Scaring cats, forgetting words and authors: ‘mild’ COVID-19 episode hits Globe columnist


This has been my brain on COVID-19 for the last time…well, I can’t really say, as I more or less lost track of time. Even, on occasion, what day of the week it is.

According to Johns Hopkins University, one in five Americans has had COVID-19, and my wife, Marcia, and I are now among them.

And let me tell you, if it’s sweet, I wouldn’t want it wild. A COVID mental fog is pretty much all that lingers now, and it’s dissipating, or so I hope. But it didn’t slip on the little cat’s paws. It came like the pea soups that used to slog in… that big city where Boris Johnson likes to attend those ‘rules are for you, not me’ parties. No, I’m kidding there. The word London has never faded from memory. But the name of one of my favorite writers (Charles Portis) did, as did the title and author of a novel I read last month. I skimmed through a long Economist essay on the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein – and the next day I couldn’t remember what he said or even who the article was about.

None of us, double vaxxed and boosted as we are, ever thought we’d have to go to the hospital. But with the exception of a completely miserable 11-day bout with the flu two decades ago – an experience that made people believe in a flu vaccine – it’s the most miserable I’ve ever felt as a than an adult.

The nights have been strange, sweat-soaked, painful, restless. I woke up at 7:30 a.m., thought about getting up – then, exhausted by the mere thought, rolled over and slept another three hours.

By day, our heads ached like we had bands of steel tight across our foreheads. Our eyes burned and wept. Sinus congestion made me feel like I was 10 feet back in my skull. Sudden sneezes sent startled cats rushing to dark cellar hiding places. Marcia had what she describes as the most painful sore throat of her life, one that made swallowing a grimace. Take the worst head cold you’ve ever had and triple it, and that’s where we’re languishing.

But as severe as those symptoms were, worse was the complete lack of energy and mental confusion that comes with COVID. I would sit in an armchair, read the newspaper or try to skim a few pages of a book, then I felt my eyes close – and I would wake up several hours later, not knowing if it was morning or the afternoon.

Simple tasks required immense effort. Bored to tears one day, I tried to put together a virtual pinball game. The instructions were basic enough to be done as pictures, with no explanatory text. Assembly, which didn’t require much beyond a Phillips screwdriver and Allen wrench, was expected to take about 45 minutes.

I clocked in at half past six.

Stranger still thought of one thing and heard your mouth say something very different. We both did. Last midweek – yes, the term ‘Wednesday’ once slipped my mind for a few moments – Marcia, lamenting how long the illness had lingered, said: ‘I’m so tired of this. I was really hoping to go swimming this weekend.

To swim? Do we have a swimming pool, and if so, is it heated? Even through the COVID fog, I knew the answer was no.

“To swim?”

She seemed as puzzled as I was by what she had said.

“Skiing. I was really hoping to go skiing.

Skiing may be where I caught it. We were quite careful. We socialized over the holidays, but only with a small group. All of the members were vaxxed and had tested negative.

But while skiing, you couldn’t avoid the guys in line joining you on the chairlift, some who just couldn’t be bothered with some sort of face covering. Or maybe it was the only time I went out to dinner, although none of the other skiers at my table accepted it.

We all have pandemic fatigue, and with Omicron we’re starting to see a resigned feeling that we’re probably all going to get it anyway, and since it’s supposed to be mild, maybe that’s OK to throw caution to the wind, get it and be done with it.

I would caution against that thought. When it comes to COVID, mild doesn’t necessarily mean what you think. Not if our experiences are any indication, anyway.

Scot Lehigh is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.

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