Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About that “stupid mask…” October 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The reason the Rare Pair in Northfield, Minnesota, gives for wearing face masks. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

“…if I didn’t have to wear this stupid mask…”

As his words slid across me, I felt my anger and frustration flare as they too often do these days. I wanted to lash out at him, this guy who expressed his disdain for wearing a face mask. But I held back as I waited for the bank teller to return with my deposit slip. I suppressed the message I wanted to share with him that wearing a mask protects others from COVID-19.

I wanted to tell him, too, about the 87-year-old Faribault resident who died the day prior due to complications of the virus. Dave. Part of my faith family at Trinity Lutheran Church. A man of faith, character and integrity. Well-known in the community, he was the second-generation owner of a funeral home, operated since 1995 by his son Scott.

As I write, I picture Dave with his broad smile, his genuine care and concern for others. To run a funeral home, you have to be an individual of compassion and understanding, of grace and kindness. A listener and comforter.

“Protect the herd” plays off the city’s “Cows, Colleges and Contentment” slogan in Northfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

All these thoughts filter through my mind when I consider how too many people still fail to wear face masks, fail to follow social distancing guidelines, gather in crowds and/or criticize these public health efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

I see this every time I’m in public. The 40-something unmasked dad at the grocery store shopping with his unmasked elementary-aged son while nearby a 4-year-old has no problem masking up. The two men in another grocery store likewise without masks. The customer in the phone store who pulls his mask on and off with no concern for staff or other customers. And the young 20-something who walks into the phone shop like he owns the place, without a care for adhering to the many signs that call for wearing a mask and social distancing inside the business. The waitress at the end of the bar, standing with two other waitresses, her mask below her nose, as we pick up take-out. It is among the reasons I won’t dine at a restaurant. Half-masking doesn’t protect anyone.

I am beyond frustrated with what I perceive as selfishness, lack of care for others and lack of respect for science and our healthcare workers and so much more. At this point in the progression of COVID, I don’t expect opinions to change. I expect the “if I didn’t have to wear this stupid mask” attitude to continue.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2020.

I expect my state senator will continue with his outspoken outrage over emergency measures taken in our state to protect residents during this global pandemic. After all, as he pointed out in a recent radio interview, his district has only tallied 20 deaths. (That number increased since the senator made that statement.) He continually terms the virus a metro problem. Statistics, facts, show COVID-19 is running rampant now in rural Minnesota. This is a disease that doesn’t distinguish between city or small town/rural, suburban or urban.

From the front page of the Faribault Daily News. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2020.

That brings me back to Dave, now the 10th Rice County resident to die due to complications from COVID-19. But Dave is not just a number. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a man who for decades comforted grieving families. Just like the first person, the Rev. Craig Breimhorst, to die of the virus in my county in April.

This is so important to remember. Behind every number, every statistic, is a person. An individual who loved and was loved. Dave was part of my faith family, thus his death from COVID affects me personally. So when I hear someone say, “…if I didn’t have to wear this stupid mask…” or I see people without masks or half-maskers or I hear of people attending sizable social gatherings, I feel my blood pressure and anger rising.

Dave will not have the funeral he deserves, like so many who have passed during COVID-19. His will be a private family service “in consideration of family health risks.” I respect and appreciate that decision. Too many funerals (and weddings) have been the source of COVID outbreaks in Minnesota.

FOR OUR HEALTH AND YOURS, the #1 reason to mask up. Posted at a Northfield business. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Yes, we’re all getting COVID weary. I get that. I understand the challenges, especially as we move into winter and the holiday season. This is not easy. But we have the power to, at the very least, do our best to protect ourselves and each other. To listen to the scientists and health experts. To don our masks. And to make smart, not stupid, choices.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “About that “stupid mask…””

  1. Ah Audrey—- I am so very sorry to read about Dave. We are still toeing the line and doing all we can do to be safe and ensure the safety of others. Prayers for all who loved Dave during this difficult time.

  2. My condolences for your loss.

  3. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    This is a jolt. 87 or not. Wonderful picture on the obit page, just as I remember him. They lived on Shumway, across from us, for many years. Fair to say, no one in town their family hasn’t touched. Scott is my daughter’s decade, shepherded us through Mother in ’99, his Dad through my father in ’57, so many relatives. Scott needs to be around for my time. Are there generations in training? I didn’t know Craig, but certainly know people his life touched. I share your grief….and frustration!!! and sadness.

    • Sandra, I expected I would hear from you and that you would feel the loss of Dave also in a personal way. I don’t know of a subsequent generation in training. No matter, this family has done so much for this community in helping us work through grief. For that I am grateful.

      • Sandra Van Erp Says:

        Did Dave have a special initiative at the church needing support? (besides renting to the new pastor). I gave a little support to the playground fund. Trinity has always been low key about memorials, all souls are equal in the sight of the Lord. I’ll be sure the word gets to family members who are no longer there. Of Mother’s five sisters, two others were at Trinity with spouses. Dad had a brother who married local, that family is still there, will be doing something. It’s just what one does! I hope all the virtual, even memorial services, continue once the worst has passed. (p.s. we have sun today)

      • I’m not aware of any special initiative. But Trinity Radio and Video and human care are always in need of support. Either, I think, would be a good choice for a memorial gift honoring Dave. Thank you, Sandra.

  4. JanBeek Says:

    Yes, smart, not stupid, choices. It’s that simple. Why can’t we ALL see that?

  5. lisasimons12 Says:

    I could not agree more, Audrey. We are all tired of this. We all want to get back to normal. But if we had had a mask mandate sooner, if people hadn’t been so selfish and had such selfish attitudes about their fellow Americans (with freedom comes responsibilities), had listened to science (let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx lead the updates instead of narcissism take the helm), if we didn’t have a WH occupant who has lied, downplayed, misled, and mocked, I think we would’ve been in a much stronger position heading into winter. We are talking about AMERICAN LIVES here. I want to stop talking about the economy. I want to talk about our family, friends, and neighbors first and then the economy. WE CAN DO THIS and have a similar celebration as the Roaring ’20s after the 1918 pandemic if people just stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about their communities.

  6. Norma Says:

    Yes, Audrey. You have so expressed my feelings. I get so angry at these people that think this is only a hoax. I have used and thought words about these people that I thought would never come to my mind, or out of my mouth. God forgive me.!

  7. Liz Says:

    I can only echo what others have said. What the future holds for our country even if we have a new president is very worrisome when we seem to have such a large percentage of our population who seem to care only for themselves, and can’t even do that safely. There are only so many deep breaths one can take. Stay well.

    • Liz, I’ve taken lots of deep breaths this week. Just like you and many others who are frustrated with so many people.

      I advise my husband daily to stay as far away as possible from customers (many of whom are not masking) and co-workers (some of who are half-maskers and do not take the virus seriously). It’s not a safe work environment and I worry.

      You stay well, too, and those you love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.