For a year now, my wife and I have felt it too risky to go out of the house here in East Hampton very often.
During this year, two more of our grandchildren were born. We have, at the request of our seven grown children who want us safe, seen these new children only briefly, masks up, for a few minutes at a time and mostly outdoors.
But you know this story. You have your own.
What you don’t know is that one of our children, just after New Year’s, became insistent that we make vaccine reservations. We were eligible. A week later, I had to tell him I’d been online trying but could find nothing.
A week after that, he called to say he’d gotten two for us.
“January 22 at 6 p.m.,” he said. “Gotham Health, Sydenham, at 264 West 118th Street in Manhattan.”
That was 110 miles from here. A trek. Well, we’d go.
I didn’t ask how he’d gotten these reservations, but I have since read about good young people in Queens who hit computer keys over and over to get reservations for total strangers, older people like us, who reach their website to request their help. I suspect that Ben hit the keyboard for us like that.
This year has been particularly challenging for my wife. In normal times, she is a very social person. I’ve rather enjoyed the time, though. I write and edit these stories every day. I have a book coming out in April. We Zoom a lot. The days fly by.
I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about the history of this place. And I have come to appreciate how good it is that we are in the Hamptons. We have lived this year much like the early settlers did. An abundance of fresh vegetables, grains, meat and fish are available. We take forays out to get them, though not by horse as was done then.
We also go on hikes. My wife loves to cook. And it’s just the two of us. There’s clams, lobsters, potatoes, strawberries, corn, you know the drill. We both have lost weight during this year. She five pounds, me 10. If all of civilization with its McDonald’s, Costco and 7-Eleven stores were to collapse, we’d be okay, just as the settlers were.
You know, when I was first brought out from the city to the Hamptons as a teenager by my parents in the 1950s, I met lots of local people here who had never in their whole lives been to New York City. I was astonished at this. Saw no reason to, they told me. Their parents never had been to the city either.
Now, I expected that along the busy drive to the city, I’d reacquaint myself with the 21st century, which, when you think about it, may have caused many of the current problems on this planet.
As the date approached, I began to think of what things would be like after we got our shots. We’d see everybody. Do things. Go places. Feel safe. Maybe I’d see the present day through different eyes.
Monday afternoon, January 21, my wife got a phone call. With just 24 hours to go, we were cancelled. No vaccine. But, they told her, they had a new appointment for us. Be there Monday, February 1 at 5:30 p.m.
The news depressed me. I told my wife there was no reason to think we wouldn’t be bumped the day before that date too. She suggested we try to stay on the bright side. Meanwhile, the country was in an uproar about a supposedly “stolen” election. Things were beginning to get to me.
As a result — and despite my wife’s request that I just leave things alone — I called the Sydenham Clinic the week before this new appointment. I told my wife I’d be polite. And I was.
“We were bumped before,” I said. “I’m just hoping we won’t have that happen again.”
“Well, we don’t have any vaccine on hand now, but we expect a delivery. It should be here for your appointment.”
“If it comes in any time between now and then we’d be available to come in,” I said.
I thanked her very much. Told her to stay safe. And we hung up.
We were in the kitchen eating breakfast. Not 10 minutes later, the phone rang again. It was her. I put it on speakerphone.
“How about today?” she asked. “It just arrived. Could you be here at 3 p.m.?”
My wife shook her head no. She had Zoom appointments later. I looked her square in the eyes. The no changed to yes.
“We’ll be there,” I said.
To make sure we would be there on time, we agreed to leave the house at 11:30. There was so much to do. We had to prepare, if necessary, to stay overnight at our city apartment, which we hadn’t seen in a year. That meant we had to pack.
We were out of the house and on our way on schedule. We passed Walmart and Popeyes and Target and Wendy’s. We stopped at a minimart in Manorville and I went in and got bad-for-you potato chips and we stretched our legs.
We arrived an hour early. A tent was set up on the front lawn of this small hospital. Nurses and doctors were there. We checked in, they said come on in and we’ll give you the shots right now, and they did.
Afterwards, they had us sit to see if we’d have a bad reaction. When there wasn’t any, we got lollipops. And an appointment for a second shot on February 21.
On the way home, I got a call from Michaal, the daughter of Bob Schepps, the owner of Hampton Bagel on North Main Street. Bob’s a good hard-working man and a longtime friend.
“I thought you would like to know that Bob died last week,” she said.
I tried to comfort her. Bob was in his 60s.
“It was Covid,” she said. “He felt poorly, went home, went to the hospital and two days later, he passed on.”
I asked if there was anything I could do.
“We’re hoping to reopen the store this week,” she said. “Perhaps you’d come.”
I would. And did.