13 October

Getting Moise A Train Ticket An Exhausted Nurse Falls Apart

by Jon Katz

(Moise in my study. Yes, I wanted the photo to be out of focus, just like we are.)

Moise came over to ask me to buy a train ticket for him to Syracuse, N.Y. for tomorrow.

He came into my study – there is a red chair there always for him – and put it in front of my computer, as he always does.

I then realized with some horror that he was almost certainly looking at an e-mail message I had just received from an enraged nurse suggesting I was a murderer for coming anywhere near Moise and his family while there was a Covid-19 epidemic.

While I was in the kitchen, he started reading.

I did move quickly.

“Moise,” I shouted, “wait for a second,” and I stepped in front of him and got my browser quickly over to the Amtrak Web. Here was a moment when Covid, Amish values, me, our friendship, the poison of social media, the American dilemma, and the Internet all came together.

I know Moise saw some of it, but I didn’t know how much, and I wasn’t sure if he knew what it was. He was staring at it.  Moise is hyper-vigilant and doesn’t miss much.

He came over in his buggy just after dark. I now know the sounds of his horse calling out to the donkeys, who seem to like him more and more each day—those girls.

He wanted to thank me for dropping off some pizza at the farm, and he asked if I could buy a train ticket for him online, which I often do.

He had to go away for five or six days. It felt like a sudden emergency to me, and he looked drawn, even ashen. I didn’t ask what was happening; he didn’t say. I was still shaking my head over that e-mail.

I am his go-to ticket person; I can even navigate Amtrak’s website now, which is no small thing. Moise can look at the site, but he can’t go on it or use it directly.

Moise is careful to take his boots off on the porch when he comes, and he waits at the door until I appear. His horse is always tied to the big red barn.

The dogs rush out to greet him, Bud tries to drive him off, jumping up and down, and I had to tap his butt with my foot to get him quiet and away.

I had the e-mail I was pondering up on my computer; it was from a nurse-driven nearly out-of-her mind by Covid-19 denier and anti vaccers. She has seen a lot of them die, I suspect, clinging to suspicion and lies.

If Moise read it and grasped the content, he never said it, and I never mentioned it again.

The enraged nurse had written before expressing shock that I was coming anywhere near the Millers; she presumed that, like other Amish, they were not vaccinated.

She was essentially accusing me of being a murderer, happy to kill the family so that I could write about it.

I’ll be interested to see how you feel when they get sick, and it’s your fault,” she wrote. “Especially the kids. And they’ll leave it in God’s hands until they get sick, which they will; it’s just a matter of time. Then they will want science to heal them. I’m stunned at your level of irresponsibility. I thought you cared about them. You don’t. Keep putting them at risk because it gives you something to write about.”

It was a hateful message from a health care worker, even by the shallow standards of social media. And it was no way to persuade people about anything.

Yet, I sympathized with her.

I’ve talked to several nurses devastated by the people they treat who essentially commit suicide rather than believe doctors, scientists, and government leaders. I’ve been present as the anti-vaccination zealots scream at nurses and receptionists and threaten them.

My letter writer was right to be worried about the Amish. It wasn’t that everything she said was wrong; the way she said it was so far over the top that she had lost any perspective.

There are numerous cases of Covid striking Amish families in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I’ve not heard of any here, and Covid has almost entirely vanished here. I have two vaccinations and a booster. I know that doesn’t keep me from passing the virus along to unvaccinated people. I just thought I should mention it.

What, I thought, were the odds of this happening, of his walking into my office while this message was up on the screen; I am amazed at how many people find reasons to hate the Amish rather than understand them. And I know many people also love and admire them. But the hate mail I get about them seems boundless and often wholly irrational.

Moise doesn’t go online and read e-mail, and I doubt he knows most of the negative messages I’ve gotten. He is aware; I know, that I have been criticized for writing about him. and our friendship.

I’ve been accused of being an abuser, a patriarch supporter, a white male of privilege,  an obsessive, even an enabler of child abuse. This is the first time I’ve ever been called a probable murderer.

I won’t use the nurse’s name in the hope that she has some perspective and decency, also because I have genuine empathy and pity for her. She doesn’t need any more trouble.

I have great admiration for nurses, and I can completely understand how the fact that violent idiots are threatening them all the time could wear anybody out. I can’t bear to fight with one, not right now.

Moise has many friends and visitors here and travels all over the town and the country. I’m not sure why she singled me out as the callous killer.

Thousands of people could transmit Covid-19 even up here, where social distancing is a way of life.

If you infect Moise,” the nurse wrote. “it will tear through their unvaccinated community., there will be fatalities. How will you feel if you cause this? It’s not in God’s hands as they believe. It’s largely in yours. Stay away from unvaccinated people! It’s the responsible thing to do. From an exhausted Covid caregiver.”

It is a genuine and almost insoluble issue. We are degenerating into a nation of zealots; each one licked eternally into hatred and bitterness towards the other.

I should say that I have no idea if any family member has been vaccinated; it is not prohibited.

I have discussed vaccinations with Moise, and we have talked openly about it. I’ve discussed it with Barbara and the children.

I will not here or anywhere reveal the nature of those discussions, they are not anyone’s business, not even the exhausted Covid nurse caregiver. Covid has exhausted me also, and I’m not trying to treat anyone for it or been around any of the victims.

Nurses are so very human, and right now, so very vulnerable. The doctor’s offices I have been visiting lately have all-new posters warning that violent speech, abuse, or violence against doctors and nurses and staff will not be tolerated—what a troubled country we are now.

I got Moise his ticket to Syracuse (he’s going much farther); he was pleased it only cost $32. He paid me back on the spot. Afterward, we sat in my darkened office and talked for a while.

I told him he looked exhausted and asked him if he was all right.

Moise talked about the many tasks he had to understand, his plans to keep his crops safe over the winter, the challenges of building yet another house in the winter. He had a lot of his mind, I could see. And he was exhausted.

He said what he always says. “I’ll have plenty of time to rest in the winter.” He will never complain. And he won’t rest in the winter, of course. I don’t think he can.

I was upset by “A’s” letter; it was especially and intentionally cruel. But it was hard to take seriously.

I deleted the first one and didn’t post the second one. She just went too far, even though many people would agree with her.

Moise is the first friend I have ever had to defend, and he is such a lovely and peaceful person. Sometimes, life is so strange. He is devoted to his family and works his heart out for them every day. If he is not vaccinated, I hope he knows to be careful.

He wears a mask almost everywhere he goes, and I gave him two for the trip.

But hate is just a rallying call for me to be good. I’ll find a way to make it productive.

I won’t permit anyone to put me in the spot “A” was trying to put me in.

Moise and I both have to make our own decisions about life, for better or worse, and that includes the pandemic. I have decided to take every precaution over Covid that I can take.

I don’t know what he has chosen to do. It’s not my business.

And, of course, I will never walk away from Moise unless he asks me to or tells me to.

I hope it goes without saying, yet I think it needs to be said.

To the exhausted nurse, I wish you healing and support. You are among the angels among us, perhaps a fallen one.

18 Comments

  1. How could anyone think that you would put them at risk for personal gain?
    They obviously know nothing about you.
    You are a true friend & that’s all that one needs to know.

  2. as a retired nyrse, a wife, a grandmum,and a neighbor & yes, a friend to our old order amish neighbors of 25years, they are not vaccinated. They will never do that, i am vaccinated and respect their beliefs. They are respectful of mine. We co habitate and manage to maintain a friendship and deep respect for each other. They are good people, they dont preach, they live their lives and allow me to live mine. Side by side.

    1. Matt, I am so weary of pompous know-it-alls telling me what I think rather than asking me, but I guess it’s part of life in America and blogging in the open. When I spoke to Moise in August, he didn’t even know what vaccination was. Later, we had several conversations about it, one with his wife and daughter and children. They have thought quite a bit about it but heard little about it, and they wanted to talk about it.

      Lots of Amish have quietly gotten their vaccinations; most, I imagine, have not. There are numerous cases of Amish getting sick with Covid in Lancaster, Pa., and parts of Ohio. No reports here.

      Their choice may or may not be what I would do or have done, but they have the right to do what they wish and face the consequences if there are any, including being assaulted by yentas and wonks like you.

      They are not obligated to do what you decide is right; they live by what they think is right. Try, if you can, to think about that and comprehend it.

      Your link is cheap, easy, and misleading. It is bullshit. You don’t have to lie and posture to determine what I think; you can ask me, which seems to be too much for you. I will never comprehend how total strangers find the gall to step into my life and tell me what I believe while hiding behind their computers. Yuk.

      Those conversations with the Amish and their decisions are private – they are not interested in pleasing you (me either), and they owe you no explanations (me either). My conversations with them are not your business, which is probably as stunning a concept for you as the idea of vaccinating was to them. I feel no pull to justify myself to you.

      Let me be candid. I will be a friend to this family in any other way I can or decide to or am asked to do and I don’t need your permission. I’m a little embarrassed at how much fun it is to send a message like this to you. If you don’t like it, all the better. Best jon

      1. Wow, what a Great White Savior complex you have, Jon! You honestly believe that Moise had no idea what a vaccination was before you explained it to him? Pompous much?

        1. Matt, I have no respect for people who tell other people what they are thinking and presume to know, while in reality knowing nothing. Lots of arrogance and no curiosity.

          You don’t need to know me or Moise or ever speak to us, yet your disrespect and presumption know no bounds. You know exactly what we are thinking while sitting miles away safely behind your screen. I don’t presume to speak for Moise, if I want to know what he is thinking I ask him. I leave this mind-reading to you, it seems to be your thing, your every message. I’ve known Moise for months and rarely know what he is thinking. He doesn’t talk a lot or run his mouth like you.

          Blessedly, he is not like you. I apologize to my readers for exposing them to such insulting horseshit and waste of time. Time for you to go tell somebody else what they are thinking, maybe there’s some money in it. If you return, I will be proud to ban you. You are part of the poison that roils social media and makes real communicating so difficult.

  3. WOW! JON! WHAT DIATRIBES YOU FACE ON A DAILY BASIS!! GOD BLESS YOU (AND MARIA) RICHLY AND WITH LONG LIFE FOR CONTINUING YOUR LIFE ENRICHING BLOG IN THE MIDST OF SUCH UNJUST ONSLAUGHT!!! How tired and worn out can someone be, even a nurse, to take the time to write hatred to someone else who is doing SO MUCH GOOD ON THE EARTH??? I am sending a donation to your blog to use anyway you want to.

  4. I am so glad that I signed up for your blog. You had fallen out of my news feed. I appreciate your perspective and measured approach to both people and things.

  5. Unbelievable – you are vaccinated so the chances that you will give the virus to Moise is slim. I think having a blog and giving your audience a place to comment they feel they say anything to you. What a crazy rant —

    1. Yes, I even got a booster shot. But even if I hadn’t, I would still drove Moise when and if I could. I don’t only help or be friends with people who show me their vaccination cards. Few of the refugees have been vaccinated, they deserve help.

  6. Jean Clapp, you could not be more ill informed. Anyone that is vaccinated can 100% pass the virus to someone that is unvaccinated. It’s completely unrelated. When you are vaccinated, you can have the virus and feel completely fine, NO symptoms at all, but you are still highly contagious.
    This type of misinformation is why we will never see an end to this tragic situation. I’m vaccinated, and certainly would never be in a car or a home with an unvaccinated person, it’s just too risky for them.
    As far as your final comment Jon that stated that the nurse that wrote you is a fallen angel, you are correct. As a bedside provider for Covid patients, I can promise you that we have all sadly fallen. Every one of us. We are fed up, exhausted, and we need everyone to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
    I’m glad to hear you are both wearing masks, that will significantly reduce the risk of you passing the virus to Moise if you ever have it.

    1. Dana, thanks for your message. As I wrote in my piece, anyone vaccinated can pass the virus to someone who is unvaccinated. I am keenly aware of that. I am close to these children and care about them just as much as any troll on social media.

      Dana reminds us that we can all have this discussion and be better informed and in a civil and still humanizing way. She writes out of experience, not cruelty or vengeance, and thank you for that, Dana. All of us can listen and learn from someone who knows how to listen and talk. We all want to be the good guy and feel superior to the bad guy, life is not so simple or unjust.

      I can’t and don’t disagree with a word Dana wrote, I would add that I know all of the few Amish families that are here, and there are no reported cases of Covid-19 among them or their families. That doesn’t mean they are not in danger, but it does mean the risks are lower.

      There are no large groups of people around here and the Amish spent almost all of their time in outdoor activities. They don’t go to restaurants, bars, or sports activities. Still, the danger is there. Issues relating to vaccination for them are very real and very difficult, as they are for many people. I’m not sure that I agree with Dana that we can never come out of this, I would argue strongly that the beginning of true recovery comes from people like Dana who are willing to speak to others in a decent and respectful way.

      It starts there. I have had a number of conversations with the Amish about vaccinations and Delta and the conversations have all been civil and open and useful. Their belief in God’s will is very deep and powerful, but they do listen. I don’t know of any other way than that to be human. Being nasty and superior just doesn’t work. I didn’t write that I always wear masks around Moise, I don’t. He does wear a mask when he travels off of the farm.

      I will think about it. Thanks again, Dana, please post here any time. I feel keenly the pain of nurses and doctors, they are fed up, exhausted, and devastated by what they see day after day. My heart breaks for them. They are true angels, fallen or not. But it doesn’t seem to me that Dana has fallen at all.

  7. I always get this blog a day after it’s posted. So, any comments I have are meaningless and go unheard.
    This discussion, to me, seems to miss half the point. Some writers are worried that Jon will infect his friend Moise. But, no one here seems too worried about Jon. Moise could be a carrier and transmit the virus to Jon just as easily as Jon could infect Moise.
    The vaccine and the booster are the greatest tools that we have. But, everyone needs to know that people who have been vaccinated are also dying. Two weeks ago, my husband’s best friend, age 71, died of COVID. He had been fully vaccinated and had received the booster shot( Pfizer) in late August. He had no pre-existing conditions other than his age.
    So wake up people: Jon is vulnerable, too!

    1. Thanks, Susan; Jon knows this and has also lost friends and family to Covid-19. Thanks for thinking of me; I am aware of the risks and will decide about them. I think Moise is the more at-risk person, as he doesn’t follow this story as closely as I do, or at all. Thanks for writing. Jon is fine; he got his third booster last week and is in good health.

  8. This is to Dana – I understand that a person who is vaccinated can feel fine and spread the virus – I said the chances were ‘slim’ – not nonexistent. And I also know someone who had both vaccines and died. Plus Jon had the booster which makes it less risky. I am not ill informed – I am very informed.

  9. You are a far more gracious and understanding person that many people, especially at this time. I hope that the nurse who said such terrible things to you is able to unwind and realize you are not one of the people who would knowingly expose any other person to COVID or anything else; I hope she is able to rest, relax, and start seeing the good in the world soon. And I hope that Moise and his family and friends remain healthy and safe, and you as well.

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