I am angry and very, very afraid. I am the mother, and although my children are grown and independent in their own lives, I have always believed and tried to live by my parental responsibility to comfort and educate and protect my children. Now, I cannot reassure my children that their lives will be ok and they will ever return to whatever “normal” was before Feb. 2020.
I can’t reassure them because I don’t know any longer what normal may be. I live with a degree of fear every time I go out of my house, no matter how short or necessary the errand is. Facial masks hide familiar faces. If there are smiles of greeting, they cannot be seen and voices are often badly muffled. Routine trips to the post office, or to pick up a prepared lunch from the Junction, or perhaps just to find bananas at the local grocery, are all worrisome now.
When I know my children and their loved ones go to their workplaces, I urge them to “stay safe” but in my heart I want them to stay in the better safety of their homes. I hope their work will not take their lives!
All our lives have been turned upside down since February. Remember casually going to the Pig, or IGA or the dollar stores in the old days, without thinking about the need to wear a mask, and perhaps gloves? Remember days and shopping trips when you weren’t urged to wipe off the groceries with a disinfectant wipe before putting them away? These days, we are told to wash and wash and wash our hands to the tune of “Happy Birthday” and sing it twice just to be sure they are cleansed. We are warned to socially distance from others, and forbidding duct tape lines greet us everywhere now at checkout counters. In some customer service areas, plastic sheeting hangs from the ceiling with only small openings to accept the money or packages customers bring.
Even as some states begin to open up beaches and parks, movie theaters, bars and restaurants, each such movement comes with a caution. Twenty-five percent of allowable occupancy will be permitted, restaurants are told, although the reality is financial solvency for them cannot not exist at the 25 percent level. Schools will remain closed, with children’s lives and learning uprooted indefinitely. The elderly lie alone in nursing homes and hospitals, perhaps to die alone. Yet phenomena are seen in nature as never before - dolphins in Venetian canals and wild animals on city streets.
Some employees may never return to their previous jobs. Some small businesses will fail. But some stores may open if crowds are regulated and socially distanced. Gasoline is at incredibly low cost levels, but car owners are afraid to travel. Airplanes fly sparsely, sometimes with only a handful of passengers. Flight attendants in well-fitted, tailored suits will now be fitted with facial masks.
However, workplace safety goals are merely suggestions for a myriad of building operations and personnel. Meat producers are suffering with high levels of infection within their factories. Sadly, too many employees in too many jobs are not being tested to more accurately determine levels of contagion in the kinds of close quarters often present in factory settings.
Today, experts predicting a second wave with 60-70 percent of the population infected before public immunity is created. They predict a two-year season of illness.
Farmers are dumping milk in their fields, unpicked crops are being plowed under, baby pigs are being euthanized since it is believed there will be no market, and no one truly knows what to do or how long it must be done. Even commercials take a soft touch, promising relief for bill. Families are shown playing together at home and many of these newly-crafted commercials end with the admonition to “stay safe! We’re all in this together.”
So here we are. Information sources are conflicted and even unreliable. Wear a mask in public, the mayor of Stillwater, Oklahoma directed. Three hours later, after violent protests against employees who were attempting to enforce the regulation originally developed by the CDC, the requirement was softened to a voluntary request. Protesters said the masks were unconstitutional. Armed-for-war with intimidating assault rifles, protesters in Michigan maintained the stay-at-home order was an attack on their freedom, and was not to be accepted or enforced. One sign carried by an angry woman read “My Body, My Choice.”
But it isn’t only her body; we are all being threatened by invisible droplets of contagion. How can I protect my children against those unseen enemies? How can I tell them everything will be all right in June, or September, or next year when I don’t know that answer? Our lives, their lives will never be the same. I am angry and very afraid.