Rev. Cecilia Kingman is the Minister for Faith and Justice at the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and lives with her family in Tukwila.
Vaccines are a big deal in my family. My dad contracted polio at the age of nine, just a few years before the polio vaccine was released. He spent months in an iron lung, unable to breathe on his own. He knew that many other children in his ward never went home.
Dad’s lungs and legs were affected. He walked with a limp afterwards, and when Post-Polio Syndrome arrived many decades later, surprising medical professionals with its mysterious return of polio symptoms, my dad lost strength in his legs again.
In his fifties he began falling, by his sixties was using a wheelchair more frequently, and by his seventies was dependent upon others for his care once again–a fact he despised.
Given all this, Jonas Salk, the inventor of the first polio vaccine, was a hero in our family. Even though my dad had missed out on the vaccine, I was raised to revere the inventor of the vaccine that saved so many children. Each time my kids got their vaccines, we called Grandpa to celebrate. They hop up on the table to get the shots that protect their lives, knowing that scientists are hard at work to protect us all, knowing that Grandpa would be proud of them for bravely getting the shot that will prevent serious illness or even death.
My dad died right before this pandemic began–a hard death that came too early. I’m relieved that he did not have to live through this terrible year, that he was not isolated or hospitalized in another traumatic pandemic experience. And–I wanted nothing more when I got my first Pfizer shot than to call my dad and celebrate with him.
Dad, here I am with the bandaid! You would have been astounded by the rapid development of this vaccine. You would have cheered those scientists on with such excitement. You would have been furious with people who didn’t take this disease seriously. And you would be waiting with me, holding your breath in both fear and hope, until your youngest grandchildren can also get vaccinated.
[Photo of me, a middle aged white woman, wearing a mask, with one arm bare to show a red bandaid where the vaccine was administered.]