Getting My Vaccine Doughnut and Remembering Two People I’ve Lost

A post-vaccine visit to the doughnut shop

A Polaroid photo of the exterior of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop

I got my second vaccine shot this week. As I sat outside in my car afterward, I thought about two people I lost in 2020 — my friend Brian, because of Covid-19, and my Uncle Rick, because of cancer.

I wish I could talk to them about how we got our vaccines and were preparing to venture out into the world again and all the things we could look forward to. How this has been a crazy interlude in life and how we were so grateful we’d made it through.

With Brian maybe the conversation would also be about a future trip he was thinking of taking, since he loved travel. With Rick maybe it would be about visiting him and learning some of his amazing printmaking techniques in his art studio. But I can’t talk about those things with them because they’re no longer here.

I did something to celebrate getting the vaccine. I drove to Krispy Kreme to get a free doughnut in exchange for showing my vaccination card.

I wouldn’t usually go out of my way to get a doughnut. They’re good, but they’re not something I often think of having. I don’t have deep feelings about the cake versus yeast doughnut debate or a longstanding opinion on Krispy Kreme versus Dunkin’.

Earlier this week, I was reading about the vaccine incentives that companies are offering, and I saw Krispy Kreme on the list. At first I thought the offer was meant for other people, maybe people who were reluctant to get vaccinated or regular Krispy Kreme customers. I registered for the vaccine the first day I could. I didn’t need any incentives. But then I thought — I’m just as eligible as anyone else. Why can’t one doughnut be mine?

For some reason, getting the vaccine doughnut was something I decided that I had to do. It became an essential mission for me, gas shortage or no. Admonitions about the evils of sugar be darned. Maybe I wanted to go because it seemed frivolous, in contrast to the seriousness of the past year. Or maybe I wanted to somehow mark the occasion.

A Polaroid photo of the exterior of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop

Brian loved tasty food, and he was up for adventures, even if they were small. He would have appreciated the idea of a doughnut-seeking quest. I remember traveling with him to Hawaii on a work trip and how he was excited for us to go to Zippy’s to get a delicious lunch platter. How we later drove to a coffee shop in his neighborhood and had to parallel park blocks away, but we thought it was worth it to go to an independent shop and not a chain. I remember how Brian ground his coffee beans at home to make the best cup he could every day.

Rick had a wry sense of humor. I remember going on a road trip with him; he had a walking cane he named Wilson after the volleyball that Tom Hanks has in Castaway. Rick rested the cane on top of the car while we were at a gas station and then forgot about it, so he, my aunt, my grandparents, and I drove off with Wilson riding on the roof. After a few minutes we realized what had happened, and we doubled back. Rick shouted, “Oh no, Wilson!” in a plaintive voice that said he was sad, but not really, when we found Wilson by the side of the road, run over and bent out of shape. We went to a pharmacy and he got a new Wilson.

I don’t know whether Rick liked doughnuts but I think he would be amused that I put getting one on my to-do list for the week.

So I sat at a table in the sun with my treat and my iced coffee, and I thought of two good, funny people that I miss.

Before I left, I stood in the middle of the parking lot to get pictures of the building with my Polaroid camera. There was a man nearby getting out of his car, and if he saw me, he might have thought, it’s just someone doing something strange during a pandemic. A random masked woman with a boxy, old-looking camera taking photos of mundane things.

Sometimes the mundane can be meaningful, even if it’s only a doughnut.

A donut and a plastic cup of iced tea sitting on a table

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