Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Vaccine — do you need another reason?


Seven of my siblings wait in line before me. Judy, Carol, Marla, John, Joyce, Jim and Cathy. I’m at the tail end. One at a time, they go into a small room at our grade school and then out they come with one sleeve rolled up, a mark on their arm, and a few tears glistening on their cheeks.

“Next,” the school nurse says.

I’m not someone who embraces pain, like a Democrat in the Iowa legislature, but I’m not a chicken either, as I told the older boy who beat me up on the way home from school in fourth grade and who later in life became a priest. I’m just a little nervous about getting this vaccine.

Smallpox is the concern. The vaccine is delivered with a device that appears like a gun. Everyone tells me it is totally painless.

I don’t buy it.

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“Next?” the school nurse asks again.

I’m it?

I look around panic stricken.

I flee the school.

Running into the large parking lot, I find our family station wagon, jump inside and lock all the doors.

No way am I getting that shot.

And that was 60 years ago.

So why am I at the grocery store parking lot today waiting for the COVID-19 shot?


Did I tell you that isolating with my wife during the pandemic has been a ton of fun?

The first fun moment was early on when she advised me to no longer follow her into her closet.

“Really? But I want to tell you about my dream from last night,” I said enthusiastically.

She glared at me as only she can — and in her best lawyerly voice threatened to get a restraining order.

OK. I got it. I too am independent. I do what I want. I don’t need my wife’s constant companionship. I’m a man and will start doing man things that do not involve following my wife into the closet.

What are “man things,” by the way?

A week or two or three passed.

Then one day, after my morning monologue, she told me that the morning is her “quiet time” where she does the newspaper crossword puzzle. By herself.

“But what if I need to tell you that I filled the bird feeders or that the cat litter is clean?” I said with just a hint of desperation.

She ignored me.

Certainly everyone needs a few moments to themselves. A chance to practice gratitude for the wonderfully strong marriage someone might have after 40 years of wedded bliss. Who am I to begrudge the love of my life a few moments to work on five down or even six across?

Anyway, I need some of my own me-time to begin some long overdue woodworking projects, and maybe I’ll rewire the house or just pour some concrete.

Of course, I’ll start those projects after I finish this romance novel involving a pirate and an interesting weekend in Paris.

Several months pass like this. In the meantime, my wife purchased multiple crossword puzzle books. She started doing the books after completing the daily newspaper crossword puzzle.

“Quiet time” started to take on a monastic length.

“Austere monk taking a vow of silence.” Three across. “Trappist.”

At least we still had our nights together.

Until a week ago…

I told my wife about my entire online therapy appointment I had that day. It was fascinating and conversationally took several unexpected twists. Quite entertaining.

“Shhhh,” she said sharply, interrupting my clever observations, “I’m trying to finish the New York Times Thursday crossword.”

Ah ha! At last, I got the message. She couldn’t have been more clear. I wasn’t listening. She wanted me to do crossword puzzles WITH her. The couple that plays together stays together. How romantic.


That interpretation of my wife’s message seems to have been aspirational only.

“Perhaps blinded by love,” I said to her.

She locked herself in the bedroom. Without me.

So here I am in the grocery store parking lot waiting to get my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I am thrilled to death to be able to get the shot and feel lucky and grateful for all the obvious reasons. As my father told me 60 years ago when he dragged me from the family car by my feet to get my smallpox vaccine:

“This vaccine could save your life, you knucklehead.”

How true.

But did you know it could also save your marriage?

Yup, you heard it from this knucklehead first. ♦

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.

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