So today, first thing in the morning, John and I were FaceTiming with Janet, and John told her we weren’t allowed to leave our homes. News to me. So starting today, we will be in trouble if we leave our cozy abode to do anything beyond food-shopping, drug-buying, or doctor-visiting. Our Pennsylvania county is one of those our governor has deemed particularly poor in the coronavirus situation. It’s for our own good.
“No walks?” I asked. “Nothing past the mailbox? Will we be fined if we go down the street?”
Plus I’d been planning to use the outdoor steps at Roberts School just to use steps—those from ranch houses have to find steps where they may—but I guessed those plans were in the same cocked hat as everything else. Why should I get to use steps?
Well, walks are okay with the governor, it turns out. Something called outdoor activity is fine. Not sure exactly why, but there are a lot of dogs that need walking. Not that we have a dog. But maybe that’s why. Otherwise, maybe we’d all have ropes twined around our houses and stare out like abandoned pets from our baleful windows. So there is freedom here. We can still at least walk. Don’t get in the car, though! You’ll get eaten!
There’s no going to Justin’s, though to get that box full of music stuff that belonged to Marion before she died. I will call him later and say, hold that box for me. I’m coming, just not today. Always eager to see someone else’s flute music and paraphernalia. Like reading someone else’s diary. See what’s out there I have overlooked. Did she have the Bozza? How did she mark the Mozart? Did she have a decent stand or metronome? What he gives me will make me think of him and her. Just her wide smile!
Not going there today. Not tomorrow. At least two weeks. Three? Do I hear four?
Because, who knows, I could grab that box from his front porch—already the plan in these coronavirus times—get it home, and some microbe from his house could live long enough to get me. Or I could leave some trace on his porch that will get him when he wants to get his mail. And then we could pass them on to—you know. Like a long line of crocheted stitches.
So that’s on hold. It’s a niggling little thing and why should I mind about that when also on hold is seeing my mother in New Jersey or Janet or her brothers. Well, they’re all we got, and we still want them. Always what is precious is being in the same room with one of them, getting hugs. Virtual hugs are better than nothing, and little Morgan, during FaceTime this morning, served us ice cream from her little plastic ice cream parlor. Yum yum! we said, all enthusiastic, and pretended to eat. But really? This is how life is now.
It just is.
Hey. If Anne Frank’s family could live in the Secret Annex for all that time, we can do this. This is nothing.
Under the new confinement, we went about our business, me doing yoga and John reorganizing that corner beyond the china cabinet. Cleaning bathroom floors and doing laundry, both of us.
Lunch and a call from niece Heather to tell us that she would be taking care of whatever Mom needs—she’d just taken her some rye bread and had been in the house with her, so Mom actually saw someone in person. Smiles exchanged. Yeah, Heather!
Because I can’t go to New Jersey now, and that just stinks. Mom’s okay, but yeah. Suck it up, girl!
After lunch, John went outside to talk with our neighbor who was working in his yard. The two men talked at a safe distance. They’re doing all right, we’re doing all right. The wife just had a birthday, and today they’re working in the yard. Getting rid of the scraggly hedge between our two properties. So okay. I guess they like us all right. They’ll see us more clearly, at any rate. No secrets here!
John and I took that walk. I ran up and down those outside stairs at the school. So I got to do that. We took note of all the cars in the parking lot, enabling all kind of folks to hike in the nature center on the other side. Wait. Those people drove there. Isn’t that one of the new taboos? Well, maybe they hadn’t heard yet. Or maybe they thought, they can’t mean this.
John and I went on, me with my stair-exercised legs, and took the route of Obsession Gulch, named years ago by Justin for the fanaticism of the neighborhood for their weed-free lawns. That’s why those people live there, and we live here. As John has said to lawnsprayers who have approached us, “We like our moss.” And leaves. And huge trees. As long as they don’t fall down on us. When trees fall, or even just branches, I can want to trade it all for concrete in a New York minute.
John and I walked and talked—a beautiful afternoon—said hello to people we’d never seen before. Joggers, walkers, people just out. Half-way through our walk, the reality of it all, as it will do here and there, hit me, and one of the biggies surfaced.
“I can’t protect them,” I said. “I can’t get in the way of harm.”
“They’re grown-ups,” John said.
“I know. But it’s part of me. I always protected them. They stayed in the yard until they were eighteen. They never rode a bike past the green mailbox so I could always see them. I can’t do anything now.”
“They’re fine,” he says. “They’re fine. Because you protected them.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kids grow up, but maybe their parents don’t. How much I want to hold them!
This isolation can get to you, knowing you can’t see people, can’t hug people, you already don’t see enough. But we’re doing the best we can.
Back at home, I called Mom. I call her every day. My older sister calls her twice a day, and our other three siblings call when they can. Now, probably every day, too.
“Dale, the plumber who has fixed my toilets,” she tells me, “called me this morning. He told me he was going out and did I need anything? Wine, I said. I’m running low,” because Mom is allowed one glass a day.
Cabernet, she prefers. One glass of wine with dinner. Not that she has to, she tells me. Water can be just as fine.
“Your plumber called to check on you and is getting you wine?”
“I love your town,” I say to her, not for the first time.
Then she shouted, “Come in!”
And it was Dale with her wine.
I love Dale.