IN 41 YEARS OF MARRIAGE, Randy and I have always been together on our wedding anniversary. But this May 15, he was 583 miles away in Lafayette, Indiana. Monday didn’t feel at all like a celebratory day with my husband gone. But I understood. He left southern Minnesota on Friday to attend our son’s graduation with a master’s of science degree from Purdue University. My vestibular neuronitis symptoms made travel and attending the Sunday evening commencement unmanageable. This was one of those moments in life when I experienced profound disappointment.
And so our anniversary passed on Monday with a phone call and loving text messages exchanged. I knew Randy would be home the next day, which was a gift in itself.
When he rolled into the driveway at 1:15 pm Tuesday after an overnight stay with our daughter and her husband in Madison, Wisconsin, my heart filled with gratitude for his safe return and overflowed with love in his presence. One long embrace later, and we were unpacking the van.
This May that story began in Madison, 271 miles to the southeast of Faribault, about a half-way point to Lafayette. When Randy stayed with Miranda and John en route to Indiana, he noticed lilacs blooming on the next-door neighbor’s bush. So on the return trip and his second overnight stay, he remembered those lilacs, asked for permission to take some and then cut two generous branches. John found a vase. Randy added water and then the lovely lilacs.
Some 4.5 hours later, Randy was pulling that clutch of lilacs from the van. I smashed the woody ends with a hammer for better water intake, added more water to the vase and then set the bouquet on a vintage chest of drawers. Soon the heady scent perfumed our living room.
Now each time I pass those lilacs, breathe in their intoxicating sweetness, I think of my dear dear husband. I think of his love for me and me for him. And I think of how something as seemingly simple as a bouquet of lilacs gathered in a Madison yard bring me such joy. Randy’s unexpected gift compensated for his absence on our 41st wedding anniversary. I feel so loved and cherished.
Thank you, Randy, for your thoughtfulness and love.
Ah, a fairy tale, you say. Not exactly. Rather, this is a story rooted in reality. A story with a main character who, for ease of writing, shall be identified in secondary references as “he.” Not that The Great Invader is male.
So let’s dive into the story. Once upon a time in The Land of Plenty, The Great Invader landed, making himself comfortably at home. He was, by nature, a traveler. But he wasn’t the type of guest you’d knowingly invite into your home. You know the kind. Ungrateful. Demanding. Messy. And mean, just plain mean. Because of those undesirable traits, he soon found himself on the road, hopping from place to place under a guise of masterful deception. West Coast to East Coast. Then to the South and Up North and to the Midwest. He wanted, above all, to avoid detection and negative publicity.
But word soon got out about The Great Invader. Scientists found him especially fascinating. The more they studied the strange-looking traveler with his signature spiky hair, the more alarmed they grew. They realized he was much more than he appeared. Dangerous. He left a path of death and destruction wherever he went. Yes, that’s a cliché. But it fits.
The scientists warned about the intruder and suggested ways to deal with him. By then they’d studied him in their labs and determined that he traveled mostly by air. No ticket required. “Wear masks,” public health officials who collaborated with the scientists, advised. “Distance yourself from others. Avoid crowds. If you’re sick or feel like you’re coming down with something, stay home.” All of those tactics would discourage The Great Invader. But these proactive protocols were especially difficult for some people in The Land of Plenty to hear, let alone follow. They didn’t like anyone telling them what to do.
The Great Invader was acutely aware of these efforts to stop his adventures. He also recognized the discontent and division spreading across the land like a California wildfire. He needed a plan. And he didn’t have to think too hard. He’d simply rely on people who doubted scientists, who took little stock in warnings from health officials, who spread false information, especially via social media. People who could be a voice. He didn’t much care if that voice was loud or insidiously quiet.
As the months passed, The Great Invader found his hands-off strategy working quite well. He traveled to nearly every corner of The Land of Plenty. Even to the smallest village, where the villagers never dreamed he would visit and leave his imprint. “Why would The Great Invader come here? We have no great theaters or art museums or sports arenas or five-star restaurants or any major tourist attractions,” the villagers reasoned. So many went on with life as usual. Yet, an undercurrent of concern began to bubble when evidence of The Great Invader’s presence surfaced in the remotest of villages.
Meanwhile, across The Land of Plenty, scientists, health and government officials, and even journalists, were tracking The Great Invader on his journey around the country. And the world. They soon discovered they were no longer dealing with a sole sojourner, but rather many with magical powers. The spiky haired traveler had reproduced millions, if not billions, of times and created new versions of himself. This frightened the scientists, who by then had called upon experts to develop a battle plan. They needed to stop the traveler as he asserted his deadly powers. So researchers created a powerful potion to protect the people.
Soon squabbles arose as to who would get the potion first. The Great Invader laughed. He thrived on chaos, confusion and discontent. And lies. He admired selfishness.
He also secretly applauded those who defied common sense and science. He reveled, especially, in those in The Land of Plenty who refused to wear face masks. He celebrated every single person who wore their masks below their noses. And he saw plenty of those, whom he considered valued allies. The mask-less and the half-maskers allowed The Great Invader to travel with ease. If he found himself temporarily removed from a region, he just moved on for a while, only to return when people thought he’d permanently left.
And so, while the people of the land claimed all sorts of indignities brought on by The Great Invader and even tried to stop distribution of the powerful potion, he continued mapping his routes, plotting strategies and documenting his travels in his Once Upon a Time journal.
NOTE:In every story there are truths, this one no exception. To all who have encountered The Great Invader/COVID-19 at his worst, I am sorry.
Observations in my community of Faribault sparked the idea for this story. As COVID-19 infections and deaths rise in Rice County, I see too many individuals in public who are wearing masks below their noses and/or mouths or not masking at all. I am beyond frustrated. We’re not talking just a few people. While I shopped at a local big box retailer, a smaller discount store and grocery stores recently, I saw perhaps 30 individuals who were half-maskers, plus a mask-less couple and children old enough to wear masks (but who were unmasked). Employees were among those half-maskers. I implore the people of Faribault to, please, just wear a tight-fitting, multi-layered mask, and wear it over your mouth AND nose. It’s not that difficult.