This post continues a series on our experiences under COVID-19, inspired by the realization that “we are all field collectors” in the effort to someday tell the story of what happened in 2020. The essays I post here are drawn from First Monday, First Person salons since last spring. I’m sure we all experienced a memorable series of events as the world changed last March, as Kaye did. Consider this an invitation to write your own stories of pandemic life, and to submit for publication on this blog–guidelines here.
By Kaye Ketterer
There is a Schwinn tricycle in my basement that has not been ridden for a couple months now. It was purchased for our Elena and every time she came to our house, she rode it. In bad weather she would ride it in our basement garage.
There is a child’s car seat in our car that has sat empty since March 8th.
There are child’s toys in our living room that have not been played with for months. There is also a stroller that is empty with no child to put in it and take for a stroll.
It has been since March 8thwhen I last was with our Elena. On that day we took her swimming at the YMCA. She loved to swim back and forth between Paul & me while she told us “I’m a good swimmer!” We said goodbye to her after swimming and explained that we were going to see her Auntie Sobha in Washington DC. Elena replied, “You’ll get to fly on an airplane”. I explained to her that we were driving our car to Washington DC and we’d talk with her several times while we visited Sobha.
Little did we know that the world would change so drastically, and we would not see Elena in person for over three months! Some days I felt my heart being torn apart from missing her so much.
As the days passed, we kept to a routine to give us a plan and a bit of security knowing what we had to do next. We took stock of all the books we had that we had not read and put them aside. I planned to sew aprons and cloth baskets and ordered material online at my favorite fabric store that utilized curb side pickup. We made a list of small and not so small projects we wanted to do around our house. One big project we had begun before visiting our daughter was tearing up our bathroom. We had arranged for a plumber to install a new bathtub and a person to install new tile beginning the end of March. Our son advised that we not have anyone come into our house, so we postponed the bathroom work.
So began our days of social distancing, staying quarantined at home and wearing a mask whenever we went to a drive through coffee shop, or a bit of grocery shopping. Paul & I started each day after breakfast with a walk of about two miles. We would come home and play three games of our travel size “Sequence”. It is a favorite game we always take with us when we travel, so it has lots of memories attached to it. The rest of the morning I would sew or prepare cards to send to my friends and relatives. After lunch we would take a short nap, then up again to read for a bit. Every day at 3:00pm I played my accordion or piano and at 4:00pm I would do an exercise routine and at 4:30pm I would read while Paul watched Jeopardy.
At times, I felt adjusted and OK with my “new world”. Other times I hit a new low that left me sinking in sadness for a world I did not like. I wondered about all the children and families who did not have the life I did and what they were able to do. I knew the challenges my son and his wife faced with Elena while trying to work from home and take care of her. With childcare centers closed, what were the children doing and how were they being cared for? With hardly any positive, honest leadership from our government both state and national, I felt we were doomed!!
Not seeing Elena was the hardest of all. We faced time with Elena every day and she always wanted me to read her a few books. I did video myself several times reading to her and sent it to her so she could see it as many times as she wished. We got used to telling each other about our day and talking about the animals we would see in our neighborhoods. Sometimes Elena would take the phone from her parents and tell us to play hide and seek. She would put the phone in her dresser drawer and say “SHHH” to us and then open the drawer and say, “I found you!” It was fun seeing how she created things to do with us through FaceTime, but she would eventually say, “We have to say goodbye,” and my sadness would seep in again.
And then George Floyd was killed, and protests began demanding change. Justifiable protests that need a real, response of action, not just congressional hearings, and lip service! My oh my, why can’t we just get simple things accomplished in our country?! It seems like an easy solution to make things just in our culture. For a start, simply reduce the military budget and everyone could have health insurance and public schools could be better funded. There are a few legislators that get it, but there are more legislators that enjoy their abundant life and don’t get it. So, to ease my frustration, I continue to call and email my state and federal officials, even though I’m not sure it has any impact at all.
In my personal life, I continue to walk every morning and play three games of Sequence with Paul. Our bathroom is scheduled for a new tub on July 14, with new tile being installed beginning on July 15. I am fortunate and my life goes on. We are seeing Elena a few times each week now. We are seeing her parents as well and it feels almost normal when we’re with them. It is summer and being with Elena picking cucumbers or peppers or watching her in her “summer pool” is the best! Yet with the Fall looming and knowing public schools may return to in-person learning gives me a lot of anxiety for my son and daughter-in-law as well as Elena going to 4-year-old kindergarten.
It seems things in our country are a mess and they aren’t getting any better. I hang on to a small ray of hope for the future, yet I am cynical. Money and power mean more to some than keeping people healthy and safe. Where will we end up? How do we get ourselves out of this mess? I am beyond angry and sad. Who can help us? Who really cares?
© 2020 Kaye Ketterer
Kaye lives in Monona, Wisconsin, and keeps her country roots close to her heart. Along with writing, her interests include music, traveling, children, and the elderly.