The Pandemic Diary: April 22

Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.

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April 22: I had a nightmare just before waking up. I’m not going to go into the specifics of it, but it was sort of a re-living of something awful I went through once that I wished I had handled differently. In the dream I handled it exactly the same way that I did the first time, in real life. So I woke up both shaken and pissed off at myself.

At the same time, it was one of the few days when I woke up and, instead of getting depressed upon remembering everything that was going on in the world, I woke up fully aware of what was going on in the world and felt like, OK, actually, this is preferable to what I was dreaming.


Then Rosie. Oh, Rosie.

Rosie is a five year-old calico that I got when she was a kitten. I actually got her and her two sisters, Lucy and Scully, at the same time. Along with Allison’s cat Fran that gave us four. Having four cats is the reason I got, and love, that Litter Robot I talked about the other day. Life-saver for crazy cat ladies like me.

Fran, as Allison will tell anyone who asks or who does not ask, is the best cat ever. Smart, nimble, fun, funny, and loving. Everything you want in a cat. Lucy, who we call Bear for reasons that are too silly to go into, is the biggest of the three calico sisters. She’s awesome too. Strong, fast, headstrong and beautiful. Fran and Bear are co-alpha cats, but they don’t fight or challenge each other. They coexist peacefully at the top of the house’s power structure.

Sadly, Scully died last year. She was a sweet and loving cat, but she was runty and not all-together right from the beginning. Maybe it was because of that, and because of a protective streak I have for the runty and sickly ones, that I was so drawn to her. She’d sit on my belly all day as I worked and would follow me around all the time when I was up. She was my little buddy.  Early last year, though, she stopped eating. Despite the vet’s best efforts, she withered and wasted away and just would not get better. There was just a big messy stew of genetic things at play and, in the end, we had to put her down. I’ve had a lot of cats in my life and have put a lot of cats down and I tend to have a pretty good sense of pragmatism and perspective about that kind of thing, but losing Scully broke my heart. I still have trouble talking about it.

Rosie is not runty, but she’s also never really been right. She’s obsessive in many of her behaviors and, while not high-strung in the way people usually think of pets being high-strung — she’ll just stare at the vacuum, not caring — she has a difficult time relaxing. Allison says that Rosie “just doesn’t know how to . . . be.” I think that’s the best way of putting it.

Late last year she began to have seizures. We got those under control with medication in January and she didn’t have a seizure for months, but she began to have them again this past weekend. She’s now had them every single day since they started again. We’re upping her meds but it takes time to level up in her bloodstream and it hasn’t been effective yet. Of course, if you give a cat too many anti-seizure meds they become like little lethargic zombies. The balance is hard.

This morning’s seizure happened at about 7. Unlike some cats who have seizures, Rosie does not just hit the ground and twitch. Hers cause her to run and flail about uncontrollably. She sprints into walls and knocks things over, completely unable to constrain herself. Once, last December, she ran full speed into the dryer vent and got hung up in it when her claws pierced the thin aluminum. On Tuesday she knocked into the water bowl, completely dumping it on herself and the floor. This morning she flung herself through the bottom part of the bar cart, knocking over bottles and metal cocktail shakers and waking up everyone else in the house. Thankfully she didn’t break any glass. Also, thankfully, she hasn’t hurt herself during these seizures beyond a couple of random torn claws that quickly healed.

Our vet and a neuro vet at Ohio State have examined her. Seizures in a five year-old cat either just happen — idiopathic epilepsy they call it — or they’re the result of something nasty like a brain tumor. A cat MRI pushes a couple thousand bucks and, well, that’s just not happening, so we’re assuming epilepsy. When the medicine worked for three months and she was otherwise normal, we figured it was a safe assumption. Now we’re not so sure, but we’re hoping the increased meds start to build up in her system and they stop again.

Sorry to go on so long about my cats, but given what my life has been for the past ten years, these beasts are the closest thing I have to co-workers. I’m around them more than most people and I have better conversations with them than I do with most people as well. The fact that one of them is not well — and is not well in a rather scary way — creates an added level of stress at a time when stress is already at all-time highs.


I was taking Anna to her mom’s house this afternoon when she asked me to turn into McDonald’s for a Coke. Neither her mother or I keep soda in the house and she had a hankering. While we were in the drive-thru, the idea of a Coke sounded good to me too. I went cold turkey on diet soda about eight years ago but I’ll have a regular Coke or a Dr. Pepper once or twice a year, usually at a movie. Movie theaters aren’t a thing anymore, so we both got McDonald’s Cokes.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Anna took a sip of hers and made a highly satisfied sound:

Anna: Ahhh, that sure hits different in quarantine.

Me: I guess we have to do what we can with simple pleasures.

Anna: It’s like in history when they make us read journals people kept at the time. Some kid gets, like, an orange at Christmas and goes on and on about it for five pages like it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to them.

She’s not wrong. That Coke did hit the spot. Enough to make this journal anyway.


It’s the birthday of one of our friend’s daughters. She’s six. Lockdown is a drag for everyone but it has to suck especially hard for a little kid on their birthday.

Her parents organized a little drive-by birthday parade for her. We and a bunch of other people — family members, her little friends driven in their parents’ vans, some decorated with banners and balloons — all met on the street next to theirs and formed a little birthday caravan down their block, around the cul-de-sac and back out again. Carlo has a little wooden train whistle noise maker he got when he was a kid. I brought it with us and blew it as we rolled up while Allison blared “Birthday” by The Beatles on the stereo. We stopped and handed the birthday girl a little pot of flowers and some cupcakes out the window. Later her mom sent us a video of the whole thing from their perspective. The birthday girl seemed to like the whole thing very much. She’ll probably remember that more than any of the other birthday parties she’s had or will have until she grows out of birthday parties.


We got home from the parade and made dinner. Then Allison got online to watch a movie with some of her friends. I went upstairs and watched “Harold and Maude.” The New Hollywood period is my favorite era of filmmaking, but I had somehow never seen that one. Probably because I tend to prefer the grittier or more psychologically complex flicks of the time. Give me “The Conversation” or “Fat City” or “California Split” or “Night Moves” or “The Anderson Tapes” or “Charley Varrick.” Whatever the case, I’ve always had “Harold and Maude” on my “to see eventually” list, but I always manage to find something I’d rather watch.

Tonight I couldn’t find anything I’d rather see — “Badlands,” which I also have somehow never seen was a contender, but I didn’t want to go that dark — so Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon it was. It was cute and strange in all the ways I assumed it would be cute and strange based on what I knew about it already. I enjoyed it. Cute and strange were exactly what I needed tonight. It certainly made the day end better than it began.

I watched it in bed upstairs. Rosie got on on the bed and snuggled up against me and went to sleep not long after it started. As I’m typing this, a half hour after it ended, she’s still asleep there. I hope she’s not having bad dreams. I hope she’s OK.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.