April 15, 2020
It’s amazing, the things a person can get used to.
I remember when I first heard about the lockdown in six Bay Area counties, back in mid-March. My neighbor’s daughter was still up there at college and my only reaction was that they’d better get her down here quick before — I don’t know — they built a wall around the place and threw away the key? It all seemed so drastic.
Now we wear bandannas to walk the dog, masks to go to the grocery store, and otherwise, we’re confined to the Great Residential Indoors. It was distressing when it started. I didn’t know how I would live this way. But I figured it out, just like everyone else. The days now have their own, quarantine-dictated rhythms. Zoom has become the anchor of my social life. I feel a renewed connection to my 1950s O’Keefe & Merritt range.
Last night, we learned my husband would have to self-isolate and wear a mask around the house because of possible COVID-19 exposure last week in the hospital. I was gripped again by that same senseless fear I had when I was sick in late March. You wonder what is coming. You realize it’s out of your control. You don’t know if you’ll be able to handle it. Like, really don’t know. Like, it’s possible what is coming will shred you into long, twisted pieces that you will never untangle.
But today, he’s just a healthy guy in a mask doing telephone visits with his patients from a desk in our family room. Nine days down, five to go. And life goes on.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have our schedules.
Our oldest, age 21, leaves the house around eight every morning and heads for the hills on one of his dad’s bicycles. He’s been to the West Valley, Malibu, Benedict Canyon, and even Pasadena. Afternoons, he’s home on his computer or going grocery shopping for us or my mom, who lives in Westwood. He goes to college at U.C. Berkeley, but when this pandemic hit, he was on an abroad program in Ghana. The University of Ghana has been slow to put its courses online, so his homework situation is minimal.
With every day of bike riding, his frame seems to get a little leaner, his face a bit more angular. He looks more like his dad every day. I envy him the time and energy he has to bust out of our neighborhood and travel up and down the empty streets of this, my beloved city. I can tell it’s a wonderful thing from the smile on his face every day. I’m quarantined. Him — not exactly.
Our 19-year-old burrows down in my home office, which he’s turned into his music studio. Apparently, he keeps the space heater turned up to 79 degrees, and is assembling a tippy tower of empty La Croix cans. The floor and all the surfaces are strewn with sheet music. His older brother tells me it stinks and warns me to keep away. But the neighbors behind us, with whom we share a back gate, thank me for the jazz trombone concert constantly in progress in my garage. “It’s such a treat to enjoy live music,” Norma says.
This one’s happy, too. He tells me he’s buried in school work from demanding professors. But the other day, on a Zoom call, I stared at him when he told friends that he’s got a pretty light academic load. So I don’t know what to believe, and who knows what’s actually going on out there?
Our daughter stays up half the night. I’m told 16-year-old social life peaks at 2 a.m. these days. There are group Facetimes, something called Netflix Watch Parties. In the daylight hours she manages to grab, she keeps up with her classwork. Now that she’s given up her bedroom to her quarantined father, she’s discovered that she studies best in her parents’ bedroom. Good Wi-Fi. She promises she’ll leave if I want to take a nap.
As for me, lately I’ve been doing a Zoom call with a writing friend every morning at 8 a.m. I work on my novel. She works on hers. When the rest of our lives call, sometime between 9 and 10 a.m., we say goodbye, and she sends a Zoom invite for tomorrow. Then I work on my freelance articles. I walk my dog. Putter around the house, straightening up so it doesn’t look like a great and powerful wind just swept through it. Eventually, I hear the local children riding their bikes around on our street, and I know it’s time to start writing this blog. By the time they go in for dinner, it’s also time for me to wrap up and hit my kitchen. The O’Keefe and Merritt awaits.
Tonight, when we sit down to dinner, there’ll be a new decision to make. Where does my husband go? You can’t eat through a mask. Probably, he’ll be exiled to the dining room table, like I was when I was ill. We’ve been here before, in a way. We know the COVID drill.
I know we used to do it all another way. But that life feels so distant now.
How do you get through these days? Have you found a new rhythm?