My wife, Suzanne, is severely and permanently ill. Taking care of her is a total responsibility. After 61 years of marriage, her health has turned south and it’s my privilege and responsibility to be at her side.
I’m not a nurse; nor a professional caregiver. I have engaged helpers that are. These persons, from Hospice professionals to the caregivers that come every day to bathe her, care for her deliver medications and just be company for her, help her at a very different level than I, despite all my love, can provide. The purchase of a cheap keyboard with all of the electronic sounds I was too stuffed-shirt to allow in our house before, has helped her connect with her caregivers. Last night the place rocked and laughed in ways I didn’t know possible.
Thank God it did.
I know what I am facing is no different than what a growing number of other aging Americans are facing. It’s hard -- very hard -- because I feel desperate and unable. I have to stay alive, and stay mentally alert for both of us. What’s working for me is that I pay close attention to local, national and international affairs.
I’ve always written a lot -- even when I was writing a research paper a month as a professor of chemistry, and I always took a little time to analyze where all of these ideas were coming from at the state and national level.
Many years later it was answers to the questions “where did all of this chemistry come from? And why is it important?” That let me teach organic chemistry to educated adults in ways that had never been possible for those teaching courses on chemistry to non-scientists in universities.
Maturity has certain advantages.
Two other things have helped cope – studying both the pandemic and the 2020 election. When it was clear in late January, 2020 that what was about to matter most had to do with the word ‘virus’ I asked myself ‘What do you know about viruses?’ Despite being a scientist, the answer was -- almost nothing.
So I went to the literature. At the beginning I posted my findings on my church’s website -- St. Timothy’s Episcopal in Perrysburg, Ohio. A former Bowling Green State University Ph. D. student now working on viruses at the National Cancer Institute, Olga Nikolaichik, taught me to call the virus ‘an engine’ ... of nucleic matter.’
I’ve always been a pessimistic scientist. I am pessimistic about how long the virus is going to be with us. When some workers came to my house in March 2020 to give me an estimate on some repairs I was considering, I told them I didn’t think the virus would be gone for more than a year, maybe two. They thought I was crazy. Now, it seems I was closer to being right than I care to admit. But I wrote and wrote and wrote about this, to the point that it, combined with my near life-long work on 3D printing – is going to end up as a book.
Last year’s election is another matter. No matter how long I had been interested in presidents and the presidency, and though none rose to the level of heroes in the sense that composers like George Frederick Handel and Johanne Sebastian Bach did in my child’s mind’s eye, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington surely were worth revering. I had placed them on a pedestal, and like many who respect and revere our history I was totally appalled when this guy Donald Trump first showed up. And I was even more appalled when he emerged as the Republican nominee for president in 2016. The guy was a fraud as far as I could see, and a bully.
That was relatively harmless as long as he limited himself to his unreal “reality” TV show, and the contestants on that show only had themselves to blame. I was only vaguely aware that he was the guy with ridiculously faux hair that like to yell “You’re fired!” But it was the shame of the Republican Party, the party that once nominated Lincoln and men like Dwight D. Eisenhower, that Trump was their nominee in the presidential election. Frankly, when that happened, I couldn’t believe it. Nor could I believe he could possibly have enough support to be elected president.
But he did and he was.
And we paid the price.
Donald Trump ignored a virus that has now killed more Americans than both World Wars combined. He said America was getting it under control when the truth was anything but.
He called it a hoax, which caused millions to refuse to take precautions and so sicken and die. Members of the corps heroes that protect presidents, the Secret Service, came down with the virus because he took them on unnecessary rides around the country, including when he had COVID-19. Chris Christie, a too-large loyal Trump supporter and former New Jersey governor became a believer after he came down with the disease following one of Trump’s personal ego trip “super spreader” events.
I despise what Donald Trump stands for, and who he is. His selfishness is beyond belief. What he has done to the presidency is unforgiveable. But what he has done to the lives over every day Americans is even worse.
We won’t know for a while how many of us died unnecessarily because of his example and his appalling policies. But we know the figure is in the hundreds of thousands. We will have to wait for serious historians to explain why people like Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman, who has worked for the federal government for more than 30 years, went along with the irrationality and insanity.
I have not lost my faith in America, though it has been shaken. Donald Trump was defeated by a rational, decent politician, though far too many people voted for him twice.
But we need to make sure our national mantra is: Never Again.
Douglas Neckers is an organic chemist, the McMaster distinguished professor emeritus and the founder of the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University. Follow his website, Science in 3D, at 3dscienceblog.com Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash