He Said/She Said: The End of the Beginning

She Said: My husband spent the morning researching every documented COVID symptom, and then he called the doctor. The doctor insisted I take a COVID test immediately. Their instructions were “absolutely do not come inside the building,” so I stood in the parking lot wearing my pajamas, the doctor and one nurse suited up like they were attending to a nuclear reactor in distress. It was Thursday before Memorial Day.

He Said: She was sick as a dog, but I knew in my heart that she hadn’t been around anyone and that nobody had been more careful about not exposing themselves to the virus than she had been. However, all the symptoms were there and, like all things in life, our minds play this game that convinces something is what it’s not.

To be sure, I made the appointment for a drive-thru Covid test in the Walmart parking lot so we could get an answer. Then I got an appointment with our family doctor instead, and what an experience that was. It was like buying drugs on the streets of Chicago. Come down the ally, park behind the office, honk your horn three times, flash your lights, and we’ll come out and meet you. And we did just that.

I had made the appointment with the family doctor because I knew it would take 3-5 business days for the drive-thru to give us the results, while the family doctor said he’d have it the next day.

She Said: He slept on the sofa. I never got out of the bed. Between fits of sleep, I thought about all the things I wouldn’t see if I succumbed to this stupid virus. The doctor had told me, “I’ll call you tomorrow one way or the other,” and at least that was reassuring. But there was no call the next day, and I realized there wouldn’t be an answer now until Tuesday because of the holiday.

I called twice on Tuesday before the answer finally came back: negative. By this time I was already feeling better and the news was epically anti-climatic.

It’s not easy to social distance in a small cottage, and now I can really appreciate folks that have to isolate themselves in their bedroom for days or weeks.

We’ve decided my sudden illness was probably food poisoning from the leftovers I’d had for lunch. No more leftovers during lockdown. Crisis averted, and it’s the end of that part of the story, thankfully.

In 1942, when the allies won a decisive, hard-fought victory over the Nazis in North Africa, Winston Churchill tempered the welcome good news with this caution: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

He Said: It took some experimenting with new ingredients, and learning to simply be without other things, but we’ve adapted to ordering groceries online every two weeks. I miss the grocery store. It was my ‘garden’ and it had been taken away. Then we ran out of wine.

Dark chocolate and wine are must-have items in our house and that required a trip to Trader Joe’s. One of us would have to venture out into this scary new world. Guess who?

I wore a mask, kept hand sanitizer handy, and went early morning. It wasn’t so terrible or scary. God bless the Trader Joe associates – they whisked everybody through social distancing and the shelves were packed. We had pre-agreed that we should only do this every three weeks since it was such a higher risk activity. But I found it was great to get out for a while, and boy having those treats and wine make sheltering easier.

She Said: I’ve cut my own hair a few times. Each session spans several days, some with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. And from several different mirrors around the house since every mirror reveals a different error. I’m getting the hang of it though. I think.

Beautiful outfits hang in the closet unworn, there’s no place for high heels, and I’ve sort of become intolerant of clothes I don’t really like. I don’t miss wearing make-up, although I have started wearing earrings and a fancy top sometimes just for dinner.

We’ve discovered that it’s possible to buy groceries for two weeks at time. It was a new wild theory for my husband who prefers to shop a little every day. Toilet paper was always on the grocery list, but out of stock for the first two months. One of the InstaCart shoppers brought us two rolls from her personal stash one day. She told me she didn’t know how desperate we might be. It was the kind of generosity and thoughtfulness that floods your heart with gratitude. The most amazing people shop for our groceries and then drive them to our doorstep so that we can isolate ourselves from this virus, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.

About three months into lockdown I summoned the nerve to go to the garden center. Aside from one doctor’s appointment that didn’t get cancelled, the garden center is the only other place I’ve left home for since early March. I guess that speaks to my priorities.

Sometimes I talk to the caretaker of the native garden next door. We swap plants from our gardens and talk gardening-talk all from a safe distance. A few weeks ago we (bravely) invited friends to sit with us in the Adirondack chairs in the back garden, and it was nice to just talk at length in person. Otherwise, it’s been an “I love you from afar” existence.

“The best time to reach me by phone is text message.”

Anonymous Introvert

Lockdown is a refuge for introverts. It’s the perfect excuse not to be social. We all have this thing in common though: we’re living through a pandemic. Sure, everyone approaches it differently. Some of our neighbors don’t seem to have changed their lifestyle at all, others are in a similar lockdown mode as us, and there’s a few in between. But we’re all in this thing together, and it’s made me feel more connected to people the world over. We have more in common than we may have realized before coronavirus. Who doesn’t worry about their kids, our parents, and whether we can survive financially? I’ve realized that I’m much more comfortable interacting with people knowing we have all of these shared experiences. Maybe it’s taken a lockdown to bring me out of my shell.

He Said: Other parts of sheltering in place took getting used to as well. Socializing was never a big part of our life but staying in contact with family and friends were new experiences. Marci finished her Master Gardener certification on line via Zoom and we’ve videoed with our kids. Our son, Lance, had his gender reveal for their first baby via video with a puff of pink powder in a hockey puck that he gave a mighty slap shot to.

Lance was on a waiting list for elective surgery to repair a torn ACL during the first few months of the pandemic. He managed that slap shot while wearing a full leg brace no problem.

Our youngest son and his new wife were on a six month sabbatical in South America and Europe when the pandemic started. We followed them from Mexico, Peru to Argentina, and then Spain and the U.K. It was nail biting at times, but they got home and after two weeks in quarantine they went on to California to finish their adventure.

We are now into July and our stay-at-home order has remained in place. We still use InstaCart, and the Walgreens drive-thru when I’ve forgotten something from the grocery order, and I venture out to Trader Joe’s for ‘necessities,’ although now just once a month. I have even found my own inner gardener and planted my version of a victory garden with all sorts of vegetables. I bought an outdoor stove online so we keep our kitchen cooler this summer, and I’ve commandeered part of the She Shed so I can still bike daily on a trainer with our local gym closed. Life is pretty normal, all things considered.

To say we have adapted to this way of life is an understatement. We don’t feel we’re missing much. I do miss date night, but Marci has balanced that by dressing for dinner some evenings.

It’s comfortable to be together and know that we can still stay in touch with friends and family. We have even done limited entertaining in our backyard with all the proper social distancing protocols.

As I watch and read the news, it seems like this virus has a heinous choke hold on us. Our remote county started with 2 cases in May and now we’re up to 109.

We count our blessings as we see what Covid has wrought on our country and the world. I realize that a successful lockdown is for the fortunate, and we do feel lucky. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if we had a job during the pandemic, or if we had children at home. But for us, if this is the new normal, it’s not all bad. Don’t get me wrong, we still have our wanderlust, but for the foreseeable future we are quite happy.

I think I am surprised by how content I am. Maybe that’s all I ever needed was a stay-at-home order.

Until his final days, Milton Glaser, the 91-year-old graphic designer behind the iconic “I ♥ NY” logo, was still thinking about how his work could help his city.

He had been working on a new design inspired by the pandemic: a graphical treatment of the word “Together” that he hoped to distribute to public school students across the city and, eventually, the country.

In one of his last interviews before his death, Glaser discussed the project and how he wanted it to evoke “the idea that we have something in common.”

Wilton Glaser (June 26, 1929 – June 26, 2020)