For me, it started in March.
I was already unemployed.
My mother-in-law came down the following week, a long anticipated reprieve in Florida from her speck of a town in upstate New York.
We went out to eat as news starting trickling in about a “bad flu” breaking in New York.
Suddenly, everything changed. We had planned the whole tourist experience, but the parks closed.
We went for a walk one time. My MIL doesn’t move too fast and we were returning home. We walked by three guys sitting on a bench. They were ragged. We weren’t six feet away. No data was out yet. One of them coughed a wracking cough.
It took everything I had not to run.
Further north, my aunt went into the hospital. Turns out she had stomach cancer. And she was dying.
My mom went to the hospital to see her. She didn’t make it in the door.
She fell in the parking lot and broke her hip.
Surgery. She sees her sister once. Her sister dies. Mom goes into rehab.
By this time, there are shut downs and no one is allowed to visit the rehab facility. The room doesn’t have a landline phone. My mom doesn’t use technology. She doesn’t have a cell phone.
Finally my sister in law gets someone at the facility to set up an Alexa for my mom. Mom can’t figure out how to contact people on it, but we can drop in on her.
The whole time this is happening with my mom, our own lives are upside down. My husband is home. I’m home and now his mom is home with us, too. New York has been shut down. She can’t go back.
April stretches into May.
My mom gets out of rehab. She loves her exercises and it gives her something to do in her now empty home. She’s happy to see her dog.
Stay at home orders. Curfews. Masks.
One night we hear voices and the protestors are on our side street. The protestors ran when they went on the interstate and were chased off by police.
We create a care pack in our rolling cooler in case we need to help someone and make a plan for how to funnel protestors through our building onto safer streets.
I never imagined I’d be doing those things in my life.
My mom doesn’t understand COVID. All she knows is that she’s lonely. She says she doesn’t know what to do with the words I say about it because I have an education she doesn’t. She used to go into hollers to see why elementary students weren’t in class. But this is just too much. Too vague. Too big. She doesn’t do enough to protect herself. My brother tries, but he has to return to work.
She doesn’t understand why I’m not traveling to be with her. She doesn’t understand I can’t travel half way across the country and bring my germ-ridden butt into her home. She’s already on oxygen.
Nothing I say can penetrate her hurt.
We don’t have support here, so my husband and I are each other’s support. I can’t leave him to do this alone.
He had to go back to work.
I dusted off the sewing machine and learned how to make masks for all of us. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting better. The machine and I fight a lot.
When my husband went back, we established a return protocol: He sits his lunch box down, strips in front of the hamper, and gets in the shower. I wipe down all the surfaces and his lunch box.
New York started to open up. Florida’s cases were already on the rise. We decided to try to get my MIL back home before it got really bad here again.
Every decision is a risk assessment.
We decided on a small airport north of here that could fly her to her brother. We went early in the morning. Most people were wearing masks and there weren’t a lot of people around. My husband got special permission to take her up. Passengers were wearing masks and there was a seat between herself and her neighbor. It’s been a little over a week since she made it back. So far, so good.
Now our cases are 3000-4000 new a day, hospitals are running out of beds again, and at last glance, we had a 17% infection rate. I feel we made the right choice.
My mom is still going. She went shopping and neighbors come over. Their numbers are on the rise, too.
She says she wears a mask, then tells me she went to her neighbor’s where their child begged her for her food, so I know she’s still in close contact with others indoors.
My husband is back at work full time. There is a mandatory mask policy where he works, but it’s not being followed by some or enforced. He has risk factors. His company just announced layoffs, though so far he is not in that group.
My brother and his wife both work in masks and plastic face guards and both have already been exposed to COVID positive coworkers. So far, so good. They have vulnerable family.
I made a COVID plan and made sure my husband has all my doctor notes in case I go down. I have his boss’ number in case he goes down.
Nothing is certain.
Seems like our leaders are more interested in their own politics than in any of us. I feel we the people are on our own, really.
I reach out to friends and started a balcony garden.
I’ve already eaten a little lettuce, beet greens, and scallions.
I’m hoping for some tomatoes and the potato just bloomed.
I look at my garden as an investment in the future.
I’m not willing to give up just yet.
In fact, life is even more precious to me now.