Pandemic: April

The smell of bleach is comforting. Early in the pandemic, I left the fancy Lysol sprays to the hoarders and started mixing my own 10% bleach solution in a spray bottle. Used it extensively at first, then not much, now again. Like hot sauce, I use that shit on everything.

Every day is a long Saturday. The kids are home, they are young enough to be happy, but the oldest is old enough to remember that things are different now. He wants to go to a restaurant, a different park to play in instead of just the field behind the school that is (for the moment) still open. He asks when outside will be closed.

He’s developing his own long list of things to do when school opens again. He doesn’t know that one of his best friends, who lives down the street, will have moved away by the time that happens, and so the last time they walked home together is the last time they will ever walk home together.

The weather is nice. I’d hoped to take the baby to the playground when the weather was nice, and see what she thought of the swings. That will wait. Her first birthday is in July; I hope we can give her playground swings.

I wish I had gotten around to starting a garden. Or renovating the third floor so the kids could use it, as it is literally broken plaster and exposed wires up there. This is on my list of things for when the schools open again. Getting outside regularly with the kids has been good for me, as long as I don’t notice how empty everything is. This also on my list.

My mother is, at last, not too busy to cancel every other visit with her grandkids, except visits are cancelled. This means she is, at last, not too busy to grieve my dad’s death from last year. My father-in-law is lonely and bored and staying inside, but at least this is nothing new.

If my dad had died this year instead of last year, we would not have been able to have sometimes over thirty people in the waiting room, visiting, comforting, sometimes annoying. Mom would have had to make the decision to take him off the precious ventilator alone, and quickly. We would not have been able to have a memorial and funeral with hundreds of people attending. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful my dad taught me about making money, and helped me make a lot of it. because we are busy and tired but there are a lot of small problems we can solve by throwing money at it.

Our downstairs tenants have sent their toddler to her grandmother’s for the duration. They miss her, but two working parents in a one bedroom basement apartment with an active child is untenable. It’s a hard choice, but I also envy them. I could do child-free pandemic. I could read and watch TV and make sourdough starter if I could find enough flour. We could declutter the third floor and stuff our garage with the junk. Maybe we could even demo the plaster. We could sleep in, although I have found I can get an Instacart slot if I wake up early, so at least the kids ensure that happens.

I need to take care of my back. There aren’t going to be any massages for a while. Ice packs and Advil are my best bet.

A friend of mine posted, children who grew up with trauma seem fine in a crisis. We’ve learned to cope, be calm, solve problems, ignore the chaos. But we’re not fine. Her therapist told her that; it took her a long time to believe it. It has taken me a long time to believe it.

Every day is wake up, feed kids, get dressed, play, lunch, naps for kids, play, make dinner, play, videos, bath, books, bed, clean up. Every single day. The routine helps; it breaks up the time into survivable chunks. We’ve gone from panic to trudging along. There will be no breaks, but I can’t think about that. One day I will have to push myself to do some work again, but I can’t think about that. I’m not fine, but I can’t think about that.

Writing? Writing?!?!

Welcome to the pandemic, where half of my social media feed consists of people extolling the virtues of staying in and working on new projects (didja know Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined?) and the other half of my feed have young children.

I apparently have an introvert-heavy feed, as no one gives a shit about going out, except to bring children to daycare or school.

I am home, as always, with my infant daughter and (new!) my husband and preschool-aged son. If it were the two adults, or even the two adults and the baby, we’d be fine. I have to force myself out of the house at the best of times. But an active preschooler who needs everything just so (“He’s very particular,” says his preschool teachers. “He knows exactly what he wants.”) is not exactly a Shakespearean-style quarantine.

There are a lot of online suggestions for keeping kids occupied while schools are closed. I am unconvinced that they were made with real preschoolers in mind, though I remind myself that I signed him up for daycare as a toddler when it became abundantly clear to me that guiding a young mind through any sort of structured activity on a daily basis was not among my skill-sets. No one can love him more than me, I said, but someone else can teach him to put on his shoes.

Subscribing to Disney+ only gets us so far.

In the midst of all this, I am taking a poetry class. I did not think I’d be writing poetry in the middle of a pandemic, but here we are. In the middle of a pandemic, not writing poetry.

The saving grace of this situation is that it’s shaken me out of the slothlike low-level depression of being home with a baby all day. Instead I am in full anxiety-fueled problem solving mode, scanning depleted grocery store shelves for more things we should have on hand lest we become too ill to shop. I bought instant noodles in the event that one of us needs to self-isolate in the bedroom and the other is too busy wrangling two children to bring up food; we could keep the kettle in there.

Amazon is shutting down. Is that in Canada too? Should I buy all the things now while I can? My kid has found every toy in the house already and we have nineteen more days of this to go, that we know of. (I cannot think beyond that.)

One of the poetry exercises involved writing a list of words, and all of mine had to do with this coronavirus.

Today at the grocery store, I ran into a woman I’ve seen at daycare pickup. I don’t know her name, or her kid’s name, but we’re both brown so we give each other the nod. We made small talk at a distance, which is the longest conversation we’d ever had, but I am hungry for regular, every day human interaction, even though I hate people.

The anniversary of my dad’s death is in a few days. This will have to be postponed. But making cake for my husband’s birthday is a child-occupying activity, so we will make cake. I hope our babysitter is free once this is all over. The last time she was here she had just got a part in a play, and I’m sure that is cancelled now.

Friends of mine met for brunch last Saturday. We hesitated, but met while we still could. Restaurants are closed now. I’m glad I went, and saw some of my people before we went underground. I have not been seeing enough people lately, but never mind that now. We saw my 82 year old father-in-law that day too. I wonder if that will be the last time we see him, although he is (fortunately) a misanthropic hermit on his best days, and I cannot think beyond a blank cement wall spray-painted with “Everything will be fine.”

I wish I had never seen the Walking Dead, not even the excellent first season where they actually cared about the pandemic. Rick was in a coma for just two months, and look what happened.

I started out hyperfocusing on the data, but I can’t keep track of all of Canada now. I look up Ontario’s numbers each day, but I don’t remember how it grown. I can’t keep track enough to write a post about how I am not writing, and fuck all you people with projects.

So let me just say, if you able to make use of this weird-ass time, more power to you but shut up. The rest of us are just getting through.

We have food, we have toilet paper, we have public health. We have anxiety, we have active children, we have no idea when this will end.