Monday, April 6, 2020
This morning Homero and I were reading the news over our morning coffee, as we do every day, and the girls were just waking up and coming into the kitchen looking for breakfast. I happened to be reading a rather terrifying article about the lack of space in morgues in New York City and the plan to “temporarily” use city parks to bury bodies of Covid19 victims.
I said “Wow” and read part of the article out loud to Homero. He reminded me of the video he showed me the other day of bodies piling up in the streets of Guayacil, Ecuador, because there was no functioning system to collect them. That made me think of the first time I had heard of something like this happening, about two or three weeks ago in Italy. A man had posted a video to Facebook saying his (mother? Sister?) had died at home two days previously and he couldn’t find anyone to come get her body. At the time, there had been fewer than 100 deaths from Covid19 in Italy, and I wondered how it could be that such a small number of excess deaths could cause a complete breakdown in the death-care industry. I asked my brother - a systems engineer- if he could explain it and he said No.
Hope broke into this conversation and said in an angry voice that she didn’t believe it, she thought the media were whipping people into a frenzy for ratings and it wasn’t true that bodies were going unburied in New York City. To my shame, I didn’t immediately recognize this as an expression of anxiety, and instead started to argue with her about media literacy and to talk about reliable versus unreliable sources of news. She said “I choose not to believe it” and I replied “then you choose to be misinformed” and she grabbed a muffin and stormed off to her room.
I felt remorseful pretty much immediately. After all, I’m shocked by the news and I also struggle with the urge towards denial, and I’m middle aged. It must be absolutely terrifying to be a teenager and to be realizing that here’s a situation that your elders are totally unable to control, that many adults are running around with their hair on fire panic buying toilet paper because that’s all they can think of to do. It must be awful to experience your plans for your future - in Hope’s case, the SATs, college applications, a summer job -
dissolving into uncertainty.
Speaking of which, we got another piece of bad news this afternoon. The Governor ordered schools to stay closed through the end of the year. Kids will not be going back to school this spring. There will be no commencement, nobody will walk down the aisle and get their diploma and shake the principal’s hand and hear the applause if their relatives and friends. No graduation parties. No prom.
There’s nothing I can do about that. I AM helpless to change the situation. But at least I am not helpless to provide them with some consistency, some stability, and the going on of ordinary home life. Things really haven’t changed much on the farm. Today has been gorgeous and warmer, sunny and dry. We got a bunch of work done. Homero is shoveling out a winter’s worth of deep litter in the barn. I mowed the front lawn and the orchard. Then the girls and I moved some more dirt and planted some herbs and some carrots.
Now I’m sitting out on the lawn in a lawn chair next to Homero; he is reading and I am writing. the dogs are laying in the grass chewing on some bones they found in the back pasture. Paloma is doing cartwheels and Hope is playing with her ferret. Soon I will go inside and start dinner.