A quiet house

Quiet house - 108.02.20

Our house is now empty and quiet.  Val and the boys drove home to Berkeley on Thursday.  After seven weeks, I found myself just staring at the curtain gently moving in the cool early morning breeze, realizing I had absolutely nothing I needed to do today.  I could just sit at the window, staring, all day, if I wanted to.  It was nearly six months ago when we drove to Seattle for the flight to Finland to visit Joy and her family.  Seattle had just recorded their first death from Covid-19 on that day.  Now, it is August and half a year has gone by.

As I think back over all these months, I know I’ve been an anxious Mother Hen, scratching and clucking, nervously hovering and herding my chicks in search of safety.  I was terrified for Anna when she went to the hospital in Finland, and fretted over how Joy could get back to this country, and when they made it, and quarantined nearby,  I left food and supplies on their doorstep for two weeks and waved at Joy through the picture window.   I regularly talked with Valerie to see how Fletcher was doing, how was he managing, after he suddenly left his college campus when they shut down, and moved in with his Berkeley relatives.  The calming balm of each week, back then, was the week end Zoom calls which Sarah organized with us so we could  play silly games together, see one another, just talk about it all.  And, then, in early June, Valerie’s family of five fled the city to stay with us here at the lake for the summer, taking the risk that Mark and Norah might need to return if Norah’s camp counselor job came to fruition.  It did, they left after two weeks, and until Thursday, we were our own family of five with Val and the two boys.  It feels today like Part One, of a long novel, has come to a close.  There are several more parts yet to go, and the ending is not clear, but in the interim, I’m taking a rest.

In the quiet of this moment, I feel like I’ve come so far already in this story.  I’ve shedded any expectations for a known future, and let go of “normal”.  I’ve learned to cook without constant trips to the grocery store, and I don’t even think about going to a restaurant anymore, nor do I expect a trip west to the sea (but, I do wistfully think about it).  We’ve managed to get by with a malfunctioning smoke alarm system which awakens us regularly in the middle of the night, for months now.  We’ve had two refrigerators fail us and one freezer, right after a $600 Costco food stock up.  We’ve learned to ration toilet paper.  Fletcher contracted Covid-19, with mild symptoms, but the rest of his family was spared.  It’s been quite awhile since I cried myself to sleep, mourning the losses my grandchildren do, and will experience.  We’re making it through.  And, in my best moments, I remember to be profoundly grateful for the blessed and privileged life I am lucky to live.

HOT weather, finally, arrived, with a vengeance.  It was a record 83.5 degrees a few nights ago, when we went to bed at 10:30 p.m.!  It’s felt like the dog-days of summer from my childhood days in Ohio, where you slept with just a sheet and tried not to move.  Rather than closing all the windows at night to keep the furnace from coming on, we are opening them up throughout the house for relief.  By Wednesday, things are expected to be back at seasonal levels, and long-range forecasts for the month indicate it may even be cooler than normal.  Already, it’s a hazy and bleached August sky, and the trees are paused as they slowly begin to send sap back down to their roots far below.  Crispy golden shrubs are beginning to line the highway.

But, I do not intend to rush Autumn–I have many books and naps in the hammock stretching out before me.  And, one of these days, I’ll go upstairs, change the sheets in the dormitory room and wash their towels.  Already, I am discovering the notes we adults left for one another: “I’m out for a walk/I’m on a bike ride/I’m in a Zoom meeting/I’m doing yoga.”  There are menus and grocery lists sitting on the table in the breakfast nook, and a list Eamon made of the chores he did and how much money he earned.  The badminton net is still up, beach towels are draped over the porch railing, and nerf footballs are scattered across the yard.  I really need to rest a bit before I give in to the sweet heartache of this privilege.

…We find that having people knock on our door is as a much a privilege as it is a burden; that being seen, being recognized and being wanted by the world and having a place in which to receive everyone and everything, is infinitely preferable to its opposite.  From “Besieged” by David White in Consolations


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