Sunday, March 29, 2020

SOL20 Slice #29: Dread

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL20).  
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2020.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Laying on my bunk in the cabin, I was wide awake and terrified. Every detail of the ghost story that the older girls had shared around the campfire earlier in the evening was now omnipresent in my mind. Every exaggerated, imaginative depiction that I had laughed at earlier, sitting next to peers, now seemed very plausible and real, alone, in the dark of night. I listened to my roommates' uneven breathing. One girl had a cold, and her breaths would catch and then rattle, unpredictably, intermittently. My image was of this big, thick, dark green, slimy, amorphous monster that came out in the middle of moonless nights, just like this night. It would quietly creep, almost flow, across the surroundings. It would pass under the thin opening at the base of a door, and spread out into our cabins, and across our bodies. It was a green so dark that it was impossible to see without moon and stars to provide a light. Sometimes it suffocated you. Sometimes it just passed over you, leaving a deep green stain across your face. In my bunk that night, I knew the wind through the branches of the trees was IT, coming. That cracking noise...IT! Was it near?  Perhaps it had just bumped into something...maybe that was just the sound of its weight, as it slithered along. Was it repelled by light? If you had a flashlight, could you ward it off? Why didn't I ask this before? I pulled the thin cover up over my head and just waited, paralyzed, impotent, helpless. At some point, exhausted, I fell asleep.

Honestly, I believe this is my only take-away from my brief stint in the Girl Scouts. I have long heard many more honorable things about this organization, but I only remember that night-time dread, while participating in a one night sleepaway camp in the woods. 

Even though some fifty years have gone by, I can still conjure up that creepy monster; I am all too familiar with that ominous dread.

It's back.

We just got word that COVID-19 has made its way into the nursing homes of two folks we love. One, up in Maine, my Dad (age 90) - a fellow resident was suspected to have the disease several days ago, and was immediately isolated, and the test just came back positive; every resident in the home is now isolated in their own rooms. Two, my sister-in-law's mother (age 93) -  her roommate was diagnosed with the disease, here in Maryland; the beloved caregiver was sent home on a two-week quarantine; the mother is now isolated in her own room, showing no signs of having the infection.

No visitors are allowed in. No family members are allowed to visit. 

Doctors and staff are present.

Until they get sick or exposed.

I wonder if nursing homes are kind of making it up as they go? Do they feel paralyzed and impotent, just lying in wait for this disease? I know I do.

My sister-in-law was able to sneak over to the outside of her mother's first-floor room and hang paper hearts all over this exterior window  - "I love you, Mom." She says her Mom gave her a big smile and a wave. 

Dad's on the second floor of a complex, making this loving action near impossible. I smile at the thought of "doing a John Cusack" (in Say Anything) and bringing a boom box underneath his window, blasting his favorite songs. Dad would want to hear Willie Nelson and Jim Croce. 

I am filled with dread. I think dread necessarily involves a lack of knowledge, an eerie prediction, some fatalism, but always - YOU. DO. NOT. KNOW. IF. IT. WILL. HAPPEN.

I laughed with delight, in fact, at this clip from CNN on this past Friday (March 27, 2020):

Meanwhile, a 101-year-old man was released from hospital after recovering from the coronavirus, Gloria Lisi, the deputy mayor of the Italian city of Rimini, has said.
The man, who has been named only as "Mr. P," was admitted to hospital in Rimini, northeast Italy, last week after testing positive for Covid-19 and left the hospital on Thursday.
Lisi said his "truly extraordinary" recovery gave "hope for the future."

As I write into this sense of dread that is growing in me, I must say - I'm not surprised or afraid that Dad will die. I mean, seriously, he is 90. I think if I were to speak about 'fears of dying of this virus' they would center around losing younger, healthier family members and friends. My Dad has had a long, full life. My dread is about how this plays out in real life - this deeply sad image of dying alone. No matter your age. The effect of having this virus, of being in proximity to someone with the virus, means that you will be acutely isolated. You will suffer alone. All by yourself.

Yes, that's it: I find that I am perseverating on the image of these two much-loved people being so alone right now. So alone. 

What gives them peace while they are hunkered down and waiting it out? I hope my Dad is lost somewhere on memory lane, remembering all those times when he felt strong and happy, thinking about silly antics of the past. Maybe he's even well-trained for this time of isolation, having spent so much time on submarines, away from all the physical space and pleasures of our world.

It helps to think he's laughing.


  1. Maureen, I’m so sorry and saddened by this news. The unknowns of the virus and the “making it up as they go along” both conjure nightmares and are the nightmare. Yes, the isolation and aloneness are the saddest manifestation of the disease, but I bet your father feels your love and desire to be w/ him. I too imagine him living among his memories. Peace and love to you.

    1. Thanks, Glenda. It is a time of impending sadness for so many. Such a strange and surreal time.

  2. Maureen, I am sorry that this is your reality. This is a nightmare. I know that we think because we can't be with our loved ones that they are alone, but I can't help but believe that the caregivers in your dad's facility are while taking the necessary precautions, showing great care and compassion towards their residents. My niece is a CNA and works in such a facility, and that's what she tells me. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Rita, this is so true - and something I should have included. Both of these seniors are in very good nursing homes, with attentive, caring staff. I just know that the staff are so stretched - and, it'll be all the worse, should the caregivers themselves get sick. It is a challenging time!

  3. Maureen,
    What a powerful piece to express your perseverating (a new word for me) about these two being alone. Your description of IT in the opening is a perfect metaphor for this insidious disease. Thank you for your beautiful sharing of your heart, your broodings, your hope, and you even ended it with a smile. I pictured your dad humming "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." Peace be with you and your loved ones.

    1. Oh, thank you! Your comment makes me smile, too, thinking of the lyrics to that Jim Croce hit...I see my Dad dancing in the kitchen, to that song. Thank you!

    2. I just took a break to listen to it!