My neighbor’s kids used to whisper that I was a shut-in. They used to think I was afraid to leave my house because as far as they could tell I was always home. Their dad taught them if there was ever an emergency and he wasn’t home or they couldn’t find him that they should come straight to me. In part I like to think because I’m kind. But probably, it was mostly because he too thought I was always home.
And I guess I mostly was except when I was in another state. Or another continent. When I’m not traveling I’m home.
One summer day in the middle of the week there was a quiet but insistent knock at my front door. Not the knock of a solicitor. Not the knock of a delivery person. Not the knock of someone who forgot their keys. It was quiet and scared and it felt urgent and patient at the same time. I asked the folx I was on a meeting call with to hold a moment as I went to the front door.
I opened it to find the younger of my neighbor’s two sons in tears on my doorstep. He didn’t know me well. He just knew me well enough to wave, and recognize that I was in fact the crazy shut-in lady next door. His older brother stood on their front step looking mostly unbothered while this younger kid stood in fear before me. Afraid because they couldn’t find their dad.
He tried calling out to him in the house. No answer. He tried calling out to him in the yard. No answer. He tried calling him on the phone. No answer.
I got off my meeting call and picked up my cat and brought him outside to sit down with the boy. I introduced him to my sweet tiny old man cat. Ripper. I told him that Ripper always helps me when I’m worried. As we sat on the cement in front of my door he scratched Ripper’s chest where I showed him Ripper most loved to be petted while I called his dad on the phone.
There was no answer.
Not wanting to spring to a place of worry I sat and chatted with him as his older brother came to sit with us. The lure of my sweet cranky old man cat was too much. He needed to snuggle the kitty too. After leaving their dad a voicemail I asked them how long he’d been gone. The younger one cried and shook his head. He didn’t know. The older one said it had only been a few minutes.
I asked if they wanted to call their mom or their grandma and they both shook their heads. And so I decided that the four of us, those two boys, my cranky old man cat, and me, would sit there as long as we needed to until we found out where their dad was.
“As long as we needed to” was about 5 minutes. Their dad had gone next door to chat with his friend in the garage. You see, their dad was a smoker but he never smoked around the boys. He’d gone next door so he wouldn’t get caught. After he got the boys settled back in my neighbor came over to thank me, and to apologize and make sure everything was okay. I told him there was no apology needed. He sighed and told me his son really was an anxious kid. Really anxious. He was fine when he knew what was going on. But if something wasn’t going according to plan. Well he gets anxious.
I can relate to that.
They moved away about a year ago. In the before times. You know, before the pandemic that has impacted…
Everyone. Literally everyone. And if someone thinks it hasn’t impacted them then I assure you that person’s behavior is impacting everyone else.
Where was I? Oh yes we were in the before times.
But now we’re not. Now we’re in the now time. And later… later there is just more of the now time as far as the eye can see. Which admittedly isn’t that far since I’m pretty much actually a shut-in now.
We’re about eight months into the stay at home order. Some people are taking it more seriously than others. We’re some of those people. I haven’t hugged my parents since February. And I actually like my parents.
So coming to terms with the fact that this is just the now time we’ve been doing a lot of little things that all add up to feeling like we might be slightly more something and less something else?
More comfortable. More productive. More able to withstand the stagnation. Less likely to be cranky and hard to deal with? I don’t know really. What I know is that right now there is a lot in this world I can’t change and I’m being asked to accept that.
So the things I can change, I’m trying. For instance if I hang up a shower curtain behind my new desk you totally can pretend my office is in the bathroom instead if the kitchen.