Old Dog New Tricks

Moses is failing. A few weeks ago we had a vet come for a house visit after he spent an afternoon and evening dragging his lower half through the house. His leg muscles are deteriorating, said the vet, it’s degenerative. But try tylenol and CBD and look for more bad days than good. This dog still has some life in front of him.

Sure enough, Moses recovered and we’ve had three goodish weeks. But then he started tripping more, legs shaking, and, every once in awhile, dragging his back legs. The stairs to the yard are steep and unavoidable and more frequently he ends up flat halfway down (if he won’t let us carry him). I may not have mentioned – this is 80 pounds of best friend we’re talking about.

The vet assures us this doesn’t hurt him and there’s no whining or yelping to accompany his collapses. Just a general sense of indignity wafting off of him. His brain is utterly perfect. His faculties intact. He still wants to play and go for walks. Rather, drags, since about halfway he starts struggling, no matter the length of the walk.

At some point, probably soon, he will become incontinent or “have more bad days than good.” How do you decide to say goodbye to your best friend when everything about him but his legs works just fine? And why is this happening when our regular vet isn’t available? Fuck you COVID and degenerative myelopathy both.

Rain, Rain

It’s funny how some things seems so much…bigger…when you’re stuck at home. What’s the right word? Confined? Restricted? Locked up? I mean, I could leave at any time so it’s much better than it is in some parts of the world and if I go outside and pass someone, I can still worry about rapists and the virus in equal parts. As an aside, will it be regional, do you think? Corona on the west coast, ‘Rona in New York, Covid-19 in DC, Covid in the surrounding areas, and SARS-CoV-2 in Atlanta? What about the racist names? What are the history books going to settle on?

I’ve gotten off track. I wanted to talk about the dismal weather we’ve been having. It’s bleak and cold and entirely unwelcome. I know it’s spring and April showers bring May flowers and all that but May 1st is tomorrow, it will be 66 degrees and I’ve had just about enough. Not that I’m pleading for it to be hot and mosquito-ridden, I’d just like a bit of a happy medium for enjoying my time in the house, working, in front of a window that is, for most of the time, displaying a steel grey sky and dripping wet plants.

I’m cloudy myself at the sight of it. I feel grouchy and irritable and generally bleak about everything. It feels like nothing will be better until the sun finally comes out for more than a day. Can you use light therapy to forget we’re social distanced, the economy is crashing, and people are dying?

Technology

You guys, thank god for technology. But why doesn’t my wireless support three zoom meetings at once? #privilege

Head in the Sand

In November 2016, I stopped reading the news. Just stopped. The hype of the election and the devastation in the aftermath was, for me, more than I could handle. I didn’t want to see the dissection of what went wrong for the first female candidate for President (yes, I would have voted for any woman running regardless of party) and I didn’t want to see the shambles that was quickly unfolding at the hands of the newly-elected President. No news was better for my mental health and so it was.

I wasn’t reading the news in 2017 when my dad died and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville. The grief was sickening that year. It must have been 2019 when I reactivated my subscription to the Washington Post and started following headlines on the New York Times. I didn’t go to any news sites, preferring a feed reader to dull the sensationalism.The world didn’t get any brighter in those two years. It appeared that many things were still in shambles, including my mental health.

You can see where this is going. But I was doing better! I didn’t have such a visceral reaction to the horror of the news. Wildfires, a shameful national leader, the loss of healthcare for millions, and so on and so forth. Still horrible but my skin was thicker. Apparently, not thick enough.

This virus and its impact have been crushing. It’s not the dying thousands really, although that’s horrifying, it’s the children wearing masks. It’s the decimated grocery stores. It’s the forced distance from others for fear of something we can’t control or vote out in an election. It’s fourth grade at home. It’s not going to an office each day and abandoning a spring break trip. Did I say it already? Can I say it enough? It’s the children in masks.

Debra sent this video yesterday. It’s light-hearted and upbeat, considering the subject matter. I cried. I can’t not cry. Yes, the environmental changes are amazing. I can see the bright side through the tears, at least. I’m not sure my therapist (and yes I have one) can help with this. It’s worldwide grief this kind and I have to stop reading the news.

Pandemic Boss

It occurred to me after I titled this post that it could be construed as me being some kind of superstar in a pandemic but, sadly, it’s more of a literal thing. It also occurred to me that you all might write your titles after writing, which I rarely do. Maybe I should rethink my strategy so we don’t end up starting from some sort of confused alternative world where I’m saving the universe and generally looking hot while doing so.

Instead, we’re reorienting from that tangent into reality wherein I have had three bosses in the last two years. In an industry that doesn’t see a ton of turnover – at least, not THIS much turnover – it feels both a little nerve-wracking and frustrating. The latest one started recently and I had my first meeting with her last week. It went well enough, for video chatting with someone I’d never met before.

I’m pretty comfortable with zoom, our (and everyone else’s) platform of choice for work. I can make small talk, get down to business, engage people, and generally, feel pretty adept at both running and attending meetings virtually. I’m probably better at it than I am in person since silences aren’t as painful somehow when I’m not talking with someone in real space. The first meeting with my boss went okay but I felt constantly awkward.

My wife says I wasn’t awkward, an opinion that means something since she was sitting in the room with me when my boss and I were talking (the joys of working from home!). But, well, she loves me so I think that takes off a few points. It’s weird to work from home with your entire family, Reader, weird. Still, I felt a little awkward and I wished we could have had at least one meeting in-person.

Having a new boss is intimidating. Doing it during an epidemic where you have to rely on facial expressions alone is daunting. Having the preferred method of conversation be on screen when you’re both getting emails and chats every few seconds doesn’t make it any easier. Each time her eyes slid over to what must have been a new message (and mine did as well) I wondered if I had said something I shouldn’t have. So here we are, new boss, new way of being. Just shy of terrifying.

Fooling Around

You guys, it’s a good thing I like my family. I can’t imagine the hardship of being socially distanced with people I don’t particularly care for. This weekend we saw a bunch of college kids hugging and laughing in a parking lot, clearly meeting up after not having seen one another in a while. My first thought was, THAT is not social distancing. My second was, I bet they are starved for companionship after being in classes all spring and then being suddenly isolated with who knows what kind of roommate. Insert judgy brain: DUDES, YOU ARE GETTING US ALL SICK WITH YOUR LONELINESS.

It’s true though, being shut in at all is hard, it must be worse to be shut-in with people for whom you already needed coping strategies or you flat out dislike or even folks who you like a whole lot in small doses. Let’s throw in a kid for good measure. We have a particularly good kid but she’s fond of us and is taking this opportunity to be as close to us as possible (when she isn’t immersing herself in sanctioned youtube videos and games). The closeness is sometimes overwhelming. In fact, I spent at least two hours outside Sunday just to hear my own thoughts for awhile.

My own thoughts, apparently, miss my wife – you know, the wifely part – a whole lot. It feels like there’s always a jealous audience (cue RR) for short moments of connection. It feels like longer moments to fool around are impossible. To add to it, my wife and I handle grief in very different ways. And if this pandemic is grief worthy (which more than one piece proclaims it is) then my wife is never going to be in the mood. Like, never.

I am trying to be respectful of that. I am trying to figure out how to get my own needs met in this situation. I am despairing that this is predicted to go on into the summer. I absolutely cannot think about having to do this again in the fall or even having it extend all summer. I feel particularly bad that I’m thinking of myself when my wife is clearly thinking of more important things, like dying and isolation. Let’s assume for a minute she has the brain space to read this. This is not a giant plea for her to be different or to feel bad or to cater to me in some way. Really.

There’s not an end to this post. Kind of like the pandemic itself. I hope I’m not alone in this. But I know being overloaded with companionship doesn’t necessarily lead to good times. So here I’ll sit, knowing that things will change, eventually. What a dreary closing paragraph! Kind of like everything, right?

Shutter Click

I used to take a lot of photos using an SLR. And not a digital one. The sort you wound a strip of film through. I was not being pretentious, I didn’t have the funds for a brand-new to the market digital camera and both my uncle and father were avid photographers, taking selfies decades before it was a word. They showed me how to compose a shot, how to thread the film perfectly every time, how to coax a person into smiling at the right moment. Everything short of a darkroom. My dad even HAD a darkroom, we just didn’t get that far before I switched to digital.

I do more mental snapshots these days. Even the just-as-good camera on my phone sits unused most days. I’d rather live life in front of the lens. This period of shut-in has given me more time to take those snaps of my family, relaxing, cooking, bemoaning the state of the world. I don’t think any of us, you and me, all of us, are going to forget the months we were turned inward, looking at ourselves and breathing each other’s air.

So here’s what life looks like on a typical day at our house. I’m working at a at a set-up in the basement that my wife surprised me with after a long day of zoom meetings on my lap using a pillow and book to get the screen to the right level. There’s an old TV on the desk serving as a large monitor, a lamp with an Eiffel tower base, a jar of pens, a pad of sticky notes, and a picture of 7 year-old RR in front of a cornfield.

My wife is running on the treadmill, her feet banging into the belt quickly, fleet-footed. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It reminds me that the basement isn’t a basement in the cellar sense of the word. Yes, the ceiling is unfinished, and some of the walls are cinder block but some of them are finished and the floor is carpeted. There are full-sized windows looking out at the above ground side of the basement. It’s cozy down here and RR has a workspace as well. There’s a calendar on the wall, a clock, a set of shallow drawers to store her school work.

Outside the full-size windows is a bush I planted not long after we moved in. It’s sometimes a nuisance when I don’t trim it (what bush isn’t) and it obscures some of the afternoon light. But for two weeks in April, these two weeks, it blooms the most incredible smelling blossoms. The scent drifts through the window and freshens the air. Soon the flowers will fall but a nearby lilac is moving in to take its place, fragrance wafting through the window. I could ask for worse days to be trapped here.

Upstairs, on a non-school day like today, RR is drawing in her room, deep into stuffed animal pretend, or immersed in a game on the iPad. Yes, she is. And I won’t feel bad about it. We have to continue to work even though she’s on Spring Break, whatever that is. This afternoon, we’ll take a walk to find the things she has put on a scavenger hunt list. It’s sunny. Warm. Spring at its finest.

I’m talking with friends, texting my sisters and mom. Mom won’t stay inside, my sisters fall on the non-plussed to terrified spectrum. I know I should call my mother but you and I both know I don’t need that stress. At times when she’s me (and my sisters) the most is the time I need her the least. The washer and dryer accompany my typing. The dogs are upstairs hoping for a walk even though one is too old to make it very far. We’ll cook dinner together tonight, maybe sit on the bench out front to wave to passers-by.

It’s pandemic life.