In this upside-down world, I mistake a streetlight for the moon. It is early morning when I creep downstairs to feed the dogs and cats and fish. Outside the front window, the glow deceives me. I shake my head, look again, and wonder how I mistook one for the other. But we are full of mistakes these days, full of wondering what will come next, how the next weeks will unfold. I am thinking about how lucky we are.
After a high fever over the weekend, our son, we are relieved to learn, has only the flu. Only. Once that would have terrified me, but that it is the flu and not Coronavirus feels cause for celebration. Pandemic. Social distance. Respiratory distress. Terms I don’t remember giving more than passing attention to a month ago now march relentlessly through my dreams, through my waking hours. When we learn a new word, we take notice.
What will a school be without the students?
So it is with Covid-19. All I know about chemistry is more or less forgotten. But I know my New York City grown up daughters’ fears. And now, I know my own as I close my school last week at the Governor’s decree. What will it be like to run a school when all the children are at home?
We are so lucky—food, shelter, reliable doctors, health insurance, the internet, enough Purell, sent by my sister. But no school for a long time? My seniors mourn the loss. I miss the children already. We are on spring break, but nothing about these days feels like vacation. I put one foot in front of another, send emails, hold virtual meetings, try to lead when I cannot see the girls, the faculty.
When we took our son to be tested on Saturday, we drove into the lower level of a Cleveland Clinic parking garage, all attendants gowned and masked, nurses and technicians, not garage personnel. Dystopic. I pushed aside my shivers as I recalled The Giver. We kept our car windows up and dialed a number.
A voice asked, “Patient’s name, birthdate, doctor?” and we answered and were waved through to the next check point. At Station #2, we were told to turn off the car. A woman in gown, surgical mask and plastic mask approached my son; he rolled down the window. She swabbed his nose; he yelped. She dropped the long stick into a plastic bag held by another person, sealed it, and then waved us on. We came back home. Crocuses bloomed, the color of egg yolks in the sunshine. How was that possible?
Despite dire warnings about isolation, I could not leave my son alone. I did not want him to be by himself with all his fear, quivering with fever. And so, I held him to me, my man-child, under his comforter, knowing I would give my health, my heart, for his wellbeing.
When the doctor called at 11:00 p.m. to say it was only the flu, I let out a breath I had not known I had been holding all those hours. Just the flu. I administer Tamiflu, Advil, force fluids, offer chicken soup. And today, no fever. Just the fever of unknowing, the distress my son feels about not returning to school.
“Can’t you fix it, Mom?” he asks.
No, son. This pandemic is beyond me.