No One is Immune
Staying together even when apart
By Morgan Baker
Ten days ago, I went to the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge with my college roommate who was visiting from New Jersey. We saw these beautiful, delicately detailed painted Japanese screens from the Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection. We marveled at the swans, peacock, clouds and hills. We were transported into a different world for a few minutes.
Now, mere days later, we are in another world altogether. I am in self-quarantine with my husband because he caught a bad cold with a cough, sore throat and body aches. Without a fever, however, he didn’t fall into the category that qualified for one of the rare tests out there, even though he asked. We were told to self-isolate by our doctors, and practice social distancing.
We sleep in separate bedrooms, and not just because he snores. We are often on different floors doing our work at-home. I am putting my college courses up online as is every other college teacher out there – which I might add is rather challenging – and Matt is working on his communication skills from the couch or his office downstairs. When we meet up to watch TV at the end of the day, he sits in the rocking chair at one end of the room, and I’m more than six feet away from him on the sofa.
The key, it seems to me, is to find things to do together and things to do alone.
I read an article that this together time can break or make relationships. The key, it seems to me, is to find things to do together and things to do alone. I’m going to start a new baby quilt for my goddaughter soon. Clean your homes. Read. Make puzzles and play cards if you can sit far enough apart from each other.
Let others take care of you if you can’t take care of yourself. We have been lucky that our dog-walker/tenant who lives downstairs takes our dog, Mayzie, out every day for us and has delivered groceries and medicine to us. His dog-walking clients have dropped off, however, just like so many people’s businesses. Our younger daughter who is an actor but pays her rent with her survival jobs in retail is now holed up in her apartment across town because the shops she works in are shuttered. She is going to learn how to apply for unemployment.
The technology I’m usually afraid of, is suddenly my friend. I am Facetiming both my daughters; the one nearby and the one in L.A. I have Zoomed with colleagues at school and will Zoom with my students. I call my father in England and my stepfather regularly. I’ve emailed and texted friends to see how they’re doing. My trainer is going to send me exercises to do at home – let’s see if I really do them without his booming voice directing me to do more squats and butterfly abs.
If there’s anything this COVID-19 has shown me, it’s how important relationships are between friends and family.
My father is fresh out of the hospital recovering from pneumonia and other complications, with a weakened immune system and is vulnerable and scared. We are all vulnerable and scared. When I hear my husband cough in the room down the hall from where I sit, I wonder if it is just a cold. Even so, we can’t go out because we can’t run the risk of giving a cold to someone who is immunosuppressed.
I am grateful, however, for the time I had with my father before this all came crashing down on us, when my husband, daughter and I visited him and his partner, Jill, in England and celebrated his 87th birthday at a teashop in Ashburton. He and I had coconut cake, while Ellie and Jill had Lemon Meringue, and Matt had chocolate.
I am appreciative for the visit from my college roommate, Lucy, and the walks, talks and wine we had, and cards we played. She beat me at every game.
If there’s anything this COVID-19 has shown me, it’s how important relationships are between friends and family. See them when you can, reach out to them when you can’t. Take a lesson from Italy where they’re singing from their apartment windows. Reach out to your neighbors, friends and family even if it’s yelling at them across the street as I did the other day.
Saying good-bye at the end of every semester for the past thirty-some years is always bittersweet for me. This good-bye was wrenching. There was no closure.
Even my students who had to pack up and move out of their dorms and apartments without the chance to say good-bye to their friends or experience their last classes or perhaps even graduation for the seniors, appreciate hearing from me. I love being in the classroom with my students. Saying good-bye at the end of every semester for the past thirty-some years is always bittersweet for me. This good-bye was wrenching. There was no closure. There was no final class to play games and eat brownies. So I am making an effort to email them frequently just to check in. Connections matter at a time like this.
These are common stories in uncommon times. No one is immune to COVID-19. We are all in it together, apart.
About the Writer
Morgan Baker is the managing editor of The Bucket. After a year in Hawaii, she is back in Cambridge, where her new adventure is adding a puppy to her family. She teaches writing at Emerson College. Her work can be found in The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and The Brevity Blog, among other publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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