I wrote this post in early January 2020 while sick at home for three weeks battling what we are all pretty convinced was one of the first MN cases of Covid-19. Christian and I had just returned from a week-long work trip to Seattle, and I could barely breathe.
It had been 10 sunsets and 9 sunrises since I left the house, thanks to a never ending illness doctors can’t help me with beyond prescribing a cough syrup with addictive properties that *might* help me sleep. But I have no trouble sleeping; seems this thing can’t be slept off. It’s being awake that hurts.
So I’ve passed the time reading books, so many books. I take them with me into the bathtub where I soak until the water turns tepid and my fingertips become raisins. I dry them off and use unused tissues to mark my spot…I have never gone through so many boxes of facial tissues in my life. I cleaned my office top to bottom last week, and edited everything that clients were waiting for in my pajamas this week, delivering hundreds of images of healthy people and fun places. I sent them off via electronic links between coughing episodes where I spit blood into the porcelain. I’ve spent the rest of these days looking out the window…I’m so tired I want to scream. But I have to stay awake between naps. The second you start sleeping all day, the illness wins. And I won’t be defeated by this.
And yesterday after the 10th consecutive sunset indoors, I had had enough. I took a lot of meds and was feeling semi-better when I volunteered to take Lola to karate, a 45 minute excursion (round trip) that included a quick pop-in to Target while she practiced her kempos at the dojo. It would be just the right amount of time to see if I could walk among the living again, to tell if I’m ready to re-enter Productive Human Society.
I took a comb to my hair and put on a little makeup for the first time since before the holidays, two weeks ago. I pulled on a sweater, vest, puffer, scarf, hat, and gloves – it’s 29 degrees outside – and pulled two pair of socks over my feet before sliding them into boots. Lola smirked. I still can’t get her to zip a jacket when she walks to the bus stop, but if she’d been as sick as I’ve been I’d have made her wear a full-body snowsuit a la Randy in A Christmas Story.
So off we went. As I reversed the Subaru Lola side-eyed me skeptically. “You okay, mom?” I’m fine, I said, and proceeded the route, streetlights blurring and streaking my vision. We made it safely though, and I dropped her off with a deliriously confident smile, promising to return in half an hour. At Target I turned my car into an open space and put it in park — then realized I had positioned the car completely crookedly, almost sideways over the line.
Inside the store things seemed less challenging. I grabbed a basket and weaved between isles looking for the two things we needed: draino for the sink, and potato chips, for health (of course). Once those items were snagged I deviated from the list in search of a sweet snack to accompany the salt.
That’s when the trouble started.
There in the cookie isle as I stood deliberating between a box of Keeblers and a package of Mint Milano’s, I felt a tickle in my throat that quickly swelled. The invading irritant raged inside of me, but before I could stop it I was coughing, no, hacking, insides turning outwardly, doubled over. I had the good sense to throw the box of Milano’s back on the shelf before the coughing fit took over, but the other cookies became a kind of comfort object as my mouth filled with sputum and my eyes stung with tears. I cough cough cough cough coughed all over the Keeblers, looking around for somewhere to spit the bile (ew), but my only recourse was to swallow. I dutifully complied. That’s when I noticed an audience of fellow cookie buyers staring at me, wishing for sure I had stayed home (or maybe even died?) instead of deciding to venture out feeling this way. With zero compassion detectable and the faces around me turning in contempt, Just go home, I thought.
But buy the Keeblers, because nobody wants those now.
I floated through self checkout barely conscious of my surroundings. When the cash I requested back for Lola’s allowance was dispensed I forgot to grab it right away and the machine beeped angrily, prompting a team member’s assistance. I triple checked my bag and still couldn’t find the Aquafina I bought from the endcap to quell the cough, then discovered it was rolling away on the floor. I dropped to my knees to find it. And then I scampered out the door as quickly as my woozy body could handle.
10 whole minutes spent sick in the company of healthy humans told me what I already knew: when you’re this ill, no matter how stir crazy you get, it’s best to just stay home.
Back at my fortress I replayed the story to Christian and Lola about my time on the outside. “Yes, I thought you looked a little wobbly when we drove away, Mama” Lola said. I love her little words, and the way she thinks.
“Take off that makeup, get pretty again” Christian offered with a smile. He always knows just what to say to make me feel so good.
So here I am, stuck inside until who knows how long? At least home is hands down the best place to be. It’s where the tea and tissues are, plus my books, and the adorable cats and good movies and the endless amounts of tinker tasks I can do while recovering, like disinfecting all the door knobs and counter tops. It’s also where the best people on planet earth live, Lola and Christian. What else do I really need?