During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when almost everyone was trying to stay at home and no one wanted to go anywhere, I was at work. I was working as a nurse practitioner in a clinic. Mid-morning I was scheduled to see an 83-year-old woman for follow up. MJ was one of the few patients who had not called to cancel. MJ breezed in right on time, in head-to-toe pink spandex and bright purple trainers, her normal look. She might top the scale at 100 pounds on a good day and barely reached five feet in her trainers. Her white-grey hair was big and curly but with a few extra weeks of growth it was a force to be reckoned with and preceded her into a room. You were nearly required to practice social distancing to prevent being eaten up by her marvelous, giant hair.
“Let’s get this done,” MJ sang, as she practically hopped into my exam room. “I’m so busy I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep this appointment.” She smiled.
I paused. This was a first for me since COVID-19 arrived in our area. Busy? Doing what?
I decide to ask, “So…. What have you have been busy with…?” I queried as we started her exam.
“Well, I’ve got to drive up north today to pick up the fifth wheel, I got the best deal. The best. And then the truck is getting tuned today. We’re heading out this weekend if the weather holds in the pass. I’m stocked on food and water but I still need to pick up….” And on and on she went rattling off a list of things that made my head dizzy.
I looked at her trying to decide if she was pulling my leg or possibly manic. Nope. She was completely serious. She was busy. This 83 year-old, petite pink talking-machine had bought a fifth wheel. And she was planning to drive it across the country. Right then. She was 83. Eighty-three. I had no words but tried anyways.
“Ermmm….,” I faltered.
MJ looked at me expectantly, large eyes blinking behind glasses surrounded by pink rhinestones.
“Ermmmmm…..,” I faltered on again, “soooo, there’s this virus-thing going on…..” Sometimes I can be very medical, very professional. “Are you sure this is the best time to go on a long-camping trip across the country? Ermmmm…., you’re 83, 83…” I stopped.
Her eyes blinked at me from behind the rhinestone frames.
I looked at her. I blinked too. It seemed the thing to do in the moment. Blink. Falter. Blink.
“Honey pie. I know I’m 83. But I got the BEST deal on this thing and when else am I gonna have almost completely clear roads?? Never. I will never get an opportunity like this again in my lifetime. Never. To go drive the wide-open roads and have them be OPEN. Everyone’s home. It’s perfect.” Her case had been made. Rhinestone eyes blinked at me again.
“Ermmmm…..,” this is rather embarrassing, I could not think of a single thing to say.
The big eyes blinked again.
“Look,” I tried again, “it’s really not a great idea…. You’re at risk… Your age. We don’t know a lot about this virus. Everything is closed… I really don’t recommend it. Your health…” I finally stopped and looked at her.
She blinked again. “You sound just like my kids,” MJ said. “I know all this. I do. But honey pie, open roads are waiting and I am not getting any younger. I know what I’m doing.”
So we completed her exam. And as we did she told me she had heard all the reasons not to go from her kids and her grandkids and her friends (except the one who is coming with her, of course), and her doctors and her rabbi. She was hoping I would not be like the rest. But I was.
At the end of her visit I finally said I would see her in four weeks for follow up. And I sent her on her way, hoping in four weeks I would be hearing stories about the marvelous adventures of two octogenarians who traveled for four weeks in a giant truck with an RV attached to the back. Around the US. On open roads. One of them at least, wearing hot pink spandex. All during a viral pandemic.