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, though 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.
March 19: I’ve been in a weird, dumb fight with my dad since early December. I cannot stress how weird and dumb it is, but just know that it means we have not spoken to each other for a long time. It’s not the first time this has happened and, after all of these years, I’m something of a pro at dealing with it. Again: cannot stress how dumb it all is.
I am talking to my mom, still. Both she and he are over 70 and both she and he have compromised immune and/or respiratory systems. This pandemic is basically tailor-made to get them. Thankfully, however, they’re pretty prepared and pretty savvy.
My mom quit her job — she was a part time cashier at Home Depot — several weeks ago to stop interacting with the public. They have always been the sorts to stockpile things, so their very large garage freezer and very large pantry was full well before other people started freaking out. They are physically self-sufficient, mentally competent and live together with a cat in their manageably-sized house and have no need to venture out. Apart from me catching my mom making one quick trip to the store last week — and reading her the riot act about it — they’ve behaved like they should be behaving in a pandemic designed to kill them. I’m more worried about them getting on each other’s nerves than I am worried of them getting sick, frankly.
I ran to the store again yesterday — just to pick up a prescription, not to shop for food — when my phone rang. It was my mom. My dad had cooked a couple slabs of ribs and wanted us to have some. My first impulse, given that we’re pretty well stocked, was to say no, but I stopped myself in mid-“thanks but no thanks” and accepted. The kids love his ribs and it was a nice treat for them for dinner last night. It was also a nice gesture. I don’t know if it was intended to be a gesture, but it was a nice one regardless.
Since I was at the store I asked if she needed anything. At first she said no, but then I heard my dad in the background mention ground beef. Unlike Giant Eagle on Tuesday night, Kroger had a decent amount of meat, limit three packs of fresh stuff. I got them a three-pound pack of ground beef — that freezer will come in handy — which will keep them in sloppy joes or cabbage rolls or whatever the hell it is they cook with ground beef.
We devised a method of handing it off that avoided contact. She would drive over — they really do need a means of getting off of each other’s nerves for a few minutes — and call me en route. I’d leave the ground beef on the chair on the front porch, she’d show up, leave the ribs on the porch, and leave. Presto: social distancing with my mother.
When she pulled up I opened a window and yelled at her: “Thanks a lot, Typhoid Mary! Now get the hell out of here before I start shooting!”
She laughed. And left a bigger bag than she’d need just to bring a slab of ribs over. When she left I went out and got it. Inside, in addition to the ribs, were a box of latex gloves, which my dad also stockpiles for some reason, and a six-pack of toilet paper, taken from one of the big Costco 30-packs they usually buy. We’re still pretty good on TP for now, but our burn rate, so to speak, is a lot greater than theirs. Either way, it was very nice of them. In these times it’s akin to leaving bricks of gold on someone’s doorstep.
A few minutes ago I texted my dad and thanked him:
I guess we’re talking again.
I was in a sad mood before I went to bed last night. Thinking about it, I realized it was the first Wednesday I haven’t bowled in a long time. I joined a bowling league because Allison was, quite reasonably, concerned that I was not socializing enough with people outside of my very small sphere. I’m not sure if I miss the socializing all that much, but I did miss the bowling.
As I’ve written in the past, bowling was a big, big part of my childhood and, at times, it has been a lifeline of sanity for me. When I last bowled on a league — when I was 17, which is almost 30 years ago — my average was 168. After seven weeks on a league at 46 it’s only about 150. It’s the spare shooting mostly. The radar has been off, particularly to my right. Last week — Pandemic Wednesday — was kind of a breakthrough. Way better in that department. I somehow just found the 1991 muscle memory again. I shot two pretty damn good games and a third respectable one. I figured I turned a corner. Then all that news hit and, bam. It’s only bowling I guess. In light of everything else going on I was feeling absolutely stupid missing it that much, but I do.
I went upstairs to bed. Allison was already in bed, on her phone, watching a livestream of one of her favorite EDM artists, Illenium, who was writing and recording a new song from his home studio. We’re in a terrible time but there are little blessings. Little things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. They don’t make up for *gestures generally* but it’s still worth noting.
This morning someone I know sent a Facebook blast with all kinds of conspiracy theories about the military taking the streets and things like that. Stuff that has been widely debunked. It’s enraging, but I’m trying not to be enraged. People are afraid and confused. We’re hardwired to believe what we read and what we are told and the critical skills to sort all that out are learned, not innate. It’s also the case that, as I mentioned earlier in this diary, trust in our leaders and official sources is probably at an all-time low. When you’re lied to and gaslit on a daily basis, you’re less likely to sit and listen to a press conference from the governor or, God help us, the president, and go on what they say. Rumor — especially if it reinforces our predispositions — is so appealing in an age in which objective information has been so devalued.
Trump went on TV at 11:30 this morning. Allison turned it on. I really have no desire to watch him, basically ever, but the living room is not just my office now, so I don’t say anything. Trump comes on and says “it’s too bad” that there is a global pandemic killing thousands, because “we never had an economy so good . . .” And talks about business, business, business. He’s completely ill-equipped for this job but he also doesn’t even care about it. It’s enraging. I make a number of grumpy comments and Allison turns the TV off. I know she just wants information, but honestly, it’s not going to come from him. If it does it’s not going to be accurate. Either way it’s going to be filtered through layers of propaganda and surrounded by lies. Things are bad enough to devote any mental energy to that piece of shit.