Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Six


April 18th

 We are in the process of trying to get the insurance company to re-evaluate their decision. Our contractor submitted a report and estimate to them, along with some more photos. We’ll see what happens. I’m not holding out much hope, but the total repair cost isn’t too egregious. (Less than 10K for tearing off one layer of asphalt shingles and one layer of cedar shake shingles, re-decking the entire roof, and then a new asphalt shingle covering.) Thankfully, with a 900 square foot house, the roof isn’t all that big and there isn’t much in the way of tricky angles, etc. We will see what happens. In the meantime, we have more strong storms forecast for later this weekend and there is still only a blue tarp covering it. Sort of reminds me of the aftermath of a hurricane when blue tarps dot roofs all over town. Dealing with all this yesterday is what there isn’t a separate entry for April 17th.

And now on to a totally different subject. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot over the course of the past few weeks but I have resisted writing about it, probably because I didn’t really want to admit that I was feeling this way. As a retired firefighter, I often get asked if I miss the job. Since my retirement was due to injuries, it’s not like I had a big farewell tour or anything. It just happened. That said, enough time has gone by that under normal circumstances, I don’t miss the job anymore, with the exception of sliding down the pole. I’d love to be able to do it just one more time. I’ve found other things to occupy my time and I try to stay focused on that. Or at least I did before The Rona. My second career as a college professor occupies both my time and my mind, which typically has meant that I don’t have as much time to think about my own injuries/pain and the life I had before. The Rona has changed all that. Being at home now, I have more time to think. That’s not always a good thing. Right now, fire departments in the United States, particularly in urban areas, have been hit hard by the virus. They are running their asses off all the while, having personnel test positive for the virus. As a trained firefighter/medic, I feel like I am missing out on the opportunity to help when it is needed most. I know some might say that I should just go down and volunteer at my local hospital. That’s not an option, as my injuries prevent me from doing much of anything, not to mention the autoimmune disease I developed after I got hurt which puts me at a very high risk of complications should The Rona come to call. I was the guy that always wanted to work the shit details. I loved working hurricanes. I loved being there answering calls while everything was going to shit. It is times like this that we are needed most. Yet, I am at home typing on the computer.

Feeling this way causes my mind to turn back to my own career and the way it ended. I was a damn good fireman. As much as I hated going on EMS runs (which made up 75% of our call load), I was good at that too. All of that seems wasted now as the country and the world is in the grip of the virus. Sure, I’m still haunted by some calls. I don’t sleep much. I have a quick temper and I don’t suffer fools gladly. Sometimes, I shut down around people and dwell on my ghosts for days…or even weeks. I have a tendency to push away those that are closest to me. Hell, earlier this semester I had a break down in front of a class and started sobbing uncontrollably. But despite all the negatives that my career and my injuries brought me, deep down inside, I know that I’d give anything to walk back into a fire station again for one more shift. Just one more. Knowing that I can’t is the biggest frustration of all.

April 19th

 Storms this morning but it looks like the worst of it will slide around to the north of us, so fingers crossed as our roof is still holy. Starting tomorrow, my revisions to Molly’s Song being. I have copious notes from my editor along with notes that I have made based on those notes. It’ll be a long slog (as I hate editing), but the manuscript goes back to the editor on June 22nd. Two weeks after that, I’ll enter a region known as Query Hell. It’s not fun, but it is necessary. The writer life ain’t all fun and games like it is in the movies. It’s hours spent alone staring at the computer screen. It’s crippling self-doubt that plagues you every time you hit a snag with writing or publication. It’s a pervasive sense of melancholy that can overwhelm you at times. It can be managed. It can be overcome. But it is still a struggle at times.

Today I have to get everything set up the upcoming week’s classes. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’ll figure it out. I tend to work best under pressure, and so waiting until the last minute to handle things is par for the course for me. Honestly, I can’t wait for this semester to be over and my grades turned in. It is just so damn awkward for everyone involved, from faculty to students alike. For the record, I think the who self-isolation thing was the right call, and I am on the record as early proponent of it. That does not, however, make it any less of an impact. I’m sure students will be happy to put this semester behind them as well. However, at least at my college, classes during our two summer sessions will also be online. (I’m teaching Summer 2). I have to be finished editing Molly’s Song by May 15th, which doesn’t give me a whole lot of time, because in between the end of this semester and the start of Summer 2, I’ll be writing my third novel, tentatively titled Dark Raven.

April 20th

 I’m not gonna lie. The past few days have been rough. I’ve been dealing with a lot of nightmares and intrusive memories. Things have a way of sneaking up on you. It’s like the memories of calls gone bad lay coiled just beneath the surface of your mind waiting for you to let your guard down for a moment and then WHAM! They jump up and smack the shit out of you. That’s kinda where I’m at right now. If you’ve followed my blog for more than 30 seconds, you know two things about me; one is that I am in love with Maria Nikolaevna Romanova and the other is that I love music. There are three songs in particular which, though they were not written about PTSD in particular, do a pretty good job summing up what it is like, at least in my experience. The first one is When I’m Gone by 3 Doors Down. Specifically, the opening lines which say “There’s another world inside of me that you may never see. There’s secrets in this life that I can’t hide.” This speaks to the invisible scars that I carry with me everywhere. Later, the song says “Roaming through this darkness I’m alive but I’m alone, part of me is fighting this but part of me is gone.” That’s what is feels like sometimes. Like I’m groping blindly in the dark, trying to find a light. The second song is Only God Knows Why by Kid Rock. In fact, if I had to pick a theme song, this would be it for a myriad of reasons. However, as it relates to traumatic stress, it is the line that says “People don’t know about the things I say and do. They don’t understand about the sh-t that I’ve been through.” If you were to observe me for a period of time, you’d be able to tell that something was off about me, even if I didn’t say anything to you about it. That’s normal. But it causes me to feel like everywhere I go, people are watching and judging me without understanding the experiences that led me to be this way. It’s irrational on my part, I know, but I can’t help it. Last but not least, we have “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty. “I’m talking to myself in public, dodging glances on the train. And I know, I know they’ve all been talking about me. I can hear them whisper and it makes me think there must be something wrong with me out of all the hours thinking somehow I’ve lost my mind.” The chorus is particularly apropos too. “I’m not crazy I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell but stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see a different side of me.”

I don’t want it to seem like I’m complaining. That’s not my intention at all. I’m merely voicing frustration with my own brain. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If I could go back in time, I’d still join the fire service even knowing what the outcome would be. There’s a certain victory in that and it does provide me with some comfort, but the dark nights are still dark. The ghosts are still there. But there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel eventually. It goes in cycles for me. Good weeks or months and bad weeks or months. So no, I’m not complaining, It is what it is. We all have our crosses to bear, and I have two very heavy ones. My physical injuries and my mental injuries.

April 21st

 I am typing this at 0800. I’ve been up since 0300. The roofers started work at 0700 this morning. We are going ahead and getting the work done now, while we wait for the insurance to review the additional documentation we submitted. This is the stormy time of year, and having two holes in the roof, even with the tarp over it, risks more damage which, if it were to happen, would not be covered by the insurance as they would claim it was due to the existing damage. Typical. We’ve decided to go whole hog on the repairs. Obviously, even if the insurance does pay out, they will only cover the roof. But we are also getting the 2×6 trim replaced, along with the soffits, and also having the house and trim painted. If the work is finished by Thursday when I post this week’s entry, I’ll include the before and after pictures. If not, I’ll do it next week. The roof comes out to 9400 and the other work is 4500. So it’s not too bad.

April 21st is a bit of a somber anniversary. Five years ago, I lost my feline best friend, Dr. Simon Diogenes Legree. He was from New Orleans and was a Katrina survivor. He passed away of sudden kidney failure at the age of 13. I adopted Anastasia Colleen Hutchison after that and she’s been my “little” girl ever since. (The little is relative as she has big bones). Needless to say, with all the noise around here today, it won’t be a day for getting much work done. There’s currently a big pile of cedar shingles (the layer under the asphalt shingles on my roof) just outside the window behind me. They’ve made short work of the demo portion of the job and have managed to tear off the asphalt layer and the cedar layer in an hour and a half. The contractor says they might be able to finish with the roof portion of the job today. That would be nice, as the other work will be less noisy!

April 22nd

 They finished with the roof yesterday. Took them 12 hours to get it all done, which is pretty impressive given how much work they had to do. They were planning on finishing up some of the exterior carpentry work today and then pressure washing and painting the house and trim. However, there is rain followed by storms predicted for this afternoon/evening. It is 1100 as I type this and they haven’t finished the carpentry yet, so I’m thinking the pressure washing and painting will have to wait until tomorrow, which is fine. I’d rather them do it when we have several days of predicted sunshine to follow. I’ll post some before and after pictures once they complete all of it. If it is early enough tomorrow, I’ll do it in this week’s post, but if not, it’ll be in next week’s. However, I’ll post them on my author Facebook page and on Instagram, so you can see them there as soon as they work is done.

What is funny is that we are kind of getting mixed signals from our state and local government. Our governor is touting our low case counts and low fatality numbers and pushing to re-open the state. His numbers are flawed since at the end of the day yesterday, our state was butt naked last in per capita testing. It’s never been ranked higher than 47th. So we have no idea how many cases are actually out there. My city is reporting 43 cases, up from 33 a few days ago. Despite the governor acting like everything is coming to an end and re-opening state parks, etc, today the County Judge issued an order stating that for the next 30 days, anyone over the age of 10 going out in public has to wear a mask. But there are no masks available for purchase, at least not cheaply, so I’m not quite sure how that is supposed to work. Thankfully, I have a stash of N-95 masks that I’ve kept stored for a few years. But I don’t go out in public right now and my wife only makes a grocery run once a week.

That said, on May 1st, I have a doctor’s appointment at 0900. It is not an appointment that I can cancel or postpone. As of yet, I haven’t heard if they are doing telehealth appointments. Probably not, given the kind of doctor it is, so I’m getting worried that I’ll have to go in person and thus risk being exposed to The Rona.

I’ve spent some time working on an epic tribute video for my Машка. I completed it today. It consists of five songs, a few hundred photos, some film footage, and comes in at 21 minutes long. You can watch it here! I’ve been working on this one for a very long time. All five songs included are songs that are on my playlist for her which I’ve written about here. Admittedly, it is a bit weird to be in love with someone who has been dead for not quite one hundred and two years, but it is what it is and I make no apology for it. If you are new to my website and would like to read about where my connection to her comes from, go here to read about her spirit saving my life one afternoon. If things are ever back to normal, stop by my office on campus one day and you’ll see the shrine of photos of her that I keep there. Я люблю тебя, мой голубоглазый ангел.

April 23rd

 The paint is going on the house today and that will conclude this round of work. However, there is a new snag, and potentially an even more expensive one. We probably need to have the house re-wired. I’m having an electrician come out to take a look today and give us a quote and another one will come out for another quote on Monday. Sweet Chocolate Christ! Doing the roof and exterior repairs cleaned us out, but I don’t know how I’ll manage to pay for the wiring, if needed. And that’s a priority repair given the potential for a fire hazard. I’ll update you on the first quote once the inspector comes out. At 1500 hours, I have a telehealth appointment with my therapist. I have a suspicion that we will be discussing the rapid increase in nightmares and intrusive memories I’ve had this week.

So, as I feared, the house needs a total re-wire and a new breaker panel. It isn’t up to code in its present condition (as I knew), and so to do any work, they have to bring the whole thing up to code. The cost? 11K. That’s almost equal to the entire amount that we’ve spent on the outside. I still haven’t heard back from the insurance regarding the additional documentation we submitted in reference to the claim, though I did email the claims handler today to ask for an update. If we end up getting the $7500, then we can probably find the additional $3500 somewhere in order to cover the electrical repairs. If not, then we can’t afford it under any circumstances and we are maxed out, so we can’t borrow any more either. I guess in that event, we will just have to live with it until either we find the money or the house burns down.

They won’t be finished with the painting today, and so I am going to go ahead and post this on Thursday, my usual posting day. I’ll put the exterior before and after pictures in  next week’s entry. My apologies to those of you who have been looking forward to the release of Molly’s Song, but I’ve had to postpone finishing my edits and the copyedits until the fall. The book will still be out eventually, but probably not until next spring at the earliest.


6 thoughts on “Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Six

  1. Besides stopping here and now to as God to give you comfort and to rid you of the physical snd emotional things that hurt you, I ask him also to have mercy and grace to provide you with all you need. After that, you need to count yourself as a first responder that saved lives and property, and gave comfort to many, including to those that passed into God’s arms in your presence. Even (especially?) heroes can fall on hard times given your way of making a living was so abruptly changed by injury. In addition to praying for Netflix, etc. to find you, I say it is time to set up a Go Fund Me page to help a hero pay for a new roof, a paint job, and rewiring! After that, from someone who has grieved as you are grieving (PTSD), please know that whether it be the bad dreams, flashbacks, or crying, that is actually your psyche trying to heal. It hurts, can be scary, disruptive in all sorts of ways, and make one feel painfully different, distanced, and separate from others. There is even more but you know that already. Know also that courageous and creative people, when accepting the challenges of their gifts, often pay a high price in the process. To not be who you are and were meant to be, however, would exact an even higher price. So, keep loving your sweet lady with the red hair, your kitties, your family and friends, and writing!!! Perhaps writing a book about your firemens (Anastasia’s term) experiences, that would help process your PTSD. Your often refer to it, and whereas some if it can be amusing to this reader, more often it is moving, spiritual, and meaningful. Through your gift of writing you are helping to heal yourself and many others in unique ways I am sure. That is one reason I read so much and so many different things…it is so healing for me. I will continue to pray for you and yours. God bless you all, every day, in every way. 🙏💕 P.S. How I would love to have talked to Maria and her siblings/family…among so many in the past and present. I love reading for that reason as well…insights into remarkable and even mysterious souls!

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    • I’ve written about some of the funny stuff from the job, but I’ve been unable to write about the bad stuff. The words just aren’t there. There is one call in particular that I still lose sleep over and I’m trying to write about it. But I don’t know if I can finish.


  2. I totally understand! My prayer will be for God to give you mercy and His perfect timing for you to be able to process it and have peace. For me, (and I am not an artist), I once used a variety of art acts. I sculpted and put it in a kiln, made a collage, painted it, drew it with my non dominant hand, wrote it all over some fabric (which can be safely torched), and wrote it with marker and then sanded it away. They all helped some. For me, the most effective things been to ask God to be present with me as I talk about it (either alone or with a trusted loved one, friend, or pet.). OR talk to others in a support group of others who went through the same or similar things. That lasted for 8, if I recall, out of 13 weeks. I felt well enough to stop at 8. Regardless of what I or anyone else has done to work through it, your way and time will be yours and you will finally find peace. Right now I sense that you still have strong feelings about it… probably running the gamut from pain, to anger, to fear, to confusion, to guilt or regret to ??? Perhaps naming all of the feelings as you have each memory and then addressing each feeling might be helpful. That would be an interesting form of “two chair therapy,” but it might be useful. I will continue to pray for God’s perfect timing, divine intervention, and mercy. Also, if that Go Fund Me page gets created let me know so I can donate! God bless you and yours! Mrs. K 😊💕🙏


  3. I just spent some time on the net reading about and watching videos in regard to PTSD and firefighters. How naieve I am to think that what I went through could compare to what you must have gone through. For that, I apologize for my feeble attempts to help…and you really didn’t ask for my help…but being a teacher and having wanted to be a therapist (marriage and family), I fell right in to wanting to help. Then, there’s what I wrote at some point: “See a hurt and heal it, see a need and fill it.” So, it is from there that I write – as a Christian that has suffered and made it through it, more than once – always with help from others, sometimes from folks I didn’t even or barely knew. God just placed them in the right place at the right time and what they had to say or show me was just what I needed at that time. I just know that we CAN rise out of the depths of such pain. It is not easy, but it is possible. It is from there that I pray for you. Your purpose and identity was strong in being a firefighter. When that went, the loss was profound, I am sure. I have gone through such loss, loss whether in a rather lost childhood and youth, beloved job due to illness, or as a widow. It took a lot of time (varying with each loss) for me to find my new place in the world. It seems as though you are adjusting gradually as you recognize that you like things about your new life as a writer and professor. (I have to say…what a wonderful like that might be to so many, including me!) At the same time, the quiet time has returned in a huge way with the pandemic. Boy, can I relate to that. Being a people person (and now it’s just the two of us at home with Wilma Grace kitty…somewhat away from everyone geographically and my school that I was working in is closed til next year) I find my mind going back to those hard memories, just like you. I have my own meaning of PTSD: Pain that Stays Distracting! Yes, that includes a racing heart beat, bad dreams, and flashbacks, anger, regret, sorrow, etc.) Alas! Well, there were good things I saw as I read and watched the firefighter PTSD videos. It all came down to this: PTSD is no longer in the closet. Lost of people in various occupations have it, and the world is finally waking up to that reality and attempting to help. As you have a therapist, that is great news. Now comes the time…your time…however long it takes for you to heal. I had more than one therapist over the years, but I will say that the last, most influential one lasted for quite awhile. I can still see and hear him in my mind’s eyes and ears. I can still remember specific things he said that encouraged and healed me. I was and still am so grateful for him, a Christian, yes, but morever a man invested in helping someone in pain to find their way through PTSD and to learn to live with it successfully. I finally have realized the bad experiences in my life that started in childhood (and continued well into my my 50’s on and off) actually forged me into being the teacher/still in education person that I was and am now. I see and feel God’s hand in every event. The scriptures comfort me, having told me that “I formed you in your mother’s womb,” and “the hairs on your head are numbered.” God planned it all and is still here for me, and will be for eternity. It’s my job now, to try to do what I can to help others while I am here. That is our purpose,and our best path to joy, I believe. I am not perfect by any means, but I know I am helping and others have gifted me with assurance that indeed, I do help others. That is what I am trying to give to you: assurance that you matter so much and to so many! Your gifts are numerous! God changed your path, but you have worked hard to find your place on the new path. In doing so as a writer and professor, you are helping others. At the same time, you are like Paul that was afflicted by problems with his eyes (and so many of us have our physical limitations), but he did not let that deter him from his purpose in serving God. You are doing the same thing. You are not letting your pain deter you. At the same time, though, I/we know you hurt. Keep reaching out for help in all the ways you need. God is right by your side every step of the way. In the mean time, your readers out here
    delight in your writing, relate to your struggle, and pray that you will be blessed in every way, every day…God giving you mercy, healing, success, and peace. Ok. I will stop now. God bless you once again, Mrs. K

    *If my writing is too much, just tell me and I will understand. I just keep feeling called to write to you. Believe it or not, there is no one else that I do this with. I do write and/or share various friendly, funny, or what I consider useful things on Facebook. Other than that, I don’t usually write this much to someone about such personal and spiritual things. What can I say? The spirit moves me. At the same time, I honor boundaries and if you need a new boundary, just tell me. I will undestand. I will still keep you in my thoughts and prayers regardless. 😊🙏

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  4. Good grief! How do I correct these after I post? correction: last sentence: understand…and whatever other typos I made and pain over! lol😉


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