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How the Coronavirus has Affected Us

Cartoon by Phil Hands

Everyone has a Coronavirus Pandemic story to tell. I hope you and yours are surviving and doing what you can to maintain your sanity during this time of unprecedented social and economic upheaval. I do think about the readers of this blog. I worry about their health, finances, and families. I wonder if I am focusing too much on the pandemic, and not enough of positive, happy stories. I don’t want to further depress people or add to their stress levels, yet I suspect that most readers want me to continue to open, honest, and matter of fact. In other words, my house might be on fire and my wheelchair is out for repairs, but I am going to do what I can to maintain some sort of normalcy.

A number of readers have asked how things are going for me and my family. I appreciate everyone’s kind, thoughtful comments, and emails. Rather than send out form letters or take on the laborious task of responding individually, I thought I would answer the various inquiries I have received in this post. After this, I won’t mention our personal plight until things change for us in a significant way. All of us have our own burdens to bear right now, so there’s no need for me to endlessly talk about my own.

First, let me mention Polly. She was scheduled to have bowel reconnection surgery at the end of March. That surgery has been postponed until at least the end of June. Which is fine. Polly can get along okay as she is, colostomy bag and all. Not what she wanted, but she understands why her surgery had to be canceled.

Polly was laid off from her job — a first in our marriage. Initially, her employer thought it would be a brief furlough; now the talk is that her layoff may last into late April or early May. On Monday, Polly tried to file for Ohio unemployment online. The state’s website crashed during the process, leaving her application incomplete. This has led to an infuriating comedy of errors. The bottom line is this: Polly has to call the Ohio Jobs and Family Services to “fix” her application. Much like resisting assimilation into the Borg, reaching someone at the state office has proven futile. We call four to six times a day, without success. Please try again later. 

Second, our children are either working from home, on drastically reduced hours, or laid off. We are quite close, so it has been difficult to not see most of them. Our youngest daughter has stopped by several times with here munchkins, and our oldest son briefly stopped in two days ago with his oldest daughter. We stayed in the back yard for the duration. To say that we miss our children and grandchildren would be a gross understatement.

Third, we had been saving money to cover Polly’s month off work for her surgery. We are now repurposing that money to pay our current living expenses. This, of course, will lead to difficulties for us when Polly does have her surgery in late June. We have enough money on hand to pay all our living expenses for two months. By then, we should receive the stimulus check and somebody, anybody, will pick up the damn phone at the unemployment office, allowing Polly to successfully complete her unemployment application.

Six weeks ago, we bought a new car. Awesome, wonderful car. However, it’s not a good time to be purchasing a new car. We can’t unring the proverbial bell, so all we know to do is move forward. I made the first payment yesterday. We will worry about the next one when it’s due.

Fourth, food-wise we are in good shape. We always have three to four weeks of food on hand, so we didn’t need to make a run to the store lest we run out. We have gone to the grocery twice in the past three weeks. We are good to go, even if we may not necessarily have everything we want. Growing up poor and spending much of our married life on the bottom of the economic scale, taught us how to make do. We are survivors. Polly is a wizard when it comes to making groceries stretch. 

Fifth, our biggest concern is what will happen insurance-wise if Polly’s layoff continues long-term. Right now, her employer is paying all the premium costs; however, I suspect there will come a time when they will no longer be able to do so. The company she works for employs 2,000 people, but they are a private, family-owned business. Their ability to absorb long-term financial losses is limited. The company was already under financial stress before the pandemic, so I do worry about their future. The owners are wonderful people. I know they will do everything they can to keep the business running and their employees working.

Finally, my health pretty much remains the same. Chronic pain and debility are ever with me. As most readers know, I have a massive cyst between my breast and shoulder. I have had this cyst drained twice over the past four months. Unfortunately, it keeps coming back and will continue to grow until it is drained again. It really needs to be drained now, but the risk is just too great. I don’t plan on going anywhere near a hospital unless it is an emergency. Not draining the cyst has several risks. First, as it grows, it presses on nerves in my shoulder, cutting off feeling to my arm. Second, the cyst could hinder blood flow in a nearby artery. This, the radiologist told me, could cause a stroke. So many decisions. For now, I do nothing. 

Stay safe, friends. 



Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Good wishes and virtual hugs (if desired) to you and Polly, your family and really to everyone reading this blog. For a few of us, severe illness and even death might be an outcome of this pandemic. For all of us, our lives are being disrupted and will be disrupted in ways that will challenge us all. It is a time to remember that our success on this planet comes from being a social species. We are all in this together, and if we all help and support each other, we’ll all find it easier.

  2. Avatar
    dale m

    Ditto. Hugs all around. Our atheist commander and chief is still leading his troops in battle. Your middle name wouldn’t be “Patton” now, would it?

    In Canada here, it’s a little different. Rents here plunged some 50% last month. Now it’s optional or 100% bottomed out. It is now illegal in this country to evict anyone who can’t pay rent. We’re living virtually rent free with govt supplementing owners. It’s impossible to get through to govt offices. They have plowed through about 1/4 of all applications. People just keep re-applying. Borg communication is down. Good luck in getting assimilated.

    So. Obama got reeled out for the $800 billion bailout or have a million families thrown into the street? Now Trump is swallowing crow with a bailout package 3 X larger. Never criticize someone until U walk in their shoes. That’s $3 trillion worth of govt bailouts. Evangelicals cannot call themselves “capitalists fighting socialism” when they have their hands out for that much govt $$$$. Well Patton, there’s another ton of ammunition for you. Keep the artillery barrels hot!

    Best of everything to U and yours ….. General.

  3. Avatar

    Bruce, I’m sorry for your health challenges. You’re only a couple years older than me so as far as I’m concerned, you’re not old! (Okay, we are.) Bob and I had a vacation planned a month ago and would have gone south for a week or 2. But Henry had big kidney stone that caused infection and high fever, so that was put on a hold. He had the stone lasered a week ago. Good thing Hery and I have that ACA health insurance! (Huge deductible but at least we can apply to Mercy for financial reduction.)

    Tell Polly that when this is over I hope she and I can get together. Maybe all 4 of us. Hopefully all of us will have our necessary medical stuff done, we’ll feel better, and millions of Americans are NOT perished.

  4. Avatar

    Bruce, keep writing, keep posting, keep informing us for as long as you can. This is a mess and everyone is getting a piece of it.

    I hope Polly will be able to get through to unemployment to file. The stimulus package will help, but I believe this is going to last a lot longer than what everyone thinks. We have no vaccine or antiviral drugs to combat this. There’s nothing except what we’re doing now.

    I don’t know if Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office could help you navigate the walls she’s hitting or not. It couldn’t help to email him and let him know what’s going on. I thought I heard Nancy Pelosi say this stimulus package was the start of a few more to come. They realize this little bit of money is a bandaid.

    I wish everyone well. Hopefully, we’ll all be here a bit longer.

  5. Avatar

    Hang in there, Bruce and Polly. This is a trying time for all of us in so many different ways. For now, I am still able to work remotely. My husband’s job has almost completely dried up (he is a private math tutor and works part time at the high school tutoring math 1:1 to at-risk students). The privately owned company I work for has been deemed essential business, and the majority of our employees are able to work remotely, though our lab and manufacturing personnel are working split shifts on site. My college student and high school senior are learning remotely. I feel that any complaint is wrong as others are truly suffering, so I am warding off depression by focusing on the good. Counting blessings.

    Stay safe, everyone!

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Bruce Gerencser