Published in the Idaho State Journal on March 14, 2021.
I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. The word "vaccine" is derived from the Latin word vacca, meaning cow. So, naturally, I wore a cow suit to make it “udderly” memorable. It’s not all that remarkable that I showed up in a cow suit because I’ve got 11 of them. I could retell my cow tales … until the cows come home.
When I was in college, my volleyball teammates wanted to dress up as 1920’s flappers for Halloween. We went to the local costume shop, and as they each came out of dressing rooms in shorter skirts than the one before, I was a firm “nope.” I wandered away and spotted the packaged cow suit for $14.99. The udders saved me from the flappers.
I lived on campus and a few days before Halloween, I suited up to surprise a friend in the library. I snaked through the stacks of books grinning at the whispers and giggles. My pal looked up from her studies, saw the udders, and destroyed the library hush with her cackles. This is when I saw the potential for fun while experiencing everyday moments in a cow suit. It’s got the power to change everything. And so does a vaccine.
It was Dr. Edward Jenner’s work in the late 1700’s that led to the word “vaccine.” He noticed that milk maids who had contracted cow pox were not getting small pox. He conducted a number of experiments using materials from horses, cows and people with cow pox to infect others, and then he tested against the small pox virus. They were resistant and thus the cow’s namesake “vacca” got eternal credit with “vaccine.”
I had known about the word “vacca” or “vaca” with one “C because of a conversation with relatives three years ago. My wife’s brother and his wife were expecting a baby. During a family vacation in Texas, the four of us stole away to Whataburger to visit. The new parents-to-be are both seminary graduates from Baylor and I love talking to them about life and death and all we face in between. When our conversation centered on everything about the baby, they asked if we both wanted to be called “Aunt”, “Auntie” or something else.
I hadn’t realized until they asked. My mind never considered that I might be an aunt. I am an only child, so it wasn’t possible through my bloodline and having lived over 40 years without the legal means to marry, my subconscious never explored the titles and relationships I might have through matrimony. “Aunt” didn’t sound quite right for me, though. Considering my numerous adventures in a cow suit, I asked the table what “cow” is in other languages.
Someone piped up with “cow” in Spanish is “vaca”. That was it. That’s what I wanted my aunt name to be. And while we’re at it, my grandparent name, too someday.
Underlying health conditions along with my company’s “essential” designation moved me up in the distribution schedule, but my vaccine came about sooner due to no-shows at a local pharmacy. People are signing up at more than one place and when they have a slot secured, they aren’t cancelling other appointments. This is leaving distribution outlets with extra doses set to expire at the end of the day, so workers are franticly ensuring they are not wasted.
Thanks to a network of people, I was steered in the direction of one of those extra doses. I got a phone call at 5:30pm on Friday and had 10 minutes to get to the pharmacy. Knowing that herd immunity is our ultimate goal, I’m happy to do my part. Thinking of the others who are still waiting and the parents of friends who have died from this virus gives me great pause.
After the pharmacy employee administered my shot, she handed me the appointment card for my next dose. It’s over Spring Break. We were slated to be at an Airbnb on the Oregon Coast, so I emailed the pharmacy to ask about rescheduling. Someone replied at 11:01 pm. They couldn’t reschedule due to volume, and I would need to bank on another no-show.
The time stamp of their reply was a cattle prod to my rump roast. Our healthcare workers are exhausted and I was a “cattle-ist” to one of them responding to an email near midnight – after a workday that entailed scrambling not to waste vaccines. This cow was swiftly becoming an ass. That’s not who I want to be and not the Vaca I want my niece and future grandkids to have. We adjusted our plans, and I’ll be at my scheduled appointment for dose number two with bells on. Cowbells, of course.
|How grateful am I? Moooocho grateful.