It’s 7:30 pm and my wife and daughter are settled in a tent in our back yard with Snickers. I can hear Charlotte singing to Snickers. This is how we try to distract ourselves from “the corona sickness,” as Charlotte calls it.
We’ve been “safer at home” since March 13th. No work. No school. We have not shared any space with my parents since the 14th. My wife is trying to balance teaching her own students online with both parenting and teaching our own child. We are exhausted and frustrated.
On the surface, Charlotte is fine. Her outbursts tell us otherwise. Suddenly, my sweet little girl who was always the first to offer to help a friend or bring a gift to a neighbor is having none of that. Sharing is out. It doesn’t matter if I baked 4 dozen cookies intending to share them with our two neighbors and their families, my daughter is going to throw herself on the floor in a fit of tears screaming, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” at the top of her (mighty) lungs.
Nothing is fair, according to her, and honestly she’s not always wrong. None of this is exactly fair.
The economy tanked and suddenly record numbers of people are unemployed when I was already desperate for a new job. We are fortunate that I have a healthy IRA to draw from (with early withdrawal penalty, of course), because I am not eligible for unemployment.
Charlotte’s preschool teachers are not being paid while the school is closed. They are also not charging tuition, which is as much of a blessing for us right now as it is a curse for the poor staff who have lost their income.
Grocery stores are rationing essentials after being completely wiped out in the days before the virus took hold in Los Angeles. The week before safer at home protocols were requested, I stood in Costco mid-morning on a Wednesday staring wide-eyed as a crowd around me rushed to fill their carts with toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and cases of water. I was only there to pick up a few grocery items that were on my regular shopping list. I wasn’t quite ready to prepare for a pandemic, and I was certainly not prepared to be caught in the midst of a frantic crowd of people who were.
I bought toilet paper anyway. It wasn’t on my list, but it would have been by last week. I would not jump off a bridge just because my friends are, but apparently I will purchase toilet paper simply because a crowd of strangers is, too. I also bought some for our friends across the street. I’m pretty sure our block now collectively owns enough toilet paper to help our asses stay clean through a true apocalypse. Another couple on our street works at two major grocery store chains, and the husband actually begged us to take a box of cereal off of their hands because his wife was stress-buying cereal after her 12 to 14 hour shifts in the market’s bakery ended.
It’s a bit frightening to watch our world come apart at the seams. Today, the world has 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and who knows how many un-confirmed cases. People are dying. I lie in bed at night and plead with the universe not to take my mom from me, but last night I started wondering if I also need to beg the universe not to take me or my wife away from our daughter. A friend of a friend posted a photo from a local hospital building entrance where a COVID-19 patient had collapsed and died right there between the two sets of double doors. The area was taped off and secured and the body covered by a heavy white sheet while they waited for the coroner to arrive. The caption read, “We lost another one.”
It’s hard to know which way is up right now. It’s hard to keep track of the days. It’s hard to keep track of the fears. It’s hard to fathom how long this will be our reality.
I’m trying to enjoy the small things. Having my wife home on weekday mornings is lovely. The feel of my daughter’s small hand wrapped around mine as we walk the dogs as a family is grounding. We are dancing in the living room, singing in the rain, and making art on the sidewalk. We are cooking, and cleaning and learning.
And yes, we are drinking. I mean, we’re only human and this is hard. There is no way I can stomach sewing a child-sized face mask for my daughter and her 3-year old best friend across the street tomorrow while sober. I don’t have super powers.
Peace be with you, world. May we all stay healthy and whole.