My mom called me this morning, out of breath, as if she’d just come off the tennis court, like back in the days when she used to be ranked at the local racquet club.
But no. She’d returned from a shopping trip: Gelson’s and Target, plus a failed attempt to find an open drugstore, in about 90 minutes. Gelson’s had the stew meat on her list. Target had toilet paper. Neither had Lysol wipes. NPR’s Morning Edition was still playing on the radio, and she was already exhausted.
I was alarmed. She’s 81. Her partner is the same age and ill with cancer. We’d talked about this shopping trip the night before. I couldn’t do it because I’m still recovering from the-virus-that-may-be-corona. My oldest son was out riding his bike to the Rose Bowl (like father, like son) and my younger son was still ill as well. But he had some friends with health and time on their hands. I was just about to text one when she called.
“I was lining up someone for you!” I said. “Why didn’t you wait? Why did you risk it?”
As if a trip to the store was an occasion of life or death.
Which it is, these days.
She’d worn a mask, she said. Gloves, too. Plus, she’d rushed. Anyway, “oh, Connie, I just had to,” she said. “I can’t stand to stay at home anymore.”
Finally, I’m emerging from the goopy soup of illness, the virus like viscous globs I’m wiping off my eyes and ears and skin. Look — there’s a tree out there! Hold on — I can hear a kid calling on the street! Oh — the breeze is like silk on my forehead! Wellness, even though it still only visits for a few hours at a time, feels like such a privilege.
But today, as I texted and chatted with friends and family on the phone, I realized that my distress has its own silver lining. I’ve been too consumed with fatigue to notice my sequestration. And now that it’s lifting, health is its own kind of freedom.
Meanwhile, those around me have spent these last nine days waking up every morning to the same battle: to stay well, to stay engaged, to stay hopeful. Outside the door lies a potentially lethal foe. Inside, it’s safe, but also repetitive. Lonely. Sorely lacking in stimulation.
“I crashed last night,” someone I love (not my mother) told me in a phone call today.
In dark times, darkness can stalk us as surely as a virus.
I wish I had something truly uplifting and comforting to say in response. All I can offer is this: the house feels like the world after you’ve spent days alone in your bedroom.
And this: this blog sustains me. I wake up in the morning, excited to write down something new here. Is there something you want to try? A project you never had the time for — or maybe, the nerve?
Do it now. Maybe, just maybe, joy will find you, take a seat, and settle in.