It is only Tuesday. I had to double-check that after I wrote it. I checked twice. Still Tuesday. I’ve been holding it all together pretty well, but today has taken it out of me.
7:30am – after a restless night, the phone startles me awake. How am I still asleep at this hour? On the other end of the line, my mom is saying that she is going to go ahead and drive up for her planned visit. My grogginess disappears. I ache to see her, but she should NOT cross an international border (with corned beef and cabbage in the back seat, and a giant stuffie in the passenger seat) for a brief visit during a global pandemic. I know it sounds really obvious when I put it like that, but I really really want to see her right now, and I know she wants to see us. What usually feels like an easy drive with a quick pause at the border is insurmountable in the new reality of COVID19.
9:00am – Eric and Andre have made sausage biscuits (which I pretend is “homeschooling”). I post a picture online because he is so dang cute and immediately feel guilty because it’s basically all show. By now, all the construction guys have arrived and they have a LOT of cutting to do. For much of the day, one guy is in the basement cutting through the concrete with a wet saw (?), another is sawing and hammering something just outside the front door, and two more are either finishing siding – pound pound pound – or cutting through brick to finish a window on the second floor. Sometimes the whole house vibrates. I spend the morning trying to either a) convince the children to unpack their bedrooms or b) do some work for my online course. I am successful at neither.
Every few minutes, the noise crescendos and everything I am thinking about disappears. Eventually I cobble together enough thoughts to realize that I am living Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”; this would make a good slice, I think, but as soon as the idea takes shape, the pounding recommences, the walls shake, and the crew continues to work.
I try to unpack but run into the tetris conundrum: we can’t put anything in the master bathroom because they are cutting a window in the wall, so the bathroom stuff is stashed mostly in the closet which means that I can’t move the things from the bedroom to the closet which meant that I can’t… you get the picture. I call a friend. As we talk, the fire alarm goes off – for the first time.
At least the continuous bone-rattling clamour mostly prevents me from worrying about how to reconcile social distancing and construction work. In the precious seconds between chainsaw buzzing, I console myself that these men have been crawling all over this house for 9 months. They spend more time here than at their homes. And our house isn’t actually all the way finished, so we don’t have a lot of choice. We clean a lot and don’t hang out with them much. It’s the best we’ve got.
12:00pm – I keep trying to work. I have essays that need marking, an online course that requires reading, and a blog that needs writing (that’s this one), but the more I try to focus, the more I feel sick. Am I feverish? I don’t think so, but my head hurts a lot. Our exchange student, God bless him, asks if he can go to his girlfriend’s house. I feel like I should say no, but Europe has closed its borders; Canada has all but closed its border; Ontario has declared a state of emergency; this pandemic could last for months, and this poor sucker of an 18-year-old is stuck in our nearly-finished house with a tween and a mouthy 9-year-old while the walls shake from construction. So we say yes, with strict instructions for them not to go out at all. He smirks and says that “shouldn’t be a problem.” Sigh.
1:15pm – The fire alarm clangs on and off for over an hour before they figure out what’s causing it. The furnace guy comes to check the furnace and then leaves again. My head is still pounding and now my stomach hurts, too, so I go for a walk in the neighborhood – nevermind the occasional “wintry mix” that is our weather. My heart falls as I walk past shuttered business after shuttered business. The coffee shops, restaurants and hair dresser, all closed. The playground in the park is abandoned. Only the local pot shop is thriving: the line stretches down the street. So this is what it’s come to.
3:45pm – I walk for a long time and my head starts to clear, but eventually I have to go home. I’ve just put in earplugs (as useless as getting out a broom during a tornado) and settled as far as I can from the noise, when an infernally loud beeping begins. It’s not the fire alarm; now, between shrill yips, a calm computerized voice says, “carbon monoxide detected” over and over and over.
We grab the kids and hurry them down stairs as the construction lead comes in and begins to open the windows. Clearly we need to get out of the house, but everyone is quarantined or social distancing. And while it’s not actively spitting snow/rain/sleet, the skies are ominous. I think on my feet and suggest our friends’ place – they’re still on vacation (in Mexico! imagine!) and their house is empty. We know the code for their keybox. We hurry down the street only to discover that their back gate is iced shut. The kids offer to scale it just as the wintry mix begins again. I text our friends; they are delighted to let us use their house. The kids find the key box & get the door open.
3:55pm – we are in. No one is hammering or sawing or pounding. There is no fire alarm, no carbon monoxide. I don’t have my computer or anything to do. No matter: I sit in the glorious silence. Slowly my headache subsides. The boys are on the other side of the house, watching TV and I am just sitting. I have not done any of the things that needed doing. I have not read or marked or written. I haven’t unpacked or cleaned or cooked. I haven’t organized or even been able to think all day long. And I am so tired.
I text my friend. I say that I am tired. He replies,
A move plus no school plus a deadly furnace plus a pandemic is a lot to happen in a week. 😦
6:00pm – as we walk back to the house, now free of smoke, carbon monoxide and sawing of any sort, I get a message from my sister: her boys are out of school until the end of the school year. She is panicking. My 9-year-old starts to say how awesome that would be when his brother hushes him. “This is really serious, isn’t it, Mom?” he asks. I nod. “Maybe I’ll start a journal when I get home,” he says quietly.
And then I know I am over the edge. I will need to sleep before I can think properly again. It’s a lot for one week – and it’s only Tuesday.