Last Friday about mid-morning, I pulled my car through the long tent at the Tennessee Riverpark and quickly and painlessly received my second Pfizer shot from a nice nurse who appeared to be around 65 or older.
And for a brief moment, I surprised myself by starting to tear up and get misty eyed immediately afterward – not from any pain but from the great sense of emotion at finally reaching that coveted point after a year of unusual challenges that everyone has felt.
While that show of emotion quickly ended because the car in front of me was stopped as the two people there were still being given their shots and the nursing staff by my car could see my emotional displays if they continued, my happiness continued internally.
After seeing the countless TV news scenes of people on ventilators and the daily case counts in Hamilton County, which early this year reached ridiculously high numbers of several hundred, I was no doubt quite relieved.
While I know it takes two weeks to be fully protected – and that some vaccinated people still get coronavirus, and the variants if they continue mutating might result in the need for additional vaccines or booster shots – I still feel that my worst fears are behind me.
I hopefully soon will no longer have that daily fear of wondering if I will wake up with a chill, fever or sore throat, or if that one person I walked near in the grocery store is a carrier.
It has been quite a year since last March, hasn’t it? We have seen schools and businesses shut down for periods, restaurants and entertainment places crippled, parks closed initially, etc. On a lighter note, though, we have learned to use Zoom.
I can still remember those great fears early on watching the Hamilton County or presidential briefings.
I also have not forgotten watching wife Laura meticulously wipe off the groceries with sanitizing wipes after getting back home from shopping at the store, which initially seemed like hazardous patrol duty.
And then there were the moments to sigh, like going out to look at our backyard woods at dusk to enjoy the blossoming trees and bushes after thankfully making it through another day.
All that was on my mind when I pulled into that tent Friday.
It also felt like a long time coming, as I did not know it would be a full year or longer from the time the pandemic first hit Chattanooga until I received my shots.
I tried to patiently watch as the health-care providers deservedly received their shots way back around Christmas. And as someone who easily gets anxious or queasy around needles or blood – or even talk about such topics -- I certainly sympathized with the CHI Memorial Hospital nurse who fainted during a media conference after getting her shots in the early days.
That was one reason I was thankful the shots were offered in a drive-through format. For some reason, that was much easier anxiety wise for me than having to go into a waiting room and maybe watch other people get shots.
After the health-care providers received theirs, then came the elderly, and the school staff and those with chronic health issues. But as a 61-year-old, it was still not my time to get vaccinated – even though I probably have not had zero body fat since I was 18, nor is my blood sugar and blood pressure perfect.
I also did not qualify on the education forefront, even though I have taught college adjunct classes on a part-time basis in person since last August. For some reason which I never completely understood, college workers did not qualify as early as the K-12 people in Tennessee did.
And then when I heard about one or two acquaintances hedging the system a little to qualify for their shots early, I probably started getting a little inwardly irritated wondering when I was going to get my chance after trying to fairly wait my turn.
And then came the noon hour of March 18. I had half fallen asleep watching Channel 3 news after lunch when I was suddenly awakened by Latrice Currie announcing the breaking news that those 55 and over could now also sign up for the vaccine in Hamilton County.
My wife, who had already gotten her vaccination weeks ago due to her credentials as a behavioral health counselor, heard it as well, and we both hurriedly and excitedly got on our computers to sign me up. She actually got me signed up first, and it was for the very next day at Heritage South Nature Park.
I could not believe it. Finally, I was getting the vaccine. All those fears about being on a ventilator were about to be greatly diminished, while still feeling with my heart for those who have had to suffer or had loved ones suffer.
And by the time I got my second Pfizer dose exactly three weeks later, I was also glad that everyone 16 and over was now eligible. I did not want to feel privileged knowing I had gotten my vaccine before those in their 30s or 40s could.
And just as I have gotten my second shot, the Health Department now seems to be almost begging for more people to sign up to make the disease more quickly disappear or be diminished. It is a far cry from the early days, when all the senior citizens frantically stood in car lines for hours trying to get a vaccine.
Let’s hope happier days are soon here and we can go back to enjoying so many fun activities we used to enjoy doing without any fears.
I know I am ready to enjoy a Nightfall concert or Lookouts game again!