February 28th, 2020
In the news, there was talk of a virus. Usually, I would find myself worrying about such a thing. This time around, I used my anxiety training, reminding myself that media loves to doom and gloom these situations. There had been no big bird flu outbreak. No nationwide ebola outbreak. We were fine. We’d be fine.
Except the news was suddenly centered around a nursing home seven miles from my house.
That night, a Friday night, I went out with friends to celebrate a birthday. We were supposed to go to one of my favorite local restaurants but the wait was so long, we changed locations, went to a place around the corner that had seating at 7 pm on a Friday night. The food was mediocre. The drinks were fine. The company was great.
I often think about that night. How I didn’t realize it would be my last night out like that.
The subject of the new virus came up in a roundabout way. One friend had gone to Costco, to buy a few things, including toilet paper. Except the shelves were empty, and people were standing around, waiting for more to be brought out. Toilet paper was on the friend’s list, so when they brought out a pallet of Kirkland brand toilet paper, she grabbed some. She didn’t want to stop at another store and was a little worried that all the stores would be the same way.
I thought about the two rolls of toilet paper we had left in the house. A smidgen of worry blossomed.
The next morning, I woke up to the news that a patient at the nursing home seven miles from my house had died of this virus that didn’t really have a name. My husband was going to the store for eggs. I told him to grab toilet paper.
By the time he got home, I decided I should do a big shop. Not an insane “buy everything, the world is ending” spree, but, you know, get some extras. I’m not one to do big stock up shops, I tend to buy a few days of groceries at a time. I was underprepared for even a snowstorm, forget a pandemic.
I was surprised that the store wasn’t busier. I started taking notice of which shelves seemed a bit barren. I found myself going down the toilet paper aisle. It was spartan, but not barren. A man stood, staring at his options. I noted that there was one big package left of my preferred toilet paper brand. I found myself adding it to my cart.
By the time I got home, a second death had been announced.
Within the week, you couldn’t find flour or rice at the stores. Toilet paper was gone. Hand sanitizer was a thing of the past. But my husband made one last business trip. He returned March 8th. March 9th, his company told people to stay at home, all travel was cancelled.
It was a beautiful week. Sunny, oddly warm. I found myself sitting on the deck with a gin and tonic at about one o’clock to soothe my nerves. I wondered if it was the right thing to do, sending my intellectually disabled daughter to school. They went on a field trip. I noticed there were less and less children on her special education bus.
On March 11th, we were informed that school would be closing for two weeks, just to be safe, starting at the end of the next day.
On March 12th, as I sat on the deck with a gin and tonic talking to my friend, the notice came through – school was closing for six weeks.
My friend and I both did that nervous laughter, that “ha ha ha” of disbelief. I took a gulp of my drink.
I didn’t know then how much the world was changing, even while living each change. Schools closed, offices closed. Six of us living in each other’s pockets at all times, trying to avoid each other. Realizing I’d need a mask. We’d all need masks. I sewed masks. It was something I could do. I did not make bread.
We went to the grocery store, where we bought what we could and stood on circles telling us “Six feet apart!” and everyone looked at our giant overflowing cart with disdain. “We’re feeding six people!” we’d announce. The disdain would melt.
I didn’t realize that a year later, I’d be looking for better filters for the masks I made. Or wishing I could get a hold of one more N95 mask. Or that my disabled daughter’s senior year of high school would be virtual.
I didn’t realize I could be this emotionally tired. Tired of the arguments over a piece of cloth. People stating their wants superseded others needs. Watching as my disabled daughter’s world went from narrow to miniscule.
I didn’t realize I would lose friendships over these things. I couldn’t have known the anger I’d feel over those who have continued to live like everything is normal, when everything is most definitely not normal in my world.
I had no clue my world would come to a halt. That the future I was going to have to plan for my disabled daughter would change so dramatically and appear suddenly. As I told a friend yesterday, Covid made “the future” happen real quick for some of us.
I couldn’t have known all this a year ago, when I went out with friends, had drinks, danced to a cover band playing the most random playlist of songs. If I had, I would have insisted we wait it out and go to the better restaurant.