finally get me. I live with that.
What I did not expect to live with was the coronavirus. I am the perfect age and currently dealing with several severe conditions that make me the perfect candidate for this illness. Should I get it, I don’t know if I will survive. It would be awful to die of COVID-19 after I’ve survived the jungle for so long, but the reality is there to deal with daily. On the other hand, I can only run so much.
I scrub my hands. I wash canned and packaged goods before I use them. I go to the store with a friend daily but stay in the car and listen to music while he fills my shopping list for dinner. And I make spectacular dinners daily — the only job I’m permitted to do. Well, that and cleaning the kitchen.
But my friend Devon is still in touch with people in the supermarket. And with my daughter Madeleina’s friends: Adrian, a fast-food delivery guy, and Patrick, who will return to work at Target. My friend Matthew H., with whom I am writing a musical, is in touch with people and over at the house several times a week. We wash, we clean, but we’re not perfect. My younger son Marco comes over to hug me and eat dinner a couple of times a week. And then I have doctor’s appointments and a home nurse and physical therapist, both of whom, until two weeks ago, were here several times a week.
You get the picture. I try, but life goes on, even if mostly in quarantine. You avoid what you can, but you don’t roll up and sit in a fetal position. At least I don’t.
What I miss most are the other members of my family. My ex-wife, generally over for coffee most mornings, is afraid to come and expose me to infection. Her two young daughters have not been here since I’ve been out of the hospital. My oldest son, Italo, and his wife Sarah, along with my two grandkids, Taylor Rain and Teigan Grey, have not been here either since I left the hospital a couple of weeks ago. I am used to seeing them a lot and miss them enormously. Sarah called the other day and asked for a couple of dozen eggs from our coop — including a half-dozen fresh organic duck eggs — and I had to leave them on the front porch for her to pick them up.
I am not looking for sympathy here. Things are what they are. A lot of people are in much rougher spots than I am. Deaths are beginning to mount here in Texas. The daily list of hospital rooms, intensive care rooms, and ventilators being used in the Dallas area hospitals go up most days and are considerably higher than two or three weeks ago.
And now we’re in the process of reopening Texas. The restaurants in Burleson, several of them, are open for indoor dining. Masks, never much in use at my local supermarkets, are apparently disappearing. The local Goodwill had more than four dozen cars in its lot on Saturday. I suppose it simply has not hit hard enough here for everyone to understand that this is no joke. But what do they imagine will happen given our reopening? Do they believe that Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump saying everything is OK makes it OK? Or do people think like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that “there are worse things than dying”?
Perhaps the people pushing to open things up don’t have friends or family in New York or Michigan who are either front-line health workers or people suffering from this virus. Perhaps they think that because they don’t know anyone who has died from this that the deaths are not really happening. Here’s a clue: This ain’t the flu. By the time this goes to press, we’ll have had more than 70,000 of us — yes, us in the United States — dead in just about six weeks. And it could get a lot worse in a heartbeat if we don’t maintain sensible precautions.
Make no mistake. This is a huge issue, everyone. I hope you all make it through.