Coronatine, Day Thirteen

My elderly uncle with the ‘No Solicitors’ sign on his door happily steps right out onto the covered porch to collect the three Costco-oversized boxes of tissues that I have brought to him.

“Are you going to come in?” he asks as I creep backward, down the three concrete steps.

“You better wash your hands now that you’ve touched those boxes,” I immediately reply. “I could have it, and it lives on cardboard for 24 hours.”

He brushes me off and acts, quite nonchalantly, as if he’s been expecting me. “Thanks, I was waiting for something like this. I use five or six tissues every time I have to clean my catheter.”

What a lucky find, I think. “Well, Floyd, you’re the master of social distancing. How have you handled the Coronavirus?”

It’s true. He’s been reclusive, the middle child and only boy wrenched between six sisters, for his entire adult life. He lives in the same house he bought as a young man, the 1950s Mayfair ranch decorated exactly the same as the original owner, and “Why should I change what’s already there?” He worked as a TV repairman for as long as there were TVs to repair, and happily retired twenty years ago to a lifestyle of only visiting the grocery store and denying most social invitations from his six sisters.

But now there are no tissues in his grocery store. No toilet paper. No frozen vegetables. No eggs. No sense of security for the five square miles he drives within any given week.

He talks my ear off in the fifteen minutes I stand in his front yard, keeping my six feet of social distancing requirement.

This isn’t like yesterday when I drove to all corners of the city to deliver my students their much-needed headsets, folders, notebooks, and supplies, when their parents seemed grateful for my latex gloves and, more importantly, my brevity. “Check Schoology!” I found myself shouting too many times, “It has everything you’ll need for your life right there!”

This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: my elderly uncle, my not-so-elderly parents (who also need tissues), who I can only stand on the porch with, and not really visit.

“You’re really not going to come inside?” they inquire, and I mention Italy. We’ve all heard about Italy. My father’s mother was from Italy, still has living relatives there. “Over sixty, Dad,” is all I really have to say (my parents are 66).

And how did I manage in the Costco line today? The rain hadn’t started yet, nor the snow. It was cold, and I had my latex gloves on, plus my ski mask (I didn’t think far enough in advance to buy medical masks, so when I put it on in the parking lot, Fabian said he’d prefer to wait in the car. I didn’t care. I’m not fucking with this shit). I waited a good thirty minutes to socially distance myself, six feet back from the guy in front of me, to get in the store.

And they still didn’t have toilet paper.

This was after we visited the Mexican Envios, always open, line out the door, everyone ready to send money home to their poorer-than-any-of-us-here families back home. My boy was in and out in fifteen minutes, but his poverty-stricken father had to wait in line for three hours to get that money we sent him because this was the first day out of seven that the banks were open, and the seventh day out of infinity that he is unable to work and support those two baby girls.

Never mind that he lives in the most dangerous city on Earth with a corrupt government and police on every corner making sure you don’t go where you’re not supposed to.

Never mind that he doesn’t even have a mortgage because his house is a shack on his boss’s property constructed entirely of corrugated sheets of metal.

Never mind that however bad you think this is for us, standing in the cold in the Costco line, cleaning your catheter with the last bits of tissue, wishing you could hug your parents…

We still live here. Where capitalism, evil as it may be, allows me to trump the system and send an extra hundred dollars home to Honduras because, God, why the fuck not?

This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: six boxes of tissues delivered. Check. Three hundred dollars sent to Honduras to buy food. Check. Wondering who has it among us, and which ones will die. Check.

What else is there to say?

I planted spinach just in time for the snow to water it. Please let it grow. Please, God, let it grow.

 

 

The Story of my Life

I can’t write about all the things I wish to write about, but it has been HELL at work.

It’s not the kids (it is never the kids).

You know the burdens if you have carried them. Weights of national, state, and school district policies that bear down on our daily instruction. Weights of internal decisions that are never made with the voice of a teacher who sits each day with those kids. Weights of parents who sometimes don’t have any idea what it’s like to gather, with full attention, the love of thirty-two strangers. Every. Day.

And here we are, Friday Night Lights, chasing our peaks.

The sun is setting later now, and our ski seasons are coming to an end. I can’t even write the sentence without crying.

Because skiing is a luxury afforded to rich white people, which we have been for exactly four years and nine months.

Because this is our last little weekend getaway for a long time.

Because whenever we open our home, it seems like the world closes its doors.

But check out this sauna:

It comes at the very affordable $94 rate for the singular queen-size bed and free breakfast, just 47 minutes from the closest free parking lot (shuttle to the slopes).

It comes quickly and too hot and it feels amazing on my too-cold skin. My skin that has shivered for a week with news I don’t want to carry.

It is the story of every American. That, even with two raises, even after a teachers’ strike, even after committing seventeen years to a profession, I cannot afford to pay for my house or my bills on a singular salary.

It is the story of my husband who can fix anything you ever asked for with his hands, from laying a hardwood floor to replacing a toilet to connecting fiber optic wires to fully cleaning the impossibly-dirty grout in my parents’ bathroom… But who did not earn a degree, only four years of service to this God Bless America Country that has done nothing other than save us from down payments on properties.

It is the story of health insurance that we will either no longer have or can no longer pay for because I make too much to qualify for Medicaid but shouldn’t I provide shelter for the four children living under my roof?

It is the story of my life.

And we have less than three months to figure out exactly how to win these mountains back.