“Not everything needs to be shared, Eve,” someone once commented anonymously on my blog – I think it was one about my divorce. “Some thoughts and feelings are private and can be kept to yourself.”
And yes, that’s true for a lot of people. I absolutely respect private people, people who don’t cry in public (or at all, even!), and people who prefer to keep family matters firmly within their own family.
But that’s not me, and that’s not how I cope.
Which is why I’m sharing with you that I am really struggling some days. And some days are OK.
Some days we do home-school and fold laundry and take walks and cook dinner. And some days I am crying and shaking and pacing with one thermometer in my ear and another in my mouth, sobbing, full-on ugly-crying, snot and spit all over my face, yelling, “What if I have a fever? What if I’m sick? If I have the coronavirus, I am going to kill my father.”
It’s not just “quarantine” that is causing this anxiety, although that’s not fun, exactly. But as a textbook introvert, it’s definitely not the worst of my problems right now. Even if I were an extrovert, it wouldn’t be the biggest of my problems
My biggest problem is this: My father, age 82 and one of my favorite humans – so smart, so capable, so strong – has had a mild stroke and in addition, was diagnosed with pneumonia. Not COVID-19 – thank God, thank God – but pneumonia at 82 is still no picnic. He spent six days in the hospital and had a thoracentesis before coming home on oxygen, massively confused from the stroke and too weak from the pneumonia to walk. I am still scared he could’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in the hospital; I am scared I could be exposing him every time I go in to care for him; and on top of that, the stroke has made it difficult to communicate with him. And communicate was one thing we always could do.
Colors are meaningless now – he asks for “the blue thing,” and I don’t know what he wants because nothing near him is blue. After several minutes, I realize he wants the red blanket.
Time is meaningless now. He calls at 8 p.m. and tells me he slept well and had a great night and can I come over and make him coffee.
Current events are meaningless now. He doesn’t understand how much COVID-19 has changed our world. He is angry that I wear a mask around him and doesn’t accept my explanations that I am trying desperately to keep him safe.
But he still knows who I am, and every time I hoist him into a sitting position or help wrestle him up against his pillow, he laughs.
“You didn’t think you were so strong, did you?” he says. “You’re just a tiny thing, but you’re stronger than you knew.”
And I smile sadly behind my mask, where he can’t see it.
Because yeah, it turns out I am stronger than I knew, and it has nothing to do with my biceps (or lack thereof).
When it comes down to it, I’m stronger than I knew in every other way, too.
If this has proved anything to us, it’s that: We are all a lot stronger than we thought.