One year ago. Just twelve months, but seems like a lifetime.
A year ago, Alice was ripping the slopes at Whitewater. A year ago, the kids hugged their babysitter without reservation. A year ago, Blake and I had apres-ski beers at a packed pub, shaking hands, passing around drinks. A year ago, at the library LEGO club, Henry scooted between twenty other snotty-nosed kids scouring for that perfect LEGO piece to complete his creation.
A year ago, Henry didn’t have a mullet and my husband wasn’t sporting a COVID beard – a beard of protest and mourning, he says.
A year ago, we were happily tucked away in the heart of the Kootenay Mountains on our annual trek to BC. Our month of uninterrupted family time cut short by a rapid escalation of fears and innumerable unknowns. An email from our hospital’s CEO crashing into my blissed out state: “All contract MDs, please return to Sioux Lookout as soon as possible. You will be required to remain in the Region for the next foreseeable future.” A hasty cancellation of plane tickets and an unplanned road trip across the country.
Remember those first few weeks? Email inboxes flooded with minute-to-minute updates, ever-changing protocols, rapid organization of virtual meetings. An Torontonian ICU doctor teaching us family physicians how to treat COVID-19 pneumonia – a seemingly futile race against overwhelmed air sacs filling with fluid, rapidly drowning their patient. Could our hospital’s post-op recovery area be a suitable improvised ICU? Where would be the ideal locale of a temporary morgue? The local Rec Centre? Perfect.
Blake’s 3-D printer grinding out face-shield after face-shield in our basement.
Daily anxiety grumbling in the background while Blake and I negotiated exhausting, non-stop, NASA-level decisions. Could the kids have indoor playdates? Could we see Uncle Johnny? Is it safe to exchange books with other families without disinfecting each page?
Our storage room overflowing with dried chickpeas. Blake chastising me for putting two sources of protein in the curry. Ration. Consider the supply chain. Groceries quarantined to the garage before being invited into the fridge. Fear simmering, ever-present.
My first days back at work – confusing and cumbersome. Like I was back in medical school, awkwardly following my staff into the bathroom. A beast of a machine occupying the corner of Labour Room 3, sucking air through a ham-handedly installed ventilation system. Now it be used as an OR for c-sections, just in case! Neonatal resus equipment individually placed in ziploc bags. Have you memorized which type of N95 mask you were fit-tested for? Would there even be one if you needed it?
I once loved to dress up for work. As my dear friend and colleague Megan Bollinger always said, ‘No one will ever tell you you look tired if you’re wearing a cute dress!’ But scrubs were now the daily, mandatory uniform, stripped off while standing in an improvised, plastic drop-sheet anteroom, then placed directly into the wash like toxic waste. Full shower before welcoming tiny hugs. Repeat times a hundred every time you enter and leave the hospital.
Ah, but the thing about being a parent is that despite the fact that the world is literally imploding, kids’ ever-constant needs are always at the forefront. Pulling you to the present. What activities do I have planned for tomorrow’s makeshift homeschooling shit-show? Alice, why did you take off Henry’s pants? Henry, it’s not even 7am yet. Why the hell are you on top of the refrigerator?! The current death toll in Italy is irrelevant if you don’t have a plan for dinner and the kids are advancing into the hangry zone.
Those early pandemic days. Moving slowly through the hours, day by day.
It’s been a year for all of us. We’ve pulled together in so many ways as a community and as a family. However reflecting on these past twelve months and all we have been through, what I most proud about is here we are, a year later and Blake and I are still together, facing the uncertainty, the highs and lows and everything in between. You don’t have to be a psychologist to hypothesize why divorce rates have been steadily increasing during this pandemic. Start with a high-stress job, throw in geographical isolation and two insanely loud and active kids, remove all supports like childcare and help with housecleaning then add in a total lack of routine and predictability while trying to exist together in a the same physical space 24/7. It’s an obvious recipe for a goddamn disaster!
Things have been broken, words have been said (well, let’s face it – screamed is a more accurate descriptor) and sometimes stone-walled silence has been the adult equivalent to the childhood cereal box barricade. But we’ve gotten through and although I’m hesitant to say this, maybe, just possibly we are closer and our relationship is stronger for it. For the past year and a half, Blake and I have dutifully sat down in front of my laptop every other week to meet up with our couples therapist. Of course Blake rolls his eyes with every reminder that we have a session coming up, but recently, he described marriage counselling to a friend as ‘not that bad’! I’ll take it!
So, happy COVID anniversary Blake. Thanks for not divorcing me. Thanks for carrying me through those times when I was drowning in anxiety. Thanks for riding out the scariest moments with more steadfast grace than I ever thought you could possibly embody. Thanks for parenting these crazies with me and for all of those quiet, touching parenting moments that no one ever sees. Thanks for being my touchstone through all of this. Here’s hoping we will only ever have one COVID anniversary to celebrate. I love you.