Week seven of sheltering in place while packing for a May 15 move to a condo and trying to sell a house that no one wants to buy right now. The last time my husband and I went out in public was March 13, when we each had a doctor’s appointment. Remember those days? I think I’m losing it. Not from boredom, as there is an infinite number of things to do to prepare for moving out of the home we have lived in for 45 years. If I had to label my feelings this Saturday, they would be anxiety, stress, exhaustion, fear, and sadness over not being able to see my kids, grandkids, and friends in person for so long.
Trying my best to “keep calm and carry on.”
I have kept a diary of the days of our lives in isolation. At least I’m still getting along with my husband and we are working through this time together. Overall, we are tired. Too much physical labor and too little sleep. We wake around 5:00 am every day and ask each other what we have to accomplish that day. Perhaps going back to some of my April musings will explain why I am suffering from coronavirus craziness.
April 3, 2020
Today, life reminds me of when I was a young mom and the days flew by while the minutes often crawled. I can’t account for what I did yesterday. Actually, it just came back to me. I spent most of the day making an iMovie tour of our home, set to music, in the hope someone would find it interesting enough to view it and buy our house when it’s safe to come out again. It took a ridiculous amount of Apple support to figure out what happened to the iTunes store so I could to buy the song Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young for my movie, but I did it. I was pretty happy with the video but was shot down by the realtor, who said it was too long (six minutes?) and I didn’t use the professional photos. I was pissed. I didn’t understand why our listing couldn’t link to it, saying it was made by the owner as a virtual tour in this time of social distancing. Turns out, Facebook and YouTube posted my movie with the music muted. Copyright infringement.
Next up, catastrophe. We noticed some peeling paint near the entrance to our family room. We had also noticed on some level that our floor boards looked weird but chose to ignore it. Now we had a huge plumbing job to find the source of the excess moisture that was causing all of this damage. When the two plumbers arrived, they were wearing masks and booties. In our anxiety, we didn’t ask them to wash or sanitize their hands. Many hours later, they had been all over the house trying to locate the source of the leak. They chopped holes in the bathroom cabinet and family room ceiling and wall, touching who knows what. One had removed his mask at some point because he couldn’t breathe. I empathized but felt very anxious. The plumbers told us to call a restoration company to get all of the moisture out of the walls and floors. They determined our main bathroom’s old piping was the source of the leak and would return Monday and Tuesday, but until they finished, that bathroom was unusable.
The restoration man came immediately. He was nice and appeared healthy, but wore no mask or gloves. He handed brochures directly to my husband. We both kept backing away from him to maintain that six feet of social distance, but I guess it’s an instinct for a friendly salesperson to keep coming closer. To get him to leave ASAP, we agreed to have a two-person crew show up early the next morning. Of course, we didn’t read the brochures because we didn’t want to touch them. It was at this point that I had my first full-blown panic attack since sheltering in place back on March 13. Why bother being so careful and then let three strangers into your house? Plus, this mess would cost us a small fortune to fix a house we were trying to sell. I hit my first breaking point.
April 4, 2020
At 8:15 am, the two-person restoration crew arrived wearing masks, gloves, and foot coverings. We had resolved to stay upstairs except for a brief foray into kitchen to grab some yogurt and granola to eat upstairs for lunch. They finished at 1:30 pm, leaving an incredible and very noisy mess in their wake. Now, aside from the kitchen, the entire first floor of our house was uninhabitable. We were living in the equivalent of a two-room, one small bathroom apartment.
The noise from the fans and mats was so painfully loud that I had to remove my hearing aids. We shut ourselves into the small bedroom that is now my office to read the Sunday papers and use the computer. Then, we shut ourselves into our bedroom to watch television. Avoiding the news, we watched the interesting documentary Crip Camp, an episode of Ozark, and for comic relief, Kim’s Convenience. We also had a Zoom visit with close friends and a Skype visit with our granddaughter in lockdown in a residential special education school in Wisconsin. This was our life until the plumbers fixed the leaks April 6 -7 and the restoration crew returned April 8 to remove their equipment. Then, a carpenter/painter would spend several more days filling the holes, plastering the ceiling and walls, and painting. Sanding and refinishing the floors would have to wait until we moved out May 15. We vowed to get all of thiis done by June 1, hoping folks might come to see an empty, germ-free house with newly done floors.
I must stop this complaining. People are sheltering in place in far more dire conditions. There are just two of us and we knew things would improve and, in a few weeks, our house would return to normal, a house with too much room, which is why we decided to move. But for so many others, staying at home means too many people crowded into too little space trying to co-exist as best they can. Yesterday, we went to get gas for our car that was almost empty, because, who knows, maybe gas will become as hard to get as toilet paper. On our way, we passed a half-way house. All of the residents were outside in a small nearby park. No social distancing or face masks. Probably just trying to escape their living conditions and not understanding the new rules of engagement. So sad. Our restricted life would improve. Theirs not so much.
April 9, 2020
Next came a massive dose of fear and anxiety. Our granddaughter, who has cystic fibrosis, had a headache and high fever. For a child living with CF, she is very healthy. She is a long-distance runner and swimmer, so her lung capacity is amazing. Still, she has a serious underlying condition. Thankfully her doctors were able to arrange for a COVID-19 test. Huge relief the next day. Ava tested negative for coronavirus. She also tested negative for flu, so her illness was a mystery. Aside from going on runs and one Starbucks drive through, she had been home with her family. Did she run too close to someone who was sick? Was the person who handed the Starbucks drinks to her car sick? If these were normal times, I would had been worried that she was not well, but these are anything but normal times and I was terrified. Thank you, Trump, for bungling this pandemic response so badly, making it so hard for most people to be tested. I think his oldest granddaughter is close to the age of mine. I wonder if his family would have to beg for a test?
April 14, 2020
The painter/carpenter arrived. A very nice guy but no mask or gloves. To maintain social distance, we donned our bandana masks and forced ourselves to tackle the basement. What a nightmare. We tried to put the things we want to move to the condo in one place. The front room is filled with donation bags, as Goodwill remains closed. The back room is mostly things to throw away, except for a corner of things people in the family wanted back in the days when folks could leave their homes. Not sure how that will play out.
We decided to tackle my husband’s work bench. How bad could that be? Turns out, pretty bad. It was filled with tools that were gifted to him that he never used and a jumble of stuff he thought he might want. I kept reminding him we were moving to a condo and I doubted he would need saws or crowbars. We reduced his stuff to two smallish tool boxes and a plastic box. What a fun job.
Next up, the small room we call the wine cellar (LOL) which is filled with my father’s less desirable paintings, baby stuff, left over paint cans, and assorted mystery items. We were making decent progress when we heard a beeping. There was water on the floor in the next room and the hot water heater alarm had gone off. $350 later, a plumber determined the culprit was a tank for the boiler that should have been drained every time we had it serviced. Also, the company that installed the new boiler nine years ago should have replaced it. Oh well, it’s just more money.
We spent the next few days packing up the contents of the dining room so our handyman could strip the wall paper and paint it next week. Apparently, Millennials hate wallpaper and we want the house to look its best by June 1. My hands, raw from washing them twenty times a day, struggled to create face masks out of bandanas and hair holders my granddaughters left all over the house. Now, I look like a robber. Maybe folks will stay away from me. Our handyman finally started wearing a mask, so I guess my bandana mask worked.
I’m glad plumbers, carpenters, painters, and floor refinishers are considered essential workers or we would have been sunk. On the other hand, why are liquor stores and gun shops essential businesses? People hanging out outside of liquor stores are hardly maintaining social distancing. I understand there has been a run on gun sales. Too much togetherness plus guns could lead to tragedy. Just some random thoughts.
April 21, 2020
I’m feeling ambivalent about Zoom. It’s nice to look at people other than my husband, but the conversations are so awkward. It’s impossible to talk over someone as we do in normal conversation. Zoom decides who has the floor. I find myself exhausted after a half-hour of a Zoom meeting, so I wonder how my grandkids are managing it for “school.” Our granddaughter who lives in a residential school in Wisconsin will now be in lockdown at least through May. We Skype her four times a week, but she often hangs up on us. Does she feel abandoned or is she simply bored with Skype? She is non-verbal, so it’s impossible to know.
Maybe life will be better in June? Of course, no one knows and the notion that this state of being could go on for a year or two is frightening. I’m turning 75 in September, so I get depressed thinking about losing so much of the precious time left to me. I’m thankful every day that I am not alone and that my husband is also my best friend. In an effort to lift my spirits and support a small business, I picked up a hair coloring kit from outside the door of my hair salon and tried to follow the directions. Not a great success, but a bit better than how I looked before. I have given up on makeup and have been hacking away at my bangs and the ends of my hair. No nail polish and very short nails. Eyebrows getting shaggy. Wardrobe consists of comfy stretch jeans or sweats, any old shirt, and old and comfy sandals. Much less laundry. Maintenance is gone!
April 24, 2020
Yesterday, I hit rock bottom. We received a phishing email that appeared to know part of our most popular password. While I knew this was a bogus scam and was not about to send them money to prevent them from sending pornographic images of us (LOL) to everyone in our address book, I was concerned that someone had part of our password. We decided to change it on every account that used it, which was a considerable number. It was a three-hour project, and probably unnecessary, but it reflected the overall level of anxiety we are experiencing.
It has been seven weeks since we have been staying at home. After the password fiasco, I tried with little success to cross some things off the to-do list. By late afternoon, I was in tears. Just a bad day all around. To lift my spirits, we decided to finish the series based on Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Watching Nazi-sympathizers burn the ballots, and then seeing on the actual news that Trump is trying to destroy the postal service to prevent mail-in voting, was beyond depressing. There is a rumor on my Facebook feed that he may try to postpone the election. I hope he takes his own advice and drinks a glass of Lysol or bleach.
Trying my best to “keep calm and carry on.” Or, as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues used to say at the end of the cop roll call: “Let’s be careful out there.”
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.