Tenacious… and Untenable

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday. 258 days since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the big time and we all became way better acquainted with the word “quarantine.”

Two hundred and sixty days ago, my life was normal. Hell, all our lives were normal. But we’re talking about me now so just sit back and enjoy the ride. 260 days ago Opac was away at college and V was busy in her first year of high school. He came home periodically to run with his buddies back home – my house was filled with the noise of young men and a handful of young ladies, the crack of pool sticks hitting the cue ball, and the smell of wood smoke drifting in from outside. V was busy practicing for her bestie’s Quinceañera – they had choreographed dances and special outfits. Todd was running on fumes at work and I was just working. We had another poker party planned. Life was Good.

Today, nothing looks the same. O is commuting to a new college, and not living at home anymore. V – that’s more complicated and I’m keeping that close to the belt right now. Sorry to be cryptic but that’s what it is. My work schedule has ebbed and flowed with the pandemic – from alternating weeks to splitting weeks between teams – to finally back to our old schedules which, I suspect, will shift yet again with the explosion of cases in our region. Todd continues to work from home and does not expect to return to his office before the earliest – next summer.

We haven’t seen most of our friends and family in over eight months. Last Thanksgiving we hosted 22 people. This year, we sat for an early dinner with my in-laws – just the four of us, and then later – with my mom and V. That’s it. It was anticlimactic and I should’ve been more relaxed than I was, but I wasn’t. I haven’t seen my dad. I haven’t seen my brother. I haven’t seen my bestie.

Todd bought a ’68 Mustang. It’s been on the short list of things he wanted to do and this seemed as good a time as any. It’s in great condition overall, but he is rehabbing it with new paint and seats and tires and rims and chrome and whatever the hell else is under the hood that I have no idea about. He was out earlier to pick up a new set of rims he bartered for on Marketplace – done quite safely, because he is a huge adherent to the Covid rules. He called me on the way home, through the PA county closest to us, to tell me that we need to go out to dinner there because – “there’s no COVID here.”

The translation is – every restaurant and shopping center he passed was packed out with cars. This is extremely alarming. It’s like people have had it with this stupid pandemic and they’re all – “fuck it, I’m living my life.” Not me. I wanna live. Even if I only live long enough to see justice served hot and fresh, like that bagel and coffee I used to get for $1.10 at the corner deli across the street from NYU’s Main Building. Oh yes, I will live to see Karma land its wet slap on that cheek.

Anyway. Todd and I have done some remarkable online shopping over the last several months… so the silver lining in quarantine is UPS at your door. It’s not all fun and games though – there’s something to be said for being IN a store and seeing it and touching it.

I ordered some items for pickup at Kohl’s last week and was there Saturday to pick up and, while the lot seemed to have a lot of cars, the inside seemed incongruously calm and empty. I took one look at all the lonely clothes on the racks and briefly contemplated what would happen if I left Todd in the car for an hour while I sauntered the aisles. Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you – you’re breaking up – I’m still in line……   The sensory reaction to all those displays was like an addict walking into a meth den.

260 days ago we had one aging dog and I was still recovering from my epic and untimely loss of Oliver. Now we have THREE dogs – one shy and mostly well-trained 4-year-old, and one stubborn, naughty pain in the ass who’s lucky she’s so damned cute.

Bee, the 4-year-old, as you may recall, is what they call “finished.” She was a prizewinning show dog. The day she came to us Todd said she’ll never be his dog – because she was so skittish around men. Four months later she is all about Todd. She adores him. But I am the only other person who can touch her and this alone has endeared her to me. She is sweet and so loving, but you have to earn it – everything a woman should be. It took her four years to learn this lesson, and roughly 45 years for me.

I looked up antonyms to “finished” and I hereby declare Shuggie to be roughhewn, half-baked, and under construction. I know it sounds like I’m complaining about her … and I am. But where would I be without the fodder she throws at me? She is barky, jumpy, and not a good hostess (meaning, she barks – incessantly – at visiting dogs). She is bullheaded, hates the brush, 46lbs (at last weigh in) and built like a brick shithouse. But – she is also adorable and loving and sweet and those eyes!

It’s Friday night on Black Friday and it’s just the two of us. A year ago I was recovering from Thanksgiving and Opac had a house full of friends over. The silence tonight is deafening, as I know it is – profoundly and irrevocably – for 264,764 families across the U.S.*

In my house, the only sounds I hear are the sounds of my fingers tapping the keys and the sound of the HVAC system. Todd is in the garage changing the rims on the Mustang. The dogs are sleeping noiselessly nearby.

We will get through this, they tell us. There will be a viable vaccine soon, they assure us. It’s not forever, they promise us.

But – we still have miles to go before we sleep. The holidays are ahead. Winter is coming – except it’s not the excitement of an epic battle in Game of Thrones – it’s the anticipation of how much worse life as we know it will get before it gets better.

I’ve been through enough shit in my life to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel – I have faith. Hopefully that light will not be the light we learned about in Poltergeist.

We know more than we knew 258 days ago, which is why I feel more confident in the approach but less in the execution. The outcome is anyone’s gamble right now. I value each individual day more than I used to – try to be more present in the here and now.

None of this is easy. I have good days, and then I have bad days. Really bad days. Today I’m at peace. Tomorrow remains to be seen.

*The U.S. death toll as of Friday, November 27, 2020 at 8:18 p.m.

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