Many years ago, a Crested Butte teenager was badly injured in a ski accident. From her daughter’s bedside at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, the girl’s mother wrote one of the most eloquent and beautiful letters to the Crested Butte newspaper that I have ever read.
I can’t quote it from memory all these years later, but the woman talked about sitting by her daughter and feeling the love of the entire Crested Butte community envelope them, about being lifted by the love given so freely to them by friends and neighbors and the community members they didn’t even know.
It was lyric and beautiful and really heart-wrenching, which is usually used in a negative sense but best describes the visceral feel of that thank-you to the unseen powers that were helping heal her daughter, who did, in fact, survive her extreme injuries.
I am not one for prayer, particularly, although I understand that many feel helped by it, but today I am putting every thought I have out there, and asking for yours, for my friend Paul, who was transferred from the Gunnison hospital yesterday to the same St. Mary’s in Grand Junction in critical condition from covid-19.
His wife Julia, a neighbor of Kara’s, a few days ago told Kara she thought both of them had the virus. Yesterday — or was it the day before? — they both went to the Gunnison hospital; Julia was sent home a few hours later with instructions not to leave the house for any reason whatsoever.
Paul was one of three Gunnison County residents transferred yesterday from here to St. Mary’s, which is bound to become the point hospital for the entire Western Slope of Colorado, one-third of its landmass and probably one-eighth of the statewide population.
The worst part is that no one can be at his bedside. Julia, herself sick, is the only family member allowed to call the hospital, and so by the time information gets to me (from Kara, who is in communication with their daughter in Pueblo), there isn’t a lot to go on.
In a “normal” illness or injury, things would be so different. One daughter would be in Grand Junction with Paul while another would come to help Julia. Or all three of them would be able to be with Paul. But everyone is alone, and helpless.
Kara, scared to death, is taking care of Julia’s chickens out in their yard, wearing protective layers and wiping everything as she goes. Someone else may be putting an ancient cat’s special food preparation on the front porch. But Julia must manage the inside cats and dog, her health and her worry about Paul, all by herself.
I don’t even want to text her a message of support because I don’t want to be one more encumbrance. It sounded, from Kara from daughter Elizabeth, that Julia is communicating in monosyllables, and after reading David Von Drehle’s recounting of his ninth day of “mild to moderate” symptoms, worse than any flu he’s ever had, that taking care of one’s self requires pretty much every last ounce of energy.
And what of Paul, all alone in a community not his own? I have told you about him before, how we met when he was working on his doctorate in theatre while I was an undergraduate squandering much of my time in the scene shop (okay, I don’t consider it “squandering,” but it’s a fun word and it wasn’t my major, so we’ll go with it), and then he came for his first (and only) teaching appointment at Western Then State.
He had already called off his more-or-less annual summer trip to Italy with students and an art department faculty member, and when I told you about him it was because he’d just told me he was finding more and more reasons to just stay home. Mr. Social himself was turning into a homebody as his retirement really started to ramp up.
And now he is in the hands of St. Mary’s, a hospital with an extremely good reputation. But they are faraway hands, and he is alone, and so I am asking for your help in sending every thought or prayer you can spare to help lift him and his family up in this darkest of times.
Knowing this is a danger to the world and hearing the numbers made me think I comprehended the gravity of the situation, but now that number is down to two: Julia and Paul, friends for decades. Julia who less than a month ago was cajoling me to come over for marimba practice and angling to include me in a cabaret performance at the arts center; Julia my first tap teacher; Julia who appeared with me as two-thirds of an accordion trio for a performance attended by over 100 people; Julia who pedaled Lynn and me around in her pedicab in triumph of our marriage 15 minutes prior.
And Paul, who earned my admiration from the first thing he ever said around me, in defense of using my initials rather than a name; Paul who directed so many theatre productions and coaxed students to great success; Paul who supervised, as department chair, some of my limited adjunct teaching career; Dr. Professor Edwards (as it goes in SpongeBob-speak) who was always with me as we said to one another on our birthdays, “We need to go to lunch,” occasionally — but not often enough — putting words to action.
I can only fervently hope — perhaps pray — that he will recover.