By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Institute
As I write this, I’m quarantined not in my house but in a part of my house.
My wife got notice two nights ago that she had been exposed two days earlier to a person who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
It’s a crazy irony. The person who tested positive to whom she was exposed is her physical therapist. That’s right. Dear wife Jane went to the PT’s facility to get therapy for her ailing shoulder and arm. The two were interacting for an extended period of time so that my wife could regain her health, not lose it. C’est la vie.
We don’t know if my wife has Covid – and, fact, there is no quick way to find out. People who get tested right after they are exposed are almost certain to get a negative result. The experts say you have to wait at least 48 hours, better 72 hours, to get a consistently reliable determination.
Of course, after you take the test, unless you have access to one that gives you immediate results, you have to wait 2-4 days to find out if you actually have contracted Covid. By then you have been a “spreader” for several days.
That’s why I’m quarantined to a part of my house.
High risk guy
I am a high risk candidate for serious, possibly fatal, consequences from the virus. I am old (73), have diabetes and heart disease. Also, some very mean people who nevertheless are in solid touch with reality say that I am overweight – all bad indicators for those who get Covid.
My wife will be tested this afternoon and should get her results back by the end of the week or early next week. If they are positive, we may have to be quarantined even more drastically. Even with the horse mostly out of the barn, one of us will move somewhere else for another week or so, awaiting the results of a second test with the same delay that accompanied the first one.
Even if the first test is negative, we’re told by medical experts that we still have to be cautious, and we should continue our same-house quarantine until she is tested again -- and again gets a negative result.
Like a divorce settlement
Meanwhile, splitting up the house is way too much like reaching a divorce settlement.
I kept our bedroom, the adjacent bathroom and am “living” alone in our usually shared office across the hall. She gets a bedroom at the other end of the house and has exclusive access to the family room and the hallway bathroom.
In a shared kitchen we wear masks and each prepare our own food at separate times, sanitizing counters and cupboard and refrigerator handles after using them. Since she is the one who was directly exposed to a positive case, I’m doing all the grocery shopping and she’s staying home from daily Mass.
It’s a pain. But it’s only for a couple of weeks – assuming the best. Time to put on my Big Boy Pants and have frequent talks with my Loving Maker.
A healthy dimension
Those conversations help me see that there is a healthy” dimension to this predicament: it reminds us of just how contingent life really is – all the time.
As a Jewish rabbi once taught me, every breath we take involves God breathing life into us. Life is not the norm. It is the fruit of God’s intentional and unconditional love for us. (No, that does not mean that when we die God has quit loving us; it just means that He has other plans for us. The self – some would say the soul – lives on in His love. How do we know? Jesus told us so … and showed us it is possible.)
It is not hard to remember that this situation is not about me – at least not yet. Right now it’s about my dear wife. She’s the one who was exposed. If I end up catching it, it’s because she has caught it first. We have to deal with that first and foremost right now.
And then we have to address the angst of all those who love her. They’re worried right now. That’s a good sign that they love her. But like anything else having to do with love, it comes with some complications, some responsibilities.
We have to comfort them. We have to reassure them that we’re taking all the reasonable precautions we can take. We have to stay in touch with them, updating them not only of changes, if any, but when there are no changes as well.
Yes, she is still asymptomatic. Yes, she is feeling good (except for that damn shoulder, which she is now trying to faithfully rehab on her own).
As for the rest – if her test results come back positive or she starts to feel symptoms, or I do – we can deal with that when it happens. For now they are all just big ifs.
I can tell you one thing for sure: they have not kept me up at night. Since we got the news two nights ago, I have slept well and she tells me she has too – news which bodes well for me getting another good night’s sleep tonight.
Good to have company
Even though we are not sleeping together in the same bed, we are not sleeping alone. We both know that.
After we say our night prayers maintaining social distance and wearing masks, we go off in the steady and loving presence of our Lord. As Psalm 91 reminds us:
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.
You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come.
We are not alone. We are going to be fine. One way or another, we will be just fine. God has us in the palm of his hand.
Yes, I am praying even more now than I usually do. But you need to know this: nearly all of my prayers are prayers of gratitude.
God is good. God is great. And one way or another, He will deliver us. There is no other possibility.