Eleven weeks ago. That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic got real for me. David (Number Four) and I were driving down from Summit County early on March 15, the Sunday morning that the ski industry closed their resorts because of COVID outbreaks in Colorado. The empty parking lot at Keystone Resort on a prime spring skiing day was eerie, and things snowballed quickly from that morning. We decided to isolate as advised since we had been in Summit County, but within just nine days Denver announced a Stay at Home order followed quickly by a statewide order.
That first week was really hard for me, as nothing seemed remotely normal. I’m a person who needs need facts, and there were few to be found. I was glued to the TV watching the daily White House press briefings which only added to my agitation. I checked the NY Times interactive coronavirus tracking map several times a day, watching the numbers first escalate rapidly in Italy, my home away from home, but then before I knew it, watching the US start spinning out of control. As I tend to do in times of stress, I ate a lot of chips that week.
Eleven weeks later, I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that I’ve accepted this new normal, but this is my life now. With my volunteer positions all on hold, I now spend four days a week babysitting my 2 1/2-year-old grandson so his parents can get their work done from home. I cook every single day and I do blog posts for most of the recipes I make, finding it a perfect activity for when he’s napping. I used to loathe doing the dishes, but now I end each day by running a full dishwasher and start each day by unloading it.
I have a routine for grocery shopping – once a week only, mask on, as quickly as possible, hand sanitizer before I touch my car handle to open the door, fully wash my hands when I’m home. I almost never touch my face anymore, not a hard habit to break we’ve all learned. I’m like a ninja on my walks, easily skirting twenty feet away from anyone coming my way or who I need to pass. I’m laser focused on my bike rides, pulling my mask over my face when I’m within 30 feet of people, then pulling it off for air when I’m alone for a stretch.
I’ve gotten comfortable being with a small group of friends in a socially distanced outdoor setting. Three couples on a patio for dinner, the food kept a safe distance from everyone with a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the food. Two friends outside for a cocktail. David’s family spread out across the street and driveway for a taco party. Golfing, with my own push cart, keeping my distance from my friends. Exercising outside with my girlfriends instead of our weightlifting routine in my basement since this feels safer for now.
Sure, there are lots of things I really miss. I miss my kids who live in Brooklyn and on the Western Slope. I miss hugging people. I miss cooking and entertaining on a larger scale for friends and family. I miss the volunteer work that filled my schedule. And I really, really miss traveling. But, this is my normal, at least for now, and I’m trying hard to stay calm and be patient, even though anyone who knows me knows this is most definitely not my strong suit. But honestly, I’m trying as hard as I can.
Set against the backdrop of the pandemic-induced new normal, is the new normal of my life with David. It was a year ago today that we met online, and from our first date the week after, I was smitten. Our relationship blossomed quickly – too quickly some friends feared, but I just didn’t see any reason to take things slowly. We were both excited when he moved in last fall, but it didn’t feel normal for either of us, and it took time for both of us to learn how to navigate our new relationship in a shared home.
But now, we’ve built a life together. I cook for him; he cleans the house for me. I grocery shop; he does the liquor store run. I do the laundry; he makes the bed. We share what’s going on in our kids’ lives and help each other navigate the subtleties of parenting kids in their 30s and 40s. He’s teaching me about collectible cars and dominoes; I’m teaching him about wine and cribbage. I pick the romantic comedies to watch; he picks the action films. He feeds the dogs in the morning and I let them out before bed. He trains them and I spoil them. 🙂
We’re learning to work as a team doing home improvement projects. He’s learning I have more skills than he’s used to a woman having; I’m learning to give up control and let him handle things. We share a love of symmetry which makes many decisions easy. But we also have completely different approaches to tackling problems which makes some projects hard (like that garage floor we just refinished). We’re learning to understand each other’s point of view and to bend and adjust. I’m far more comfortable saying I was wrong now than I’ve ever been; he accepts when I’m right.
I usually eat sprouted grain toast in the morning; he eats chocolate chip cookies that I make for him. I’m sharing my love of Italian food with him; he’s teaching me all about Puerto Rican dishes. We both like our hotdogs plain, without a bun. Neither of us likes condiments on our burgers. We like the same kinds of sushi, and we both love tacos and avocados. He taught me to enjoy bourbon and I’ve perfected an Old Fashioned, which we both love, made with Knob Creek bourbon, Luxardo cocktail cherries, and agave.
It no longer shocks me to see him standing at the bathroom sink shaving or toweling off after a shower. It no longer seems strange to see his clothes hanging in our closet across from mine. I’m no longer surprised when the garage door goes up and I see his car parked there. His presence here now seems completely natural.
So today, in a world that seems so far from normal, we’re happy to be celebrating our new normal together.