You began your journey far, far away in China, wreaking havoc then across Europe, especially in Italy, closing borders, trapping people in their homes, and finally finding your way to New Hampshire, causing hysteria in some, panic in others, and increased anxiety in general. You’ve stolen people’s lives, people’s jobs, people’s sense of security. You’ve stolen senior class trips, unfinished semesters of university abroad, Olympics, proms, paychecks, and groceries far and wide. You’ve taken school children’s safest place on earth in some situations — their classrooms, their teachers, and their friends. Social distancing has become our new bestie thanks to you.
You’ve given me as a caregiver a sense of failure that there is really nothing more I can do as a mom and wife to keep my family safe. You have caused some caregivers to spray the bottom of their shoes as well as the wheels on their partners’ wheelchairs every time they enter their houses. You’ve encouraged daily mopping of floors and bleaching of surfaces and near constant handwashing in some homes. That, COVID-19, is not possible for most families.
I’m here to tell you that as a mom of two and a four footed friend and a wife to man with a spinal cord injury, I am still working both at school and remotely at home to help my students with online learning for the undetermined future — on top of home schooling our own children. I’m not spraying anybody’s wheelchairs or bottom of shoes. I’m feeling good about finally getting our kids to wash our hands. But you, COVID-19 have really made it extra hard for Geoff to feel safe given every time he pushes his wheelchair or self caths, he is potentially attracting all sorts of crap into his system. As a T7 para, he lacks a diaphragm capacity. His sneezes sound like a tiny cat, despite being a grown, 6’2” man. Watching Geoff suffer with the average cold is painful, let alone something more serious like Bronchitis or Pneumonia. What does that mean for him and his ability to withstand an upper respiratory challenge like you, stupidly aggressive COVID-19? We are making the choice to stay home and avoid crowds because you don’t discern whether your victims are grandparents or people with asthma or spinal cord injuries. Part of my anger stems from people both with and without symptoms who flooded our state last week to “escape to the mountains” to their winter homes, exposing us to all that you have to offer in the wake of infections. When schools closed and governors encouraged people to stay home, they should have stayed home. These are unprecedented times and as much as tourism is important to our local, state and national economy, it is not more important than stopping the spread of COVID-19.
However, as much as you have taken away, COVID-19, you’ve also given us a stronger sense of home and family and community support. You’ve reminded us by staying home, closing our ski resorts, and canceling board meetings, book clubs, Geoff’s work travel, play dates, breakdancing class, race team, gatherings of more than 10 people, we are realizing just how busy our lives have become. You’ve given us the focus on family, on our children, on board games, books, a sense of belonging here at home, a chance to reset and remember what matters most. You are inspiring communities to work together to feed the 40% of families on free and reduced lunch in places where the school cannot provide. You’ve filled our social media feeds with chaos as well as local ministers and community leaders who remind us that we have resources for whatever we need.
I invite you and your panic pandemic to get the hell out of dodge. We realize you are likely here for a while, but we will do our best to make sure you don’t get the best from us. Social distancing doesn’t mean ignoring those loved once we need to keep safe by staying away from them. Fortunately, we are living in a world with FaceTime and texting and Google — we have the ability to stay connected, even while giving Geoff’s compromised diaphragm a fighting chance. I’ve never been a germaphobe, but you, COVID-19, you’ve made us acutely aware of how easily you pass through and around our bodies. I’ve been dreaming about “flattening the curve” for weeks now. COVID-19, we will flatten you.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 8. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.