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Apt. 11D
Laura McKenna's Publications and Posts

Life on the Curve, Coronavirus, Part 2
Apt. 11D

I first started hearing about Coronavirus in late February, around the time that Ian was admitted to the hospital for a few days from a bad side effect of his epilepsy medicine. In fact, the virus was a common chitchat subject with the health care workers who came in to change his IV tubes and inspect his mouth. I asked them if they were worried, and they would shrug. Handling crises is part of the job. 

On March 3rd, we heard about the first local case. A man in Westchester tested positive. He infected his neighbor who drove him to the hospital. A quick ten minute drive to the hospital puts a man in a ventilator? Ah. Then we learned that before the man got sick, he was all over the tristate area, my backyard. 

That same day, people who pay attention to these things started preparing. And so did I. Over the next ten days, I stocked the pantry with $700 worth of food. I finished articles and closed up every loose end for work. I got my son home from college and yelled at my parents to stay in the house, until they finally listened to me. I disinfected counter tops, door handles, gear shifts, toothbrushes. I washed towels over and over. We got money from the ATM and filled the cars with gas. The home office was set up for two adults to work comfortably. With two kids being home schooled and two adults working in the house full time, I had to stock up on paper and ink at Staples. 

Whew! I was exhausted, but firmly ensconced in a personal bubble by Friday, March 13th. We were ready to stay at home with no contact with outsiders for at least two weeks. But that's when I had to start writing articles about the education angle of this disaster. I was particularly worried about how kids with disabilities were going to fare with the changes to online education. All weekend, I pumped out words.

I began to worry about my friends on Facebook, who seemed to be entirely unconcerned about the coming disaster. They were on another planet from the Twitter people, so I started posting more there, too. 

While I managed several articles in various stages of completion on Monday, March 16th, we began Day One of the horror that is home schooling. The first few days were rough with issues with technology, unfair expectations on parents, issues about how to work around my kid's disabilities. With all the pressure that I've been under and important messages from editors, let's just say I was less-than-gracious with teachers who inundated my mailbox with perky chores lists. I will make amends tomorrow. 

I've been in such a panic for the past couple of weeks that I haven't been able to see past the crisis in front me. But this afternoon, I put a pause on the writing efforts. I've got something coming out tomorrow and that's enough. I don't have to write ALL the articles. I popped in my earbuds and went for a walk around the neighborhood.

For the first time in days, I wasn't writing in my head as I walked. I just walked and looked around and listened. 

As I listened to The Daily, the podcast for the New York Times, Mario Cuomo talked about infection curve graphs. By social isolating early, he was hoping that our infection trajectory curves were closer to countries like Singapore, than Italy. 

He also said that we were about 45 days away from things getting really, really bad. In five weeks, all these worries about Ian's math homework and getting Jonah's crap out of his off campus housing at Rutgers are going to feel so small. We're way low on the curve on this crisis. We won't see the peak for quite a while.

We're just a plot point between an x and y axis right now. Life in a math equation. 

The trick in all this is to respect the math -- don't be like the idiots hanging out in beaches in Miami and bars in Chicago -- but to defy the tyranny of the math at the same time. We have to enjoy life and find beauty in the midst of this war. We must loudly declare, "I will not be a plot point!"  

Now that we've overcome the initial panic of preparation and are getting used to the new normal, we're rebuilding our lives. Later today, I went on a second walk, this time with the boys. We took a two-mile hike through the neighborhood, while kicking an old soccer ball that was slowly falling apart. Dumb, right? We were amused for an hour with a soccer ball that sprung a ever-growing tumor. 

The four of us are eating and drinking and talking together without competition from friends' beer parties or Kumon math classes or girls' nights at the pub. 

We are cooking up a storm; tonight we're popping some individual pizzas on the grill. There's a glass of wine keeping me company as I write this newsletter. 

There's no doubt that the next month is going to bring challenges that we can't even envision right now, but I'm so grateful to have these few weeks to prepare. Prepare not just in terms of meat in the freezer, but prepare with a better understanding of priorities and time to enjoy my family. 

Be well, everyone! 

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Laura McKenna · 861 Bingham Rd · Ridgewood, NJ 07450-2111 · USA

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