Health And Wellness

When Your Anti-Vaxer Spouse Catches COVID

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couple in face masks

The day I went for my vaccine was tense.

I’d told my wife the week prior I was heading out for my jab and she stopped what she was doing to give me the most crestfallen look I’ve ever seen from her.

I might as well have told her I was leaving her for the woman who runs the bakery downstairs.

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She looked betrayed.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

Once she realized she wasn’t going to change my mind with talk about putting unknown poisons into my body and a brief riff on surreptitious government overreach, she relented. She relented with the cold enthusiasm of someone agreeing to hear your pitch on a multi-level marketing opportunity.

The one thing she was enthusiastic about was ordering an herbal pill I was to swallow right before my shot. She told me it would help protect my immune system from whatever vile substances lurked in the vaccine. I realized as she was describing the pill, we were negotiating. This was a deal-breaker for her, and if I were to be vaxed without agreeing to this, I would suffer some future wrath.

I agreed to her terms and delayed my shot for a week so she could order my wonder pill.

Seven days later, she accompanied me to the clinic and watched with only a hint of consternation as I received my injection. She did, however, revel in my misery the following day when the symptoms accompanying the vaccine gave me a headache, nausea, and an overall feeling of blah.

She seemed slightly disappointed when after another 24 hours, I bounced back to my perky but cynical self. It was very clear by this time she would not be getting a vaccine under any circumstances.

The Plumbers and the Dragon

The people who know us best often shake their heads and wonder aloud about how we make it work. We’re very different people.

For example, we once had a leaky kitchen sink. I called a ‘plumber’ who went into our kitchen, ducked under the sink, grunted a few times, and emerged, telling me he fixed it. Twelve hours later, the sink was leaking again.

I repeated this process with a different ‘plumber’ a few days later with the same results.

Plumbers in Romania are a crapshoot, notoriously unreliable, and when they show up are usually more of an amateur fix-it person than a professional trained in the dark arts of pipes and drains.

After the sink began leaking again, my wife looked at me gravely and told me we had a water dragon living in our kitchen. Despite having never heard of water dragons, I nodded because she often talks about dragons, demons, spirits, aliens, and angels. Most of our household woes are due to one of these metaphysical jerks.

My wife has a degree in psychology and an MBA.

She is a life coach who incorporates less mainstream ideas in her practice, such as communing with inter-dimensional entities. I’ve walked into our living room and found her measuring ley lines, and one night she woke me up around 2 AM because she had to go meet her friends in an emergency session to fight off a demonic attack on a local priest.

I said ‘okay,’ and went back to sleep. It’s best if I don’t ask questions.

Exorcising Leaky Sinks

She performed a ritual to ask our water dragon to leave, but apparently, it was a stubborn dragon and enjoyed our company. While it’s nice to be liked, even by a water dragon, I tracked down an actual plumber.

He arrived, ducked under our sink, and re-emerged to tell me one of the pipes had been installed backward. He turned the pipe around and the sink hasn’t leaked since.

After the plumber left, I found my wife beaming with pride. She was delighted she successfully convinced our water dragon to leave. This apparently had nothing to do with the three different men we’d paid to fix our sink, which made me wonder whether her water dragon received a cut of the money we paid plumbers.

I don’t believe in dragons, entities, spirits, demons, or angels. Aliens? Probably. I’m a fairly open-minded nontheist who spent the last ten years working in data science. I like empirical facts, deductive reasoning, evidence-supported theories, and medical science.

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In addition to the faith I put in such things, I believe some hills aren’t worth dying on. If my lovely wife needs to take off in the middle of the night to grapple with the forces of hell, I simply ask her to stop by the store for eggs and milk on her way home.

I’ve previously written about her opposition to the vaccine, as well as her spell-casting, and her fondness for crystals. She’s a good sport, most of the time, about my airing her magical laundry. However, she often rolls her eyes at her Muggle man.

A Plague of Disagreement

The pandemic has been a test for us. We’ve both had moments where we lacked diplomacy. It can be difficult when the person you share a life with has fundamental values juxtaposed to your own, especially when they limit your freedom to travel or enter a shop.

I can live with the fact that I’m an amateur chef who will happily spend an entire afternoon slow cooking carnitas until the house blooms with the scent of cilantro, cumin, and onion, while she grumbles quietly about my kitchen antics and subsists on cookies, crackers, cheese, pastries, and the occasional vegetable.

She’s indulged me by tagging along for weekends at vineyards despite her being a teetotaller. We’re different people with different values, and we’ve made it work until now.

Until now.

A Viral Admission

Two weeks ago, she came home from work and didn’t look good. She dragged herself through the door and immediately undressed and went to bed. The next morning, she stayed in bed sleeping.

She was the sickest I’d ever seen her, and she’d lost her sense of smell. I mentioned on that first afternoon it might be COVID, but she glared at me from underneath our cozy duvet. She insisted it was merely a cold, and did the same on Thursday, Friday, and twice on Saturday, even though she was running a mild fever.

Her obstinance included forgoing any conventional pain or cold medications and refusing a COVID test, opting only for an herbal tea she’d heard from friends would make her better.

By Sunday, she was downtrodden and whining about her lack of recovery. I was fairly certain she had COVID but had given up on having a reasonable discussion about it.

It’s the same protocol I have for my QAnon family members. I don’t engage. I don’t bother. There’s no sense in my standing on a round Earth and listening to someone’s pretzel logic on why it’s flat.

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Ain’t nobody got time for that.

She wasn’t one iota better after four days of bed rest and slugging down enough herbal tea to drown a water dragon. I pitied her, but I also didn’t. It wasn’t until she spoke to her mom on the phone, her mom a medical doctor, that she gave in and said I could buy her a COVID test.

It was no surprise when the test came back positive. She became surly and even resentful that I wasn’t showing any symptoms of being sick. She was even more annoyed when I tested negative. Vaccines have a weird way of warding off maladies.

She sent me an article about how vaccinated people are also getting sick. I sent her a photo of me jogging through the park.

If we had drawn the battle lines the day I received my vaccination, the troops advanced the day she discovered she was sick and I wasn’t.

A Pandemic of Detente

A week later, she remarked perhaps it wasn’t COVID after all. She’d read about a different nasty flu that was going around and pointed out COVID tests weren’t 100% reliable.

I sighed and opened a bottle of wine, resonating with the sound of the cork as it popped from the bottle.

And this is where we are at. I understand your asking ‘how does it end?’ I have the same question.

The pandemic and news of people getting sick are taboo in our home. If the topic does surface, she immediately dismisses it, usually with the word ‘idiots.’ She has her facts at the ready if I ever rattle my medical science saber.

Is this a happily-ever-after scenario or a tacit understanding of mutually assured destruction? Is this flu bug the symptom of something systemic lurking beneath talk of water dragons and preventative care?

There has been an uptick in existential life choices amongst my friends and colleagues over the past two years. I wrote about it in 2020. These odd global moments can compel people to consider new priorities and entertain new realities. They can also highlight the confines of our distinct realities.

Our little combustible married life is a microcosm of society. The pandemic entrenched people in their own beliefs, making them hesitant to consider other perspectives. My wife and I agree where we can and politely differ when we cannot.

At least, we try to be polite. Perhaps a civil shared reality is the best we muster for now.

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Brian Abbey is an ex-pat, ex-philosopher, ex-entrepreneur writing on society, relationships, & AI singularities.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.