Back in olden times, upper-class, noble, or royal women would withdraw from society toward the end of their pregnancies and be confined to their rooms with only midwives, ladies-in-waiting and female relatives in attendance. From that tradition grew the term EDOC, meaning expected date of confinement. Most obstetricians now simply use DD or due date.
I thought of a new meaning for EDOC in the face of COVID-19: Extended Days of Confinement. The governor of Texas recently announced the easing of restrictions so that businesses, including malls, retail stores and restaurants can re-open in a limited way and lifted the shelter-in-place order. This when the state has not yet hit the apex of the infection, with 27,000 known infections and more than 700 deaths. Some people, including me, think this is foolhardy, feeling that it could set off a new wave of infections. Our little community has had only 48 cases and 2 deaths, which I believe is the result of a stay-at-home order went into effect early.
These days, nearly every conversation begins "when this is over." All of us want to see an end to this medical and economic nightmare. I was talking to my 10-year-old granddaughter Lena yesterday and she said, "Grandma, when this is over I want to go to McDonalds and Chik-fil-A." She misses her friends and the routines of school and after-school athletics.
When this is over I want to:
I wake up in the morning and say to myself, "Oh, yeah. It's another day of COVID-19 quarantine." After showering and dressing, I look in the mirror and realize I am several weeks overdue for a hair cut. I'm starting to look like the Wild Man of Borneo. Should I put on some make-up? Nah, seems like too much work. My pretty NexGen nails, recently trimmed, have now grown out leaving a span of unpolished nail underneath the color, which looks weird. Since I can't reach my toes after the spinal fusions I had a couple years ago, my daughter Hannah had to come over and clip my toenails and remove the polish. It's not a good look with sandals.
Without our usual school-day routine with Noah, we're sleeping later, eating breakfast later, having lunch at about two and don't seem to have a schedule at all, which drives me a little crazy. My freelance writing work has dried up for the time being. I'm ve-r-r-y slowly doing a 1000-piece puzzle of a Monet painting of a bridge over waterlilies. Several books have been finished and I'm currently re-reading Little Women.
Andy and I have been watching anything we can find on Netflix, Amazon or Acorn or even network TV. Almost every evening, we pop Toby in the car and go for a drive, but we're quickly running out of routes to take. We order take-out once or twice a week to relieve the tedium of cooking, but there are only so many places close by. I really miss our cleaning lady, Veronica. For the past few years, she has relieved of us having to dust, clean bathrooms, mop floors and vacuum, tasks we must do now. I phone my sister and friends so I can have another adult female to talk to, and everyone is feeling the same way. Bored. Frustrated. Feeling like a caged animal. Sometimes, I feel like screaming.
The good news is that no one in our family, including us, has gotten the virus, so we're grateful for that. Matter of fact, we have a lot to be grateful for. We have great kids and three healthy grandchildren. The sun is shining, all the trees have leafed out and the world looks clean after a hard rain the other day. Our fridge and pantry are full of food and we get along pretty well after 50 years of marriage. Although we don't know when this nightmare will come to an end, we just need to continue keeping ourselves clean, fed and occupied. That's not so bad, is it?
Easter was always a big deal when I was growing up. We dressed up in new Easter outfits and dutifully went to Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. One year, my Sunday School class put on a sunrise service play. My role was the wife of Pontius Pilate, who had exactly one line. The play was to take place in a nearby park, but it snowed (this was Toledo, of course), so we had to move it inside.
There were always Easter baskets for us five kids filled with goodies, including sugar eggs that had a view of bunnies inside. I especially remember my dad's parents giving each of us a large, heavy chocolate egg with cream filling studded with fruit and nuts. Consume too much of it and your teeth hurt. A big family dinner always capped off the afternoon.
One Easter incident always makes me laugh. My mom had filled our baskets on Saturday night. Easter morning, she gets a frantic call from the mother of my good friend Kathy Barnum. Their springer spaniel Maggie had gotten into their kid's baskets and consumed all the candy, including the foil wrappers. In those days, everything was closed on Sunday, even drugstores, so replacing the candy was impossible. My mom raided our baskets, added whatever leftover candy she had and shared it with the Barnum kids. Not sure how Maggie survived eating that much chocolate, which is very toxic to dogs.
I think no one will forget 2020 Easter. Church services moved online. Big family dinners were verboten. No Easter egg hunts. New York's fabled Easter Parade was called off. So what to do to mark the day? I had colored a dozen eggs with Lena and Noah earlier in the week. Since we couldn't get together for dinner, I decided to make a special brunch and deliver it to the homes of Alison and Hannah. Andy and I made spinach and cheese strata, accompanied by sausages and bacon. I baked an Easter dessert I love, a rice flan studded with golden raisins baked in a sweet pastry crust. A plate of fresh berries topped it all off.
We decided to drive into downtown Dallas to get out of the house on this beautiful morning. It was a ghost town. A few people dotted the streets, keeping a distance from one another. Restaurants were closed, parks were empty and normally busy avenues deserted. We were astonished to see a young Catholic priest attired in full vestments and purple latex gloves standing at the edge of a parking lot, waving and smiling at everyone.
A TV ad running right now assures us that soon there will be family dinners, weddings, baseball games, concerts and other gatherings. I hope so. The novelty of sheltering in place has gotten old. I'm tired of ordering groceries online and only getting part of what I wanted. I'm weary of cooking at home. I want our family to get together for our Sunday dinners. Most of all, I want the sad headlines to go away. I pray for the families who will never share another Easter with loved ones who have fallen victim to COVID-19, and for our country and the world.
April 7, 2020
Dear Mom and Dad:
Although you are not with us here on earth, I thought I'd write and tell you about what's going on in the world these days. It's not good. The corona virus, which causes COVID-19, has rampaged across the world, with close to one and half million infections and nearly 80,000 deaths, 11,000 of which have occurred in the United States. The majority of deaths have been in people over 80 with underlying health conditions, but there have been an increasing number in younger people. Most recover, but the illness can be extremely rough. There is no cure and no vaccine.
The primary way this virus has been dealt with in the U.S. is to have people stay home or if they must go out, wear face masks and keep their distance from others. Schools have been shut down, as well as all non-essential businesses. Restaurants, churches, gyms and hair salons are shuttered. The streets of big cities like New York are ghost towns. All sports, concerts and theater performances have been cancelled. Travel has come to an almost complete standstill. Doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters and other personnel have been infected because of their exposure. Personal protective equipment and ventilators are in short supply. The good news is that Americans have stepped up to the plate and helped as they can, either with donations or volunteer help. There are many people out of work and unable to pay the rent or put food on the table.
Here's how it has affected us personally. We now order all our groceries and pick them up at the store with no contact. Getting a manicure or haircut is out of the question. I'm aching to plant my flowers for the summer, but can't go to the garden center to buy them. Once a week, we get take-out from local restaurants to help them stay in business. We cancelled our cleaning lady, but still pay her. We have not been able to have our family dinners each Sunday, which we dearly miss. Our time is spent cleaning the house, taking care of Toby, watching TV and reading.
Mom, you would not be happy right now. There is no baseball and your beloved Detroit Tigers are waiting for the season (if there is one) to begin. Your fellow baseball fan, Andy, is going crazy because there are no sports to watch. If you and Dad were still at the Woodlands, you would not be able to go to the dining room for dinner or interact with any of your friends. We would have to talk to you through the window. When the staff there came to help you, they would be wearing masks and gloves. Dad, you would be properly horrified at what's going in the hospital world right now and worried about David as he treats people coming into the emergency department desperately sick with COVID-19.
Hannah and Reagan are working from home. We help them by keeping Noah and Lena at our house several hours a day. Alison is on the front lines working at Whole Foods, which has taken great care to keep people from transmitting the virus. Because she may have been exposed and then possibly infect Booker and Matt, we have to stay apart from them, which makes us sad. Pete has been looking for a new job, but there is virtually no hiring activity in Richmond, VA at the moment.
While I miss you every day and long to talk with you, it's better that you're not here to witness this awful situation, or worse, get terribly sick. I know you look down on our extended family with love and wish us good health.
Your daughter Chris
One of my favorite sections of the New York Times is Vows, stories of all kinds of weddings and the love stories that made them happen. Today, I'm writing a more personal Vows story: that of our closest friends, John and Claudia. They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend, but sadly, John left us more than eight years ago, leaving a hole in our hearts.
Claudia and I had known each other since we were young teens, but got separated when she went away to school. Our friendship rekindled when we found we were living just a block apart. Soon we started dating two guys who had attended Toledo University and served in the same Army reserve unit. We had lots of great times during those early years. In December, I married Andy. Claudia and John wed just a few months later.
St. Patrick's of Heatherdowns Church in Toledo was the setting for the ceremony. Andy and I were both in the wedding party, with bridesmaids attired in lime green dotted Swiss floor-length gowns and picture hats. I don't remember much about the actual wedding, but there was a beautiful reception at a local country club and a lovely buffet dinner at the home of the bride's parents for the wedding party and out-of-town guests. At that event, with the help of a few adult beverages, a plan was hatched.
Andy and I, plus George and Diane, two other members of the wedding party, knew the newlyweds were headed to Detroit, where they would spend their wedding night at the airport hotel before boarding a plane to Bermuda in the morning. Like fools, the four of us made the hour-long journey to the Detroit Airport Hotel. The clerk was happy to give us their room number and we banged on the door until John answered the door wrapped in Claudia's raincoat! We barged in with a bottle of champagne and drank a toast to the happy couple, who, as one might imagine, were not all that thrilled to see us. The next morning, nursing serious hangovers, the four intruders treated the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. to breakfast and escorted them to the gate (back when you could do that). I nearly got arrested for making a lame joke about a hijacking.
Hijinks aside, those newlyweds remained our close friends throughout the years. Although both couples moved around quite a bit, with Claudia and John spending many years in California, we managed to see each other at least once a year, often sharing weddings, baptisms and other family occasions. Our three children and their two kids became friends and a couple years ago, my granddaughter Lena became buddies with Claudia's granddaughter Addie while on a visit to Connecticut. As I get older, I treasure my longtime friendship even more and look forward to our next visit when I can finally use my plane ticket from a trip postponed because of COVID-19!
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.