Last week I shared the news that my Dad had tested positive for COVID. He was feeling pretty lousy, but resting and quarantining. Lots of readers have asked how he’s doing and I’ve been giving little updates all along, but today it looks like I can say with some level of confidence that he seems to be solidly on the mend.

His fever has been gone for a couple of days and he is feeling better, so all indications are that he is on the other side of COVID. My mom and other family members who were exposed to it still have to lay low for the next week, so we are still hoping and praying for the best on that front, but for now I’ll certainly take the good news that Dad is feeling better. His recovery is an enormous blessing.

So to everyone who send kind notes and sent positive wishes and prayers, I want to give a sincere thank you. To paraphrase George M. Cohan, “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, and I thank you.”

My Dad is a tough guy, and the fact that he was this under the weather for over a week could not have been fun. I’ve heard from others who have had COVID who have experienced something similar. Basically, very severe virus-type symptoms.

We were very fortunate that my Dad’s case turned out to be of the less serious variety. I am very, very thankful that he is doing well and on the mend. But I do not take his good health through this for granted.

It is good that the majority of people who get COVID have relatively mild symptoms, but I think it’s important for all of us to remember that this is no reason to downplay or disregard this virus. The truth is, it seems to be a game of roulette in terms of who gets sick and how sick they get. Some perfectly healthy people have died and others would seem to be compromised manage their way through.

So of course there are those who think, “well the odds of dying are pretty low, so what’s the big deal?” To me, the big deal is a couple of things. First of all, there is still a notable chance of severe illness or death. And even under the best of circumstances, I for one do not want to get this. There are lots of cases that linger for weeks and many people are reporting long-term symptoms. This virus is so new on the scene, we don’t know what we don’t know in terms of long term effects.

And more importantly, even if I’m feeling lucky and feel like I could get it and shake it in a week or two, people I spread it to might not be as lucky. That is not a chance I’m willing to take.

I also know there is a counter argument that it isn’t worth this adjustment in our lives  to try to control the spread because hey, lots of poeple live through it anyway. OK, but I admit I’m a person who can’t look away from the risk underlying that proposition.

It made me think of a drunken conversation a friend of mine and I had a bunch of years ago. In one of our many goofy schemes, we cooked up an idea for a sort of game that was basically a list of escalating dares. Some were low-risk, low-reward. Like if you spray a can of cooking spray in your mouth in five minutes, you might get 50 bucks. But our added angle was adding risk to the equation. Like if you take the dare for 50 dollars and can’t do it, you lose 100 bucks.

One of the main inspirations of this is a classic dare where you challenge someone to eat 6 saltine crackers in 1 minute. No water allowed. I will tell you right now that, at whatever point that bars open safely again, if you want to get free drinks, just start betting people a drink that they can’t eat six saltines in a minute.

Everyone thinks they can do it, and almost no one can. We tried this out on friends and strangers alike. The level of confidence people have in their ability to do this is adorable. I’ve seen very confident and dignified people spitting out what amounts to cracker concrete after 1 minute and 2 seconds. I have seen only one person successfully accomplish this dare, and I think he regretted even trying afterward.

So anyway, our conversation about this game escalated up and up and up to a point of proposing some crazy dare where accomplishing it means you would get $10,000, but failing means you lose a toe.

Taking on a crazy dare loses a lot of appeal when a heavy dose of risk is added. Maybe you’d be willing to do something crazy like wear a Grimace costume for a year if the updside was getting paid ten grand, but you might hesitate to take that dare if you might lose a toe.

That’s how I look at risk-taking in the age of COVID. Sure, you can roll the dice and go to a big party or eat inside at Olive Garden. On the upside, you might have some fun or enjoy some soup, salad and breadsticks in unmatched ambience, but like the toe bet, there is a terrible downside. You or someone you love might get very sick or even die. 

If my friend and I ever actually put together that game, I would never play it. I couldn’t deal with the possibility of losing that toe. And likewise, I’m not willing to treat COVID lightly. Yes, my family and I get out here and there. And also, yes, we take heavy precautions when we do.

I am willing to make reasonable steps into the world, but not willing to shrug this off and think we should all go back to life as it was, damn the torpedoes. Six saltines sound tasty, but I know I can’t eat them in a minute and I’m not taking that bet.

My family has had a scary moment with my Dad, as I’m sure many other families have had. We are unbelievably fortunate that he remains healthy and appears to be on the road to recovery. My Dad is my hero and I am so glad he is OK. I also know there are a lot of families out there who aren’t so lucky. Lots of people have lost their heroes and heroines.

So I guess my point is treat this virus with the respect it deserves. It is relentless and scary. Yes, of course we can learn to live with and around it, and we don’t have to cower in fear, but in any battle, it is important to never underestimate the threat. 

Please, take precautions. Wear masks, distance, and look out for yourselves and those you love. Respect this threat. Don’t take needless dares. Better days are ahead, so let’s all get there, healthy and strong, together.