Pandemic: February

It’s been almost a year.

You remember all the plans you had at the beginning for getting through what you were told was going to be a few weeks, and also how all those plans had to be cancelled and how the weeks stretched into months. It got harder, and then it got easier. Then it got harder. Maybe it’s getting easier again, who even cares anymore?

In the beginning, you fought with your mother to convince her that staying home meant actually staying home. Eventually she got it, a little bit. Eventually you let it go, a little bit.

You had an easier time explaining to your now-four year old that the playgrounds were closed. You still remember when you told him they were open, the cautious way he searched for the right words to ask, “The equipment too?” He wanted to be sure he understood before he got excited. That was in July. He went four months without swings. These days, you keep going to the playground, to the swings, even when it is cold, or snowy, or icy. There is no where else to go.

The baby is now a toddler, and by some miracle started daycare on schedule. By some miracle her daycare is still open. Your preschooler is now a kindergartener. You have only seen pictures of his classroom.

You’re thankful your father-in-law is cautious by nature and understands science well. You’re hoping to book a vaccine appointment for him soon. That will be one small relief, that one person in your care is safe. Next will be your mom. Then your husband and then you. But not the kids. Parents are supposed to protect their kids but there is no vaccine for them yet. Maybe you will be lucky, and by fall, or winter, your then-five year old will be able to get one, but the littlest member of the family will be the least protected. It seems so backwards.

The pandemic is the worst time to be in the sandwich generation. It’s the worst time for everyone, but you get to focus on your own personal worst. This is one choice you still have.

You’ve stopped being actively angry at the government because there is nothing to do with that feeling. They have messed up, they will keep messing up, there is nothing for it but to wait it out.

In the beginning, you couldn’t work. You had to take care of the kids, the household. You cooked, you baked, you cleaned, you did crafts, you bought clothes and toys, you booked Covid test appointments, you kept up with the news and the new rules and you slowly diminished. You figured out new routines for the kids, new regular grocery items, and something resembling a meal plan, even though now every Saturday is pizza night and you are getting bored of homemade pizza. It got better when the kids went back to school. There was a clarity, a sense of what are the things you must do now before it gets taken away again.

And of course, it was taken away again.

You tried to hang on in the midst of the bonkers exercise of virtual kindergarten. You did well for a while, but it was too much. You had to let something go. School started again, and you’re now trying to pull it back. But, you’re tired. Everyone’s tired. Everyone’s tired of everything. The cooking, the cleaning, the baking, the walks, the stupidity of government, the Netflix shows, the short-lived spurts of self-improvement, and the endless everyday sameness of it all with no possibility of change. You used to have choices.

You long to sit in a cafe. To linger over a coffee and a subpar pastry. To watch the world go by. For there to be a world to watch instead of so many empty streets.

It got close to normal last summer. It felt like you were approaching the end. The city felt alive again. They took that away from everyone, and now you’re waiting for the next round, but they keep dragging the ending out.

There is so much waiting. Waiting for new numbers, for announcements, for the next vaccine approval, for the next step to get a vaccine, for the next school closure, for the next day, the next month, the next season, the next time you can see some people you don’t live with.

You’ve realized a few things. That you need to reach out more, even if you can’t find the energy. That you need to write and teach and work more, even if you can’t find the energy. That you need to get outside and move, even if you can’t find the energy. But there is only so much energy.

This will end. Eventually. Eventually. Eventually.

Pandemic: May

I wonder when going to a restaurant is going to feel normal again. It was such a nothing thing before, to pop into a place and grab a bite. Now it feels momentous.

We had talked about travelling more with the baby, getting on a plane sooner than we had with our preschooler. I’d never quite had the energy to drive that forward, and now it seems like we’ll be waiting a few years anyway. There’s still a line for ‘vacations’ in our budget. It’s not hope; it’s inertia.

The hardest is school. I don’t really work, I can carry on with childcare indefinitely but for the grind and the muscle and joint strain–there’s no massages yet, though I wonder if I could get someone to set up a table in my backyard? But this was the year my oldest was to start kindergarten, and I don’t know what that will be like if it happens. I had counted on his daycare preparing him for the transition to kindergarten–it’s the same building–but who knows what any of this will be like?

I wonder when we can see the dinosaurs at the museum again, and the sharks at the aquarium.

There are places where things are better. We could have been one of those places, but for politics and incompetence.

I don’t think the baby will get swings for her birthday in July. One of our books says she at the age where she’ll learn to wave bye-bye when people leave, but people don’t leave. The preschooler wants two friends over for his birthday in August. Our last shopper is better at picking ripe pears than I am. I guess that’s something.

The world is angry about the same old garbage and we’re tired of this new garbage. Those early days when the internet seemed caring and helpful again are gone.

On some days, I believe we’ll be out of this. I watch the numbers daily, I have favourite epidemiologists and dashboards. It’s okay if it’s not quite normal as long as my son can have school again. I remember arguing with him about swings in March before they closed them; I’m glad I didn’t have the heart to put my foot down. It’s only recently he’s been confident enough to climb the playground equipment, to sit on the big kid swings, to have specific friends that matter to him. I worry this won’t all come back for him.

I’m trying to re-plan my life so that it sustains this going on indefinitely, and then I get depressed about this going on indefinitely.