Coping, Cooking, and Missing My Kid

We’ve started our spring yard clean-up. It’s taking forever.

Jack’s workday begins at 5:00 am, so he’s home by mid-afternoon while I still have a good hour or so work. Every day, he pokes his head into my “office” and says hi, then goes outside to “do yard work,” which is code for “hanging out with the neighbors.” I can see Jack through the front windows. There’s rarely much actual work happening. Instead, I hear the loud conversations he carries on across the yards with the neighbors. They keep an appropriate social-distance and yell back and forth to one another. Jack will be out there for hours, with all of the necessary tools close at hand; the lawnmower, the leaf blower, work gloves, etc. Still, other than my corner memory garden, no yard projects seemingly ever reach completion.

I can’t really complain. We have friendly, good neighbors. And everyone has to find a way to cope with staying at home. Jack has found his. Work a little. Chat a lot. Do it all again the next day. I mean really … what else have we got to do?

Me? I’m walking. Every day around lunchtime, I go outside and head toward the nearby walking path. My neighbor-friend joins me and for thirty minutes we walk, share work stories, talk about the good books we’re reading, or ponder the complexities of life before we go back home to finish the workday. This is what gets me through these days. Sometimes I walk after dinner as well, earbuds in with an audiobook streaming from the Audible app on my phone. It helps me breathe and minimizes the sense that the walls are closing in.

Now I need something to spark my interest in cooking again. Actually, it’s not the actual cooking that bothers me. I just haven’t planned meals very well lately, and without a plan, cooking feels like such a challenge! One of my weekend goals is to spend time sifting through recipes and deciding on the week’s dinners. Also, I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket (reward for participating in my company’s wellness program,) so I ordered an InstaPot. I’ve heard great things, so I’m hoping this will bring some life back to our meals. InstaPots not being considered an essential product though, I’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until it shows up on my doorstep.

Another weekend goal is to see my youngest. I’ve been extra-specially missing her this week. Our oldest son, Jaeger has stopped by a few times to pick up his mail that still comes to our address. He just moved in with his girlfriend last weekend (YAY!) so maybe he’ll officially file a change of address soon! Middle son, Ryker is living here, so I’ve been able to stay well connected with my boys. But I haven’t seen Chesney in person in … over a month? Six weeks? Feels like forever. We text a lot, call sometimes, and FaceTime now and then. I still miss her. She sent me a great picture this week though. Her transition to farm girl is coming along well!

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We’re going to try to connect this weekend, halfway between here and there. Farm Boy’s chores and the weather might dictate whether we manage to pull this off. But if all goes well, I found a park that looks good for us to have a nice social-distance picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Distance Visiting

We haven’t been able to see Jack’s mom in person since early March. She’s been in an assisted living facility since late last fall. Just before Halloween, she’d fallen at home and laid all alone on her laundry room floor for several hours, waiting for someone to realize she needed help.

I hate that this happened. And it wasn’t even the first time. This time it was a broken hip. After surgery and recuperating in a transitional care unit, Mom-in-Law and the family agreed that a senior living situation might be best. She took to her new digs easily, made some friends during her daily visits to the dining room, and all-in-all seemed to be doing much better than she had been at home. She was smiling again. She had a new enthusiasm because she had things to talk about when we visited. We all felt some peace of mind that had been lacking for a long time.

As the Coronavirus crept into the U.S., precautions were put in place at the facility. First, Jack was questioned upon entering the building a few days after our return from Mexico. Upon admitting we had been out of the country within the past fourteen days, he was told we could not come back for two weeks. (Luckily we had squeezed in one visit the day after our return from vacation before things got really serious.) Before our fourteen days were up though, the building was closed off to all visitors. And not long after that, residents were no longer allowed to leave their apartments.

We call Mom frequently, and she insists she’s fine. She says she’s not bored out of her mind and the Game Show Network keeps her entertained. She has a favorite caregiver who she mentions frequently, and that gives me some comfort. But we’ve been missing her.

Seeing the occasional story of others visiting their elderly loved ones at a window, we thought we’d try something similar. Mom’s apartment is on the backside of the building. She’s on the main level if you walk to her place through the front entrance. But the property slopes downward to the back of the building. On that side, her apartment is two floors up since the lower-level memory care apartments sit below at the ground level. However, there’s a little parking lot just beyond the back of the building which offered some promise. We made a plan with Mom, telling her we’d call when we arrived on Saturday and she could come to the window and see us while we talked on the phone. Son Ryker came along, and so did Lucy Pie. Grandma loves Lucy Pie!

The visit went well, even though it didn’t go exactly as planned. When we pulled in to the lot, Jack called and told Mom to go to the window. She said, “Okay. Just a minute.” And then she hung up.

Mom appeared in the window, without her phone, and she waved at us. We waved back. She waved again. Jack held up his phone and put it to his ear, trying to signal to her to get her phone. She waved again. “Just call her again,” I suggested. So he did.

We could tell the moment Mom heard her phone ring. She raised one finger at us as if to say, “Hold on!” And she ambled away from the window, returning shortly after she’d answered the phone. “You were supposed to stay on the line and keep the phone with you, Mom.” Jack said. “Oh,” she replied amiably. Jack put his phone on speaker and we all chatted with her for a while. A few geese were nearby, honking nervously at Lucy. Lucy pulled on the leash that Ryker held tightly and rumbled back at the geese. Mom thought this was quite funny.

Before we’d left home, I’d found an old box of sidewalk chalk in the garage and tossed it into the truck. As we chatted with Mom, I took it out and drew a few simple pictures on the asphalt, hoping she could see them. I guess it wasn’t obvious. She asked Jack what I was doing. He told her I was drawing for her. She laughed but was appreciative.

Watching us from the window required Mom to stand with her walker. She tired out after about fifteen minutes, so we said goodbye. After hanging up, Jack helped me put the finishing touches on the drawings, and before we left, we heard someone shouting from above. We looked way up to the top corner of the building where a window was open and two employees were waving and calling down to us. “Thank you! Thank you!” they said. “You guys are awesome! Can we take your picture for our FaceBook page?”

We proudly posed behind our artwork and allowed our pictures to be taken.

Those two employees made me feel so good! I realized that our efforts for Mom might brighten the day for a few others. Maybe I should get some more chalk and make this a regular thing!

Handling Things

The novelty of a reclusive lifestyle has begun to fade. I’m trying not to let my mind go too far in that direction though since the reality is this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been working hard to maintain a healthy mental balance between being responsibly informed about the impact of COVID-19 and becoming over-saturated with information, opinions, and falsehoods. I think it was Tuesday when the evening news became just too much for me. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, but I recognized the need to walk away sometimes.

Exercise helps. I work out every morning, except on Sundays. I shower, get dressed, do my hair and put on some make-up every day. I listen to an audio-book or an online sermon while I’m getting ready for my day. I’ve made a habit of saying a quick prayer while washing my hands, asking God to keep us safe, or asking for peace for those who have suffered losses. I remember that I’m fortunate to be able to continue working. At home. All of this helps. I remind myself that my struggles are far, far less than some are facing right now.

Jack and I started watching a series together on Netflix, one that was highly recommended by a friend and is very popular. I’ve struggled to stick with it lately. It’s great historical fiction, with fascinating, beautiful main characters. During normal times, I might completely lose myself in it. But some of the scenes are so graphically violent that it’s more than I can stomach. I walked away from that this week as well and started writing letters instead. When my mom passed away and we cleaned out her townhouse, one of the things I kept was a huge stash of greeting cards, the kind that charities send to their donors, I suppose in the hopes of ensuring additional donations. I chose a few colorful cards with pretty birds on the front and a thinking-of-you sentiment. I wrote to my mother-in-law and two aunts, filling the cards with chatty words and news about our family. It helped me feel connected to them, and I hope that receiving some personal mail will bring each of them a smile, especially as two of them are confined in senior living facilities. All are single and none can have visitors. Maybe I’ll make this a regular thing. For the elderly, who tend to be very lonely anyway, this must all be tremendously more difficult than it is for the rest of us.

So I’m trying to keep my sense of humor. If there’s one thing Facebook is good for, it’s the memes!ZYX

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This particular Saturday morning arrived with sunshine after a day of snow and chill. It holds the promise of a warmer day and I have plans to get outside and stretch my legs.

So we’ll keep getting through this. I’ll keep getting through this. One day at a time.