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The Entire Family Has Covid-19

We call the mom “the red-faced, smokin’ sausage.”

She’s extremely unpleasant, galumphing from place to place in the neighborhood, but I’ve gone out of my way to be nice to her, so she speaks to me, occasionally. She’s never without a cig, even as sick as she is now.

She’s got that particular brand of fat that’s especially unhealthy for women, the big-belly-stuck-out-in-front kind that portends cardiovascular disease and early death compounded by other grimness. Her apple-shaped body will not be the one to keep the doctor away.

I suspect strongly that her abnormally bright red face results from active alcoholism, but I’ve kept my distance, so I can’t swear to it.

She’s not old, but she’s a health calamity in the making.

Given that she smokes, she exposes her entire family — obese husband, two obese teen-aged kids and an obese health-wreck of a mother to second- and third-hand smoke. For all I know, some of her housemates may smoke as well. If so, they’re scoring a perfect trifecta of the single greatest modifiable health hazard on the planet.

Two large American flags fly full-time outside her down-on-its-luck house.

I remember when flying this once-great country’s flag was a mark of pride. We brought it out for special occasions. Now it’s far more likely to be a marker of Trump, far-right ideology and stupidity, especially where I live. I’d like to believe differently, but I think the two flags are her not-subtle nod to a misguided red “headedness” to match her ruined round red face. I’ll never know “fur shur,” but it fits.

She was out the other day, shuffling through the neighborhood slowly, coughing (without covering her mouth), audibly wheezing (heard from my front porch perch about 20 feet away) and smoking. When I said “hello” she looked up, answered “hi” back and revealed “The whole family has Covid.”

I have no idea why she decided to open up in the way that she did, but she did.

“Yeah, we’re all un-vaccinated, except my mom, but she’s got it too. We all got tested, me, my husband and my two kids.”

I kind of know her mom as well. She seems to be a decent sort who often comments that my garden looks great or asks about my sister who she once met. Occasionally, she’ll see me messing with my wetsuit either before or after a saltwater sesh, and she’ll ask after the waves or the sun at the nearby beach or the winds there.

Once, months ago, she engaged me on the subject of vaccination. Somehow she’d gotten the news that I was a doctor of some kind. She was someone I’d describe as “vaccine hesitant,” not rabidly and unreasonably vaccine avoidant. We talked, calmly, and I offered that I’d been “Pfizered” without incident and further proferred my professional opinion that getting vaxxed was the smart thing to do. She’d asked, so I answered.

Weeks later she proudly told me that she, and several of her “girlfriends” (her words) had gone together for their jabs. I could tell she felt good about her decision.

Now, she, along with the four misguided fools she lives with are all sick.

Seeing her just now outside her home is what prompted me to sit and write this. She looks OK. That’s not a professional opinion, just a neighborly, at-a-distance gestalt. With a high degree of certainty I can recognize when someone’s about to drop. She was not about to.

As for the four others, we’ll have to wait and see. By the smoke-infused flushed-faced wreck’s report they’re all only a few days into it.

When mom shared her diagnosis with me, I did say “see a doctor or go to the ER if you feel sicker in any way.” She nodded and shuffled on, coughing.

Today I also saw smoky in her front yard, not walking, just sitting, hunched over in a chair ill-equipped for its task. She, remarkably, was not smoking. That may be either a good or a bad sign.

An American flag fluttered weakly on either side of her.

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