Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Eleven

Dear Readers,

Wow. When I wrote my first Journal of a Pandemic Year entry back in March, I had no idea that I’d still be doing it come August. It’s worse now than it was back then, at least in my area. At this point, I don’t even know what normal is anymore. My college has moved online for the fall semester, so assuming that I’m back on the campus come January, it will have been almost a year since I set foot in a classroom or in my office. It’s crazy to think about.

At least we have baseball back, though Lord knows for how long. Then again, I wouldn’t call what the Red Sox are doing this season baseball. My wife is a Cubs fan, so at least she’s happy thus far. We’ve already had big changes to my house during the pandemic. There has been another one since we last spoke. And there’s an even bigger one coming in a few days. This time, it’s not to the house but rather to its inhabitants. I have finally managed to quit smoking (again). I quit originally in early 2011 but started again a year later when I got hurt. It’s been a constant battle since then, but I’m convinced that this time it will stick. Everyone has to find their own way to quit. Since I put out my last cigarette, slowly my singing voice and my lung capacity are coming back. Bit by bit. So whenever I get a particularly strong craving, I plug in my microphone and belt out a tune or two. It actually works! The other change is, sadly, not a happy one.

My wife is moving out on Sunday, August 9th. Yes. You read that correctly. She is moving out. No, we are not getting a divorce. We aren’t even separating, at least not in the legal sense. She is a public school teacher. Her district is adamant that they are going to have classes as usual in a few weeks time. Students won’t have to wear masks in the classroom. Employees were told that even if they share a household with a person with an active case of the virus, they have to come to work unless they start showing symptoms themselves. On top of that, if a student or staff member tests positive, people who have been sharing classrooms with them will not have to quarantine. There is no question as to whether or not she is going to be exposed to the virus. She will be. As I am an immunocompromised person, I can’t be around someone who has been in a building with 2,000 other people, plus the virus. How long will she be gone? We don’t really know.

I’ll be honest. I don’t do very well when she’s not here. Every year, she usually goes out of town for anywhere from three days to a week, but that’s different. In those cases, I know exactly when she is going to be home and I am always occupied with stuff to keep me busy. This time, she’s leaving and we don’t know when she’ll be back. She’s in better health than I am, but if she gets sick, what if it turns really serious? It is a small possibility, but there is still a chance that we’ll be saying goodbye for the last time. Sure, that was true every time we said goodbye before I left for my shift with the fire department, but that was different. I signed up to risk my life at work. She didn’t. And neither did any other teacher in the country. But we are going to sacrifice them, and our children, upon the altar of the economy. Don’t worry. I assure you the sociopaths making these decisions won’t lose any sleep over it. After all, it isn’t their kids or their spouse that may die.

Yes, I rely on her to do things around the house that I am not physically capable of doing because of my injuries, but that’s not the important thing. She’s my rock. My anchor. She keeps me grounded. We’ve been through hell together as a couple and she’s stood by me when most others would have left or cracked under the strain. There’s been nights where she has had to stay up and hold my hand while I shook from nightmares only to have to go to her job in the morning and act like everything was fine. At times, I withdraw into myself and won’t say a word to anyone for days. She doesn’t push me. She waits for me to be ready to open up again. I don’t have to tell her when I’m having a bad day pain wise or brain wise, she just knows. We can have a conversation sitting out on our front porch without either of us saying a word. Other than my grandfather, Elizabeth is the only person to truly understand me. Which is funny, in a way, because I’m so much like my grandfather to be a virtual clone of him. Last Christmas, I made a video for her that had a bunch of pictures from our early, happy years together, when I was on top of the world…before Humpty Dumpty had his fall and broke into a million pieces. You can see it here.

I don’t have many friends these days, just a handful of co-workers that I consider friends. And a few more outside of work. It’s tough when you are in severe pain all the time. As much as I try to hide it, people don’t like to be around me. That’s fine. I don’t blame them. When I’m at home, I count the minutes until my wife gets back. What’s been crazy about this whole pandemic is that we’ve been together almost every minute of every day starting on Saturday, March 7th. During that time, despite the extreme stress of the damage to the house and all the repairs, we haven’t had a single argument. It’s nice because during our early years of marriage, I was gone a lot for work and sometimes we might not see each other for a few days at a time. The pandemic has allowed us to make up for some of that lost time.

Our song is Far Away by Nickleback. It isn’t supposed to be literal though. It’s because of the emotional distance between us sometimes when I go through another period when I can’t bring myself to talk to anyone, and to the distance between us when I was still with the FD and gone for 24 hours at a time. It isn’t supposed to be because she’s gone away and I don’t know when she’ll be back. I’m putting on a brave face for her, but I honestly don’t know how I am going to make it. I’ve had to find superhuman strength to battle through the injuries, the pain, the surgeries, the complications, and the autoimmune disease. I think I’ve used up all the brave that I ever had. I’ll try to make it though. For her more so than me. One day this will all be like a dream. Or so I hope.

But enough complaining. As far as good news goes, I have finished my major edits to Molly’s Song. Elizabeth has finished her read through (and she cried when she finished it, though she doesn’t know that I know that…) and I’ve given it another pass. It’s about as good as it can be. On Sept. 28th, it goes back to my editor for the copy edit. It’s been a long process, but it’s almost over. I can’t wait for you to meet my Molly. I promise you that she is a character that will stick with you long after you finish the book. But that might be because this is book one of a trilogy.

I’ve prattled on for long enough now. In closing, I’d like to leave these words for Elizabeth. I love you more than I can ever say. And I always will.

From Far Away.

On my knees I’ll ask, “Last chance for one last dance?”
‘Cause with you, I’d withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I’d give it all I’d give for us
Give anything, but I won’t give up
‘Cause you know you know, you know

That I love you, I have loved you all along and I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you’ll be with me and you’ll never go
Stop breathing if I don’t see you anymore
 

L.H.

P.S.: When my wife asked what options she had, since she lives with someone who is very high risk should he get the virus, she was told she could resign or teach in person. That’s it.