Fumbling for a New Normal

Monday, March 9. I pull up into the pickup zone at my kids’ school and watch as my daughter trudges out to our van. Something’s wrong–her face is pale, and she’s frowning. My fears are confirmed when she climbs in. “I feel sick, Mom.” Worry curdles in my stomach. She has a big week this week: four evening dress rehearsals and two performances for her ballet school’s ensemble. Now is not the time to get sick, but when we get home, her temperature is 101.3.

Tuesday, March 10. I keep her home from school, sending only her older brother. The other two brothers are home, one a toddler and the other my lone homeschool student this year. My daughter lies on the couch, misery etched across her face, a “puke” bucket lingering nearby in case it’s needed. “Mom, will I still get to dance in RED if I miss the rehearsal tonight?” I don’t know the answer, and I’m afraid to find out. She’s been working on this dance for months. By the end of the day, her fever is up to 104.5 and missing her ballet is no longer my biggest worry.

Wednesday, March 11. I call the pediatrician first thing. After describing the symptoms, the nurse says, “Sounds like the flu. Keep her home and make sure she gets plenty of rest and fluids.” My heart sinks. Her grandparents were supposed to be coming from Connecticut the next day to be here for the ballet, but there’s no way we can risk them getting sick. Especially now that my throat is scratchy and I’m running a low grade fever. On the positive side, my daughter’s fever breaks midday and doesn’t return. My husband runs out to the store to pick up a few things because rumors are swirling about the coronavirus hitting Michigan, and he wants to be prepared.

Thursday, March 12. Even though I’m feeling a lot worse and the toddler is now sick, my daughter is up and off the couch. We do school work at home and I mentally practice putting her hair up in a bun for her evening dress rehearsal. She’ll have been fever-free for 24 hours, and even though she’s still tired, I think she’ll be able to make it. Then the email comes from her dance studio after lunch. The governor has ordered no group meetings larger than 100 people due to coronavirus. RED has been cancelled. My daughter is crushed, but I feel like I’ve already been grieving this loss for the past three days.

Friday, March 13. I wake up to a 6 AM text from the kids’ school. The governor has closed all Michigan schools through spring break. Relief washes through me at the thought we won’t be exposed to coronavirus right on the heels of the flu. My husband has now come down with a fever but mine appears to be gone, so I drive my oldest son to his school and together we clean out his and my daughter’s lockers, bringing home everything. Snow gear, pencil boxes, textbooks, scented erasers, Latin flashcards. It has an air of finality that makes my stomach hurt.

Saturday, March 14. I’m afraid to check my email. Every time I do, there’s another cancellation. Another bit of normal life stripped away, until it’s just the six of us in our house, fighting off lingering coughs and stuffy noses and wondering when it will be safe to leave. We missed out on the rush for toilet paper, a fact I’m acutely reminded of every time I check social media. Everyone’s talking about self-isolating, but we’ve already been doing that for a week.

Sunday, March 15. We have our first live, online church service. It’s a beautiful message about God’s holiness and reminds me that He is in control, but at the same time I feel like we’re grasping for normal in the midst of worldwide chaos unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m feeling much better, though, so I spend the afternoon reading for a critique partner and working on revisions for one of my manuscripts. Maybe I can get back into a good writing routine this week.

Friday, March 20. We’ve survived the first week of school at home. As somebody who homeschooled full-time up until this year (ah, the irony…), it’s been a fairly easy transition, although between the schoolwork and my lingering fatigue, that writing routine hasn’t happened. The kids have taken everything in stride far better than the adults, maybe because we feel more keenly the loss of all the expected spring activities. But they are complaining about our empty fridge (it’s been 10 days since anyone went to the store), so I decide it’s time to brave the world and go grocery shopping. It takes me over four hours to go to Target and Costco, wipe down all the packaging with bleach water, and put everything away.

Sunday, March 22. Online church again, and this time my husband falls asleep during the service. He has a sore throat and cough again, and I have no idea if it it’s lingering flu or Something Potentially Much Worse. As the day goes by, I start to feel a bit of tightness in my chest, but the four of us who had the flu before all still have coughs, so it’s impossible to know what’s going on. Besides, we’ve been holed up for two weeks already. How could we have gotten exposed to the coronavirus?

Monday, March 23. My husband is feeling worse and needs extra sleep. Thankfully it’s his university’s spring break, so he has fewer responsibilities for work. I’ve been reading a book on Mother Teresa with one of my kids, and I can’t help marveling at her faith. No matter what need she sees among the poor of India, her simple answer is always the same. God will provide.

Wednesday, March 25. We’ve slogged through three more days of homeschooling and I realize that I’m having a harder time catching my breath when I’m reading to the kids. My husband’s cough has gotten worse, and I’m feeling the weight of caring for a sick spouse and managing four kids alone. I haven’t even touched my laptop in days let alone tried to write. “Normal” feels like a concept for other people, or maybe just the me of the past. Googling “Covid-19 symptoms” or “shortness of breath” is a stupid idea, because now my chest feels tight too. What happens if my husband and I both end up in the hospital? Who takes care of our four potentially sick kids? Finally I give in and call my doctor’s office. They tell me there aren’t enough tests for mild cases, so assume we have it, self-quarantine, and feel free to head into the ER if my breathing gets so bad I feel it’s an emergency. Thanks, that’s very reassuring. I think of Mother Teresa and remember, no matter what happens, God will provide.

Friday, March 27. Lying in bed is boring. It’s one of those things I dream about when I’m spending day after day making lunches, cleaning the floor, changing the toddler’s diaper, and teaching kids, but right now all I want is to be healthy. Thankfully my husband is on the mend, so I’ve been able to rest for the past two days, and I can feel my breathing getting better all the time. I catch up on reading Middlemarch for my book club, and I even start drafting this blog post in my mind.

Saturday, March 28. We’ve essentially been home for three weeks now, and we’ve been sick almost the entire time. “Normal” is so far out of my reach, it’s hard to remember what it was like to go places and hug people. But every day I see us getting better, and I keep finding small moments that bring a smile to my face. Our family has been busy this year, far too busy, and now we have this beautiful gift of time together. The kids’ teachers have gone above and beyond to reach out to their students, and we’ve been blessed by the abundance of free resources available online. Watching the live otter camera from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, doing an art project together from a teacher’s video, learning a new dance move through my daughter’s studio Facebook group.

These days are special in their own way, and it is their difficulty that makes the good moments all the more joyful and sweet. I take consolation as I think about all the generations who have gone before us and faced unimaginable hardships, and emerged changed but victorious on the other side. We’ll pull through this experience too. God will provide.

Header image: Pexels.com, CC0 license.

3 thoughts on “Fumbling for a New Normal

  1. Pingback: Four Tips for Staying Creative During Tough Times | Kellie Michelle Parker

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