This past week, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Like many others, I put my post-vac pic on social media.
Like many others, I was surprised at how happy and thankful and emotional I was.
What I didn’t post, was that I also felt very guilty.
It was a series of fortunate events that allowed for me to get vaccinated on the first day I was eligible: That morning, I had posted a picture of a pin my daughter had given me in support of front-line workers during COVID. Someone from town commented that there was a clinic in Delisle that day with a wish that all teachers could get vaccinated. I knew there wouldn’t be appointments but went quickly after work to put my name on a list in case there were extras at the end of the day. I had forgotten to ask what the “end of the day” meant for them (it was imminent) and when I walked back in to ask, I was ushered in to get a vaccine.
It was doubly fortunate that when they asked who lived locally and could find a few other last-minute eligible people for vaccines, only two of us shot up our hands. I knew that Barb, a fellow teacher, and Kirk, my principal, were still around. They were both able to get vaccinated on the spot too.
And yet the guilt.
I saw three posts from people who said they felt grateful to be vaccinated, but being able to work from home, had publicly wished that a teacher or other vulnerable worker could have gotten their dose first.
Even though I’m at school every day surrounded by students, I still felt that. Throughout Saskatchewan, there are classrooms that are physically smaller than mine, crowded with more students than mine, and staff that are immuno-compromised and at higher risk. Plus, it's hard to navigate advocating for teachers without dismissing all the other front-line workers who also should be vaccinated. Two RCMP officers got their last-minute vaccines right behind me. And they should.
Yet a myriad of reasons that, despite my own risks, I felt bad that I now had a layer of protection that few of my colleagues have.
The next morning I woke to the news on Twitter that Victor Thunderchild, an educator from Prince Albert had died from COVID. So many people on my fb or Twitter knew Victor personally. I did not. We only followed each other here, and I only knew him in the cursory way you get to know what people believe in from reading their posts.
I had liked his last post a few weeks ago. It said: Thank you @PremierScottMoe for not thinking we’re essential workers, as I sit in the @PAHealthDept Vic hospital recovering from Covid-19. Get my fellow teachers vaccinated, before this happens to anyone else.
It stood out for two reasons.
First, I hadn’t seen many other Saskatchewan teachers posting about having COVID and definitely not about being hospitalized it. By this point, I’ve known multiple teachers that have had it, but his was the first that hit my timeline to bring the gravity of this virus home again.
Second, he straight-up called out Premier Moe for not considering teachers as front line workers. It was one day later that Moe gave a speech to an energy crowd reiterating that prioritizing front line workers would slow down their vaccination plan, yet in the next breath said they would be looking at some workers and larger worksites in “this industry (energy) and other industries” with no mention of teachers.
“Get my fellow teachers vaccinated, before this happens to anyone else.”
The tributes to Victor speak to what an amazing educator he was, and it shows the breadth and depth of his impact across generations and cultures, and in so many educational spheres. What a tremendous loss this is for all of Saskatchewan.
All so pointless. Needless. Unnecessary.
And if we do not prioritize vaccinating teachers and school staff, his will not be the only death that we will collectively mourn.
Staff and students have all done amazing to mitigate the effects of COVID in our schools so far, and it is something I will remember long after I leave the teaching profession and this virus is but a memory. That's part of the reason I write these every week for myself - to remember.
But our successes will not last.
These variants are different in their contagion and impact on younger people, yet somehow that is being lost. Over a year later, I can’t even put a number to how many times a day I have to remind students to pull up their mask or wear it properly. What makes it especially frightening is when you know they have not been following SHA advice, and that their reckless decisions put us all one domino-effect virus-spread away from hundreds of people put at grave risk.
Every. Single. Day. That. We. Delay.
Tomorrow morning, teachers, EAs, office staff, janitors, bus drivers, and students will all come into contact with each other. They may also be coming into contact with COVID. We cannot wait for the ages to drop. By the time it reaches our youngest teachers, it may be too late. This virus doesn’t care if you are 24 or 42, and the recent statistics on COVID deaths bears that truth out.
Vaccinate all school staff now.
And to Victor, although we did not know each other, thank you for your dedication and your lifetime of service to children. It will not be forgotten. #ApplesForVictor
I have been here before.
The sudden click and hum of the electric razor. The thin bone and pink skin exposed as the hair falls away. I stroke her fur. She hasn’t even flinched. I know that it’s bad.
I stroke her fur.
“Will it be like a dog? When their body releases the breath in their lungs?” That scared me the first time. I’m mentally bracing myself.
The vet pauses. “No. It won’t.”
I have been here before. Putting down four big dogs in my adult lifetime has prepared me for this, and yet every time, I am unprepared. She is my first cat. It is the same, but it is different.
I stroke her fur.
“I’ll administer it now. If you are ready.”
I nod. Whisper. “Yes.”
The sedation is clear. The solution is white. I’d never noticed that.
I have been here before. Holding paws. Telling them how much they are loved. Why is it always so hard?
Because they were loved. Because they are family.
I know she is gone. The vet listens for a heartbeat. Touches her little eye. I know she is gone.
I stroke her fur.
When the vet was delayed, I had extra time. Time to hold her. Time to let the tears flow. Time to savor those last bits of time. I wasn’t sure she was even breathing at points. There were a few guttural purrs as I clutched her to my chest, but slow and labored, like the strings on a guitar that had been loosened too much. Of them all, she was always the cuddler. The rest were always on alert, like outdoor cats tend to be for their survival. Skittish. Squirmy.
But not Peanut.
It’s so hard to know when it’s time. There are lots of signs and signals, and at seventeen years old, the decline was progressive but slow. Last Wednesday night when I got home from work, I knew it.
If you’ve heard any of my animal stories, we always seem to have weird pets. Peanut was no exception. She was the very first cat we ever got, from a student who was a neighbor at the time. He told us she was a male cat. I don’t know why, but we never questioned that. She was big. Lanky. Kind of lazy. Seemed like the tomcats I’d had on the farm growing up.
Right up to the point when this tomcat got really fat and had babies.
We got her fixed right after that and all the cats that we got afterward. We made sure to check! Quite a few of those cats never made it. Probably killed by coyotes. Picked off by owls. Peanut was the only cat to have such longevity, and in large part because she never strayed far from the house. She wasn’t a mouser. She didn’t chase birds. She was content just to live a sheltered cat life on the front deck. My husband said she was useless as a cat, but I kind of always admired that. Plus, like I said, she was my only cuddler. That made her my favorite.
That night, I brought her inside the house for the first time ever. I have loved cats my whole life but am terribly allergic. Many times I was almost swayed to change my mind from the pleas of two small children, but I could never fully relent.
I laid her on a towel and leaned her against the porch step. We facetimed there for two hours with my daughter in Calgary. Peanut was her cat. She hadn’t even started Kindergarten when we got her, so there was a shared lifetime of stories to tell. Then the time came to go.
We stroked her fur. Told her how much she was loved.
Because she was family.
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