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Confessions of a Covid Confinement

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Marc Kaye, April 25, 2020

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog.

Like “this just may be another one of those Marc things that just disappears forever” long time.

I always felt that I may come back to it as my writing never stopped (though to be truly honest, it took a few long hiatuses).

The one thing that a global quarantine has given everybody is more time to think – if we can pull ourselves away from whatever series we are binge watching at the moment (“Better Things” anyone? It’s pretty fantastic.)

I’ve been grappling with a lot of conflicting feelings this year – more than usual.

I was pretty sick starting in January and work was really starting to get busy.

Then, unexpectedly, my mother passed away toward the end of February.

This was all before the world came to a grinding halt.

My mother’s passing stirred up a lot for me – so much so that things are very unsettled for me still.

And now, two months into her passing, I realize that I have been using COVID to my advantage – in a way that I’m not particularly proud of, but doing so, nonetheless.

The Saturday that my father, sister and I saw my mother, or the physical part of her, for the last time, was a day that I still have trouble processing. My dad watched his wife of 51 years and my sister and I watched our mother of 40 plus years disappear – forever.

A mere hour after that, I was picking up a pizza for us to eat with my Aunt and Uncle while calling my son at college to let him know his grandmother had died and he would have to fly back the next day. My sister and I split phone/texting duties to inform family and friends and then with my dad, we were at a funeral home (which I realized was the Ponderosa restaurant my parents would occasionally take us to after Hebrew school) to choose a casket (we got “the David”) and make funeral arrangements. That was all between noon and 3:30. Death, pizza, United Airlines, and “The David”. Sounds about right.

That’s what my family does. This is who we are, at our core. We spring into action. There is no respect in rest and for anyone that knows my family (me withstanding), they complete tasks with the precision and timeliness of a military operation. This has always been a struggle for me who appears sloth like in comparison.

Being Jewish “helps”, too. There’s none of this “goyisha mishagas” – a funeral a week later or wake or hanging around. Ritualistically speaking, the body is to be buried within 24 hours, though there is a little leeway for those of us who don’t subscribe to the most orthodox of practice. Still, it ain’t a week. It seems that maybe it should take longer to bury someone than to binge watch the first episode of “The Office”. But then again, what do I know?

I haven’t in it me yet to write about my mother passing away or the Shiva or anything since. I think about it every day – sometimes more than that. It took me 5 months to write about dropping my son off to college without falling into a rabbit’s hole lined with darkness. It’s going to take me sometime to get to a place where I can write about this one but I will get there. I have to because I can’t carry it around for much longer. I have no option.

The deflection of “springing into action” was a convenient distraction from things like feelings – which, let’s be honest, just get in the way of happily living in the delusional state of pretending like everything is “fine” – a favorite word of mine, personally.

For me, this meant figuring out, with my sister, how to divide the future weeks to be with my dad in Connecticut (where we each live about 3 hours from him – in opposite directions) so that he would not be alone. To be clear, my sister and I took upon ourselves to determine that my dad should have one of us with him at all times. It was our decision and my father was never consulted. He didn’t seem to mind or disagree. Covid-19 had other plans, though.

Luckily, my dad is amazingly resilient and has the personality set point and fortitude of a man who is always willing to take it one step at a time. I, on the other hand, have to understand what a ‘step’ really means and by the way, is a forward step for me a backward step for someone else? How do I know ‘forward’ is unidirectional and is it possible to retrace the steps and redirect? You get the picture.

Then, right as my son was home with me for his spring break in early March, the world came to a pause – one sporting event after another concert after another office closing until it hit college campuses. Before I could plan out my Connecticut time with my dad, I was on my way to Pittsburgh to pack up my son’s things and within the week, I had two kids with me full time while working from home and dealing with their additional disappointments of having their own social connections cut significantly.

It was only March but grief has no timeline. It is only a mechanism for shooting us into a spiral of past regret, future angst and present mourning. The more distance we try to put between us and grief, the longer the days get. I don’t know enough about physics to explain it but it seems to work that way – for me, anyway.

And so onto the confession part.

You see, before we found ourselves doing things we’d never imagine because, you know – “we’re Americans, damn it – we’re not alarmists!” – like setting up cleaning stations for our groceries, using Zoom like it was water and wearing face masks for the rare occasion we even leave our homes – before all of that, I was socially distancing myself mentally from most people.

March came along and it just worked beautifully. I didn’t have to email anyone and say that I’m not really feeling like hanging out or text someone that I’m not in a place to text back right now or look anyone face to face to have them call my bluff when I insisted everything was ‘fine’. In an ironic way, Covid-19 just fell into my lap.

And I felt bad about it.

My work got crazier and busier than I can remember in recent times. I started feeling irritated and longing for more meaning in my job and building resentment – even in light of knowing so many were being furloughed, losing their jobs or on the front lines of a global pandemic.

And I felt bad about it.

My kids found themselves chained to our house and eating dinner with me more often and distracting themselves with things like exercise and Netflix and I loved having them in my presence, regardless.

And I felt bad about it.

I found myself having trouble personally connecting on Zoom with people asking me if everything was ok and making the excuse that “I just am more of a face to face kind of guy” (which actually is true).

And I felt bad about it.

I kept thinking about how meaningless my last contact was with my mother or how much more difficult this would have been if it were my dad instead.

And I felt bad about it.

Socially distancing wasn’t the problem. Socially connecting was.

With each news bite that we may start to re-enter society (which, don’t get me wrong – I desperately want as much as anyone), I had a small pang of terror. I have no FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out)”. What I have is the opposite -FOTI (“Fear of Tuning In”). While everyone was thinking about the next time we could celebrate birthdays together, I couldn’t help feel this need to escape to a remote mountain top somewhere for an extended period of time alone. Would this whole quarantine thing be over before I had taken ample advantage of the opportunity to really tune in and deal with all my crap?

So, there it is – my confession in the time of Covid. If you’re reading this, know that it’s not you and it’s not even Covid (well, maybe a little). It’s a longing to go back to 2019 – just for 30 minutes to sit, eyes closed, take it all in one last time, and be better prepared for 2020. I’m working through it now and I realize, there’s no more hiding, no matter how powerful the mask.

Until next time,


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