March 13th was my youngest child’s 12th birthday. The school dance was canceled. The ice skating party was canceled. We decided to go ahead with a sleepover with 3 friends since it was his birthday and well, we didn’t get it. After all, they were supposed to go back to school on Monday for one final day of instruction, so it felt moderately OK. We had a lot of hand sanitizer and I enforced hand washing many times throughout the party.
On Sunday, after the sleepover, I first heard about “social distancing” from one of my mom friends and started processing what that meant.
I’d already bought plenty of groceries, and I work from home. The kids were happy to stay in (we’re a bunch of introverts) though my eldest worried about his tests and GPA. But it wasn’t a personal hardship. We were in a good place to hunker down.
We’re a divorced family, so I figured before I took them to their father’s a week later, I’d take their temperatures. It turned out that my eldest son had a low-grade fever.
There’s really nothing like an unexpected fever during a pandemic to make you rethink every decision you’ve made over the last two weeks: my flight to San Antonio 15 days prior, a last-minute run to the grocery store, and of course the sleep-over party.
We had a virtual appointment with someone at the Cleveland Clinic, who put in a referral for COVID testing, though she explained that she did not have to power to approve the test—that was up to “the people at the hotline.” We were told not to leave the house for 14 days and given instructions about isolation and wiping down everything every day. He wasn’t even supposed to pet the cat. (The cat doesn’t particularly like to be petted anyway.)
Look, my two kids share a room. I understand about how contagion works. If he was positive, he would have been contagious for several days already. Putting him in a separate room at this point felt like locking the barn door after the horses escaped. However, I wiped down everything. I mopped daily and Lysoled every surface every night. We all washed hands until our skin felt like sandpaper. Then we waited.
Since my son has asthma and my ex-husband works with some people waiting for results on COVID tests, we were approved for testing a few days later. I told the nice lady on the phone that he wasn’t that sick and I didn’t want to take a test from someone who needed it more, but she said that they had a protocol about testing and the powers that be decided that they wanted him tested, and basically, stop wasting her time by arguing and agree to it. She didn’t say the last part. She was more patient than I could ever have been in the situation.
We live about 25 minutes away from Cleveland Clinic’s drive through testing center. We made an appointment with the nice lady on the phone and got seen the same day.
I had two masks. I did not ask my son to wear one in the car. I thought about it. I thought about how the whole 6 feet apart thing would be impossible in my SUV. I thought about how we were supposed to act like he had the plague. But I couldn’t treat him as if he were dirty. I thought about my youngest son on that ride downtown. I regretted the mask decision. I didn’t know how to undo it. It felt too late.
The efficiency of the testing center was astonishing.
We followed the big blue arrows to the entrance of the testing site, where a police officer explained the procedure. We entered the parking garage, where a masked clinic employee pointed to the dry erase board, which instructed us to leave our windows up and call a phone number to check-in. Once checked in, we proceeded to another station, where a person in scrubs, gloves, mask and face shield painfully swabbed his nose through a crack in the window. Then we drove home.
More mopping, more Lysol wiping. I made a lot of cookies and ate most of them myself. I took everyone’s temperature every few hours and created a spreadsheet shared with my ex-husband. I told very few people because I didn’t want to spread a panic until I had actual facts. My ex-husband delivered some supplies to my back door: Gatorade, milk, and an asthma inhaler. I was grateful that in spite of our decade-old divorce, we still co-parent really well together.
I tried not to read the news but broke down and compulsively read everything I could get my hands on. I read Jessica Lustig’s article in the NY Times, What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus, and nearly threw up. I regretted that final trip to San Antonio, the sleepover, the lack of mask in the car, the laundry I hadn’t finished washing.
Today we found out that the test was negative. We are (so far anyway) some of the lucky ones. When we watched the Ohio press conference today, they announced that 14,764 people were tested in our state, and that number included us. We’re still under a “stay at home” order, and if anything, I’m even less likely to allow them around other people right now, so our day-to-day life is still the same, well, except for that debilitating fear at the edge of every hour. The fear is still there—the kids aren’t the only people I love after all—but it moved a half-step back for the moment anyway.
I learned that I’m not a good quarantine mom, and I’m extremely grateful that I didn’t have to pay a price for that. I wasn’t worried about myself, but I only did a mediocre job of protecting my youngest. I’d damn sure regret that if he had gotten sick as well. But it felt so useless. We were a family unit, and we had already breathed each other’s air. Since we were on home confinement, we were in the same room pretty much all day every day leading up to that first fever. But we got lucky that we didn’t have to pay for that decision, and neither did the kids we invited over a week ago for that last sleepover.
Anyway, that’s how we are spending our spring break. And my eldest is on antibiotics because although he doesn’t have COVID, he still has a fever.
Copyright © 2020 Lara Lillibridge
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