By Janice Llanes Fabry
It’s the little things that keep us going when the big things crumble all around us. It’s resurrecting reliable routines, while coming up with new ones. It’s welcoming throwbacks, while embracing new technology. It’s purposefully turning off the news and turning on our Kindles.
How relieved I am that our son Jason and his fiancée Allie, like so many millennials, moved in with us from their apartment in New York City. They work remotely by day and join us in the evenings. Having a family to cook and set the table for every night sure trumps having more dishes to wash. It seems both my husband Jan and son had Covid-19 with mild symptoms early on. While Jan had a fever and cough, Jason lost his sense of smell entirely for ten days. However, we can’t be sure because five weeks later we’re still waiting for the call back from the coronavirus hotline for testing.
By now we’ve built quite a repertoire of diversions. We play card games, like Spades and Hearts, and make our own pizza. We’re going down the list of “Hollywood Reporter’s” top 100 movies of all time and warm up by the fire pit on cool evenings. Every night at dinner, we talk about our “highs” and “lows” of the day, thanks to Jason reviving an old family tradition. My high a couple of days ago was a Zoom book group session. My low was a trip to the grocery store.
I decided to go to Whole Foods’ early courtesy hour for seniors. (Turning 60 last fall was coming in handy.) Proud of myself for having what I thought was a flawless pandemic protocol in place, I diligently left my handbag in the trunk to avoid getting coronavirus on it (I read that’s a thing). I tucked the grocery list Allie had compiled for me in my pocket, along with a credit card, car keys, and my phone with the Whole Foods app. Armed with mask, a scarf, Latex gloves, and my own grocery bags, I dutifully got on line with whom I thought were other seniors waiting out in the cold.
Assuming the store was letting only a few of us old folks in at a time in the name of social distancing, I ended up waiting over a half-hour needlessly as I discovered later that I should have gone right to the front door. No worries, what’s the rush? By that time, however, my mask and scarf had inched up so much that my peripheral vision was impaired. At one point I placed a bag of potatoes in the wrong cart. Then upon reaching for the endive, another shopper reprimanded me for getting into her space. After a muffled apology under my mask, I soldiered on.
Who knew Allie’s handwriting was so microscopic? Of course, my reading glasses were in my handbag in the car. Was that “diced” or “dried” tomatoes? I filled my cart by taking my best guess down every aisle. After waiting six feet behind the shopper ahead of me for some time, packing all the groceries myself because cashiers apparently can’t help customers who bring their own bags, and obsessing about not touching my face, I decided I’d let my cupboards run bare before returning anytime soon.
I sure welcomed a glass of wine with dinner that night. It has become a ritual to do a wine tasting (just one bottle I might add) and test our palates against the Vivino wine app experts. We even fill out a rating form the kids printed up because who doesn’t have the time to talk about the nose, body, acidity, and tannins?
It’s comforting to see that most of us are doing the best we can to stay positive and involved. Families are making masks and communities are collecting iPads so Covid-19 patients in isolation wards can connect with loved ones. Tuning into heartwarming videos of rousing cheers for nurses and doctors on the front lines is the best medicine.
We compartmentalize the unbearable side of the pandemic because it’s the only way to get past the daily death toll and the mounting food insecurity as a result of unemployment. Then there’s the collateral damage. My best friend’s 36-year-old son, whose joyous wedding we attended last fall, died of an overdose; he couldn’t get the help he desperately sought because of the scarcity of recovery meetings.
Such a devastating loss brings everything else into perspective. I’m grateful my family is healthy, including my 84-year-old dad. My long walks and bike rides with Jan, discovering Otter Creek in Mamaroneck, and exploring new pathways in the Marshlands, offer a fresh-air reprieve.
FaceTiming with my grandchildren is a saving grace. We share story time on a portal Jason taught me how to use. I record myself and text them a mini-yoga session daily. The oldest kids are only 2½, so they’re delighted with one Downward Dog and an accompanying “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” (a throwback for sure). On Easter Sunday, we did a social distancing drive-by with sparse Easter baskets in hand. No hugs and kisses, but so much hope.