Last March, I contracted COVID-19. Like many people, I lost my sense of smell. I assumed at the time that it would return reasonably quickly. But nearly a year later, it has not.
I do not feel debilitated the way I would if I had lost my sight or my hearing. But the absence nags at me nonetheless and has, if anything, become more difficult to accept over time. Memory, emotion, and intuition all have a direct line to the sense of smell. Without it, the world is a very different place.
I caught COVID-19 earlier than most Americans. My wife is a doctor in Manhattan and ran her hospital’s newly established COVID-19 ICU in early March, when the novelty of the disease made everything risky.
Our 18-month-old daughter was the first to show signs of a fever. Her twin sister and my wife got fevers a day or two after that. They were listless, sweaty. I prayed the way everyone does in such a situation. I offered myself to God in a trade. I tried, in my prayers, to appeal to reason. People needed my wife. The COVID-19 floor at her hospital soon became every floor, as more and more people died. Most urgent, our kids needed her.
Months earlier, we had taken to diffusing lavender oil in the girls’ bedroom to help them get to sleep. When COVID-19 entered our home, I would open the bottle of lavender essential oil every time I went in to check on the girls. I’d sniff the oil, smell its tell-tale aroma of well-being, and realize that my offer to God remained declined.