a graduation parade
in a pandemic
a graduation parade
in a pandemic
It’s true that I am this tree here, standing starkly against the plains landscape with the out-of-reach mountains in the background. Once so vibrant, unafraid, now resting half-dead and waiting for the insects to burrow themselves into its bark.
This tree, still a viable perch for anxious hawks searching for field mice. This lonely cottonwood, defiantly naked in the sun while its smaller counterparts are beginning to blossom with the warm rays of May.
This tree framed by perfectly puffy white clouds and that ever-blue Colorado sky and the yellow and green grasses reaching from its roots to its branches, never able to reach far enough.
This tree, waiting for the right moment to release itself to the Earth, to decompose amongst the ashes of its ancestors, to not stand so high, so solitary, so isolated from its surroundings.
And you may not see it for what it is or what it once was: A testimony to strength in a harsh environment. A root ball so tenacious it stretches beyond the creek that feeds it, far into the wetlands, searching for those snow-capped peaks, the very peaks that feed it with their snowmelt.
And you may not think it should still stand, rather that it should fall and become a nurse log for the surrounding saplings.
Instead, it cuts into the horizon, carving a definitive form made from a lifetime of gnarled limbs into the sky, ready to fight until the sky falls, or it falls.
Whichever comes first.
Should I continue to measure quarantine in days, or should this new life be measured in weeks now? Weeks since we’ve been to work. To school. Weeks since I went to the grocery store without spending $300-$500 trying to stock up for when we’re really going to need it.
Weeks since I made it through one day without crying.
Let’s try a countdown of weeks. Weeks until his job ends: three. Weeks until I have to spend 24% of my take-home pay on health insurance: four. Weeks until we run out of money based on this: twenty. Weeks until I will feel safe about seeing and kissing my husband, as he will no longer be an essential worker and risking his life every day: five.
Weeks until I make it one day without crying: zero.
But I thought I was done crying! I was writing gratitude posts, 10×10, one hundred goddamn things to be grateful for! On the final day, I spent hours reviewing our budget, stupidly thinking we could manage for up to a year on our savings, our tenant money, and my salary.
And what is $260×2, the bottom left plan, the only one we could afford? It’s $520. And add in dental and vision, it was going to be $650 a month, and we could just. Barely. Manage.
But it was a lie, a lie to myself, a bait-and-switch chart from the school district, a slap in the face at 5:00am this morning when I decided to open enroll. No, not $260 per paycheck. Here is the real price:
For the cheapest plan for my family. The plan with a $7000 deductible. So… other than a singular wellness-check visit to the doctor (should I be grateful this is included?), we will pay $12,000 a year in monthly premiums and then another $7000 if anything happens, and then 30% of the rest until we reach the out-of-pocket max of $12,700. Ummmm… shouldn’t the out-of-pocket max INCLUDE the $12,000 a year already spent on monthly premiums? (Asking for a friend).
What could I do? What could I possibly do? I looked on the Colorado Marketplace website. On the initial page, I experienced another bait-and-switch: Let me tell you, we’re between tiers 2 and 3, and we have a family of five, not 3-4 like in the picture. Yay! It was looking good! We could get a premium tax credit!
So I started to fill out the application. And guess what?
Do I need to tell you? Or have you lived in the Land of the Free for all of your life and already know what a FUCKING LIE THAT IS?
$1409 per month with an $8200 deductible. I couldn’t even make up these prices if I tried!
Dear Colorado and Billionaire Health Insurance CEOs: Would I be ON THIS FUCKING PAGE if I were shopping for health insurance for MYSELF ONLY? Because of COURSE it’s affordable for myself only! And of course, for myself only, according to my beautiful school district blue and green chart, I would be MAKING $11 a month, so yeah, it meets your goddamn threshold of “9.78%.” (But don’t you love how, even on their website, they put the word “Affordable” in quotes because they know it’s a fucking joke?)
Let’s return to the beautiful school district chart that shows “DPS Contributions” and I STUPIDLY thought that meant that DPS was footing part of the bill, but what they REALLY mean is the $422/month on my paycheck labeled “Cash for Benefits” which is unofficially part of my take-home salary. So their contribution is really MY contribution, or, in laymen’s terms, MY FUCKING MONEY.
And if we don’t pay? If we don’t give in to this bullshit in the midst of a pandemic?
You guessed it. We’d lose everything. Because we all know that in the Land of the Free, all it takes is one emergency room visit, one contraction of a deadly virus, one broken bone, to lead the uninsured straight to bankruptcy.
So, after seventeen years of teaching, two degrees, one advanced certification, and having seriously ONE form of debt (a mortgage, not a single student loan, not even a car payment), after working my way and paying my way through those degrees, after keeping my children out of daycare and living on a way-less teacher’s salary for eight years, after EVERYTHING…
We still can’t live on my salary.
How many weeks has it been that we’ve been trapped at home? That my husband has been going to work, entering businesses and homes and fucking medical clinics without a mask (because his company doesn’t provide masks) or any form of PPE, risking his and all of our lives before being laid off?
How many more fucking weeks will it be before he can find a job in this market?
Coronatine, Day Forty-seven. Week 7, almost 8.
Why does it feel like day one thousand, week ninety?
Because we live in the Land of the Free, where every life costs a fortune.
these organized shelves
ready to be fully stocked
with his last paychecks:
they represent us,
our Coronatine journal,
worry turned to work
work we’re still doing
with tiny pics on small screens
working for our kids
our creative kids
with a cat-house-building night
paw prints, love, and all
“new normal” softens
as we make the best of fate
on day thirty-eight
More than a month. We’re more than a month into this. Here goes day six of ten things I’m thankful for during this daily hell.
How lucky am I, thirty-two days into this hell? How lucky are we?
This actually wasn’t that hard to write after all. Be grateful.
Not gonna lie, this is getting harder day by day. But here are today’s ten things I love about you, Coronatine.
Here we go. It’s a Saturday, so it’s automatically easier for me to write this because my husband is at home. All you all out there who get tired of your spouse’s company, I’m sorry. I never get tired of mine.
Ten things for today that I am grateful for during the quarantine.
This is why I really don’t mind having my husband at home. He makes my quarantine so much more tolerable.
Day 2 of Quarantine Gratitude. It’s been a pretty rough day, and I’m disappointed by online learning for Newcomers, so this is going to be hard, but I am trying here!
I’ve been bitching a lot (and crying a lot), so here goes: ten good things about quarantine for ten days straight.
No promises. But I will try.
The day begins with this chicken lining the bottom layer of an IKEA/Costco bag beneath the bagels I’d actually been searching for, beneath its canned chicken counterparts, beneath a giant double box of mini-wheats.
This $22 worth of chicken, sitting at the bottom of a bag for five days and not put away into the freezer. This double-grocery trip, gloves and mask on, this bucket of Pinesol and hot water ready on the porch, me carefully removing the packaging, carefully scrubbing down every last item with the cloth rag and my made-up formula, carefully trying not to bring this virus into my house.
This chicken that I asked my oldest daughter to put away.
In my mind is everything: her loss of prom. Of not being in the first and only musical of her life. Of her not lettering in dance (her only chance of a letter). Of her high school days abruptly ending on March 13 because she’s already signed up to take all her classes next year at the community college. Of her missing AP Physics with the same pain she’d miss a boyfriend.
In my mind is everything: her words to me last week, completely out of the blue: “I’m moving in with my friend and her parents the second I turn 18.” Her friend since kindergarten running off with a boy in the middle of the night, her mother’s frantic phone calls at 3:30am, and my daughter’s candid retort the next night over dinner, after the friend had been found: “I’ve thought about running away so many times. So many times.”
In my mind is everything: soon to be without a second income, soon to be without decent health insurance, I’ve been stocking up on every last thing so that my storage room looks more like a second Costco and my freezer is (should be) filled with this goddamned chicken, and why can’t my ever-so-smart daughter do the simplest thing, show me some semblance of respect?
Everything spills out over tears that I can’t control before it’s even 7:30. Everything, everything: the wish to run away, the wish to move out, the haven’t-I-tried-to-be-good-to-you, the you-know-I-love-you-so-why-do-you-hate-me?
She is a lump in the bed, unresponsive to my words. All I can do is return to my room, flush out the tears, and record my daily video lesson for my Newcomers, which takes an hour longer because I have learned how to add subtitles for a deaf girl in my class, a refugee who cannot hear a word in any language but can draw Anime art like no one you’ve ever met.
Then Bernie drops out, the stock market immediately takes a leap of faith because this country will always be profits over people, and it seems there is no hope in the world on day twenty-six of this cursed Coronatine.
I pound my frustration into chopping vegetables for the pot roast, its scent soon spreading through the house like a virus worth scintillating.
I decide to finally make the summer trip cancellations, hoping for some semblance of refunds, but the travel industry is one of the most unforgiving on the planet, and I am left with a few small rewards and thirty hours of research and hopeful anticipation lost to sickness, layoffs, and disappointment that brings on wave after wave of new tears.
She doesn’t come downstairs for hours, and when she does, she is all made up, beautiful and young and representing the promise that everyone would want for our future. She avoids me further for another forty-five minutes, then offers to help me with the second sourdough I’ve attempted within a week, setting the timer to fold and re-fold the dough. She agrees, later, to watch Dirty Dancing with me because it’s the only thing I can think of that will cheer me up, and laughs at my pathetic attempt to chainsaw the juniper.
She makes her special sweet coffee drink for everyone, including Fabian who never in his life had heard of iced coffee, but gulps it down happily within seconds.
And I know that she is more than this stupid $22 worth of chicken. That seventeen-year-old girls say mean things to their moms just fucking because. That every problem I have listed here is a first-world problem.
And I know that small things are beginning to blossom in my yard. And I have to stop thinking about “What if” and “Why can’t we?” and start thinking about these small shoots and sprouts and flowers that pop up when I need them the most.
And my girls are still in spring even as I approach winter. They need sunlight, soil, refreshment.
And I have made it through another day of this. Just. Like. That.