“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today” Thich Nhat Hanh
Before you read this post I want to set up an intention to ask you kindly not to feel sorry for us. This experience although very hard to live through turned out well. Bernie came home healthy each time. This is not the case for many people. This is to shed a light on how it was to live through this in a real-time story. I want dearly for all of us to remember every essential worker who showed up every day knowing the potential exposure that kept our fragile economy going. My husband is my hero and there are many other families with heroes and s-heroes who have similar and far worse stories.
Most people during this pandemic have had to do necessary quarantines at least once for many reasons. Each time the waiting is the hardest. Although this story is about our experience, I wanted to tell a story that millions of people lived worldwide. Ours is just one of them. I realize, people, circumstances, and emotions varied; worst of all, sadly, some outcomes were different than ours. Still, these moments a lot of us found ourselves living, were so out of the scope of anyone our age or younger could even begin to process. I feel part of the inability to process our emotions came from the apocalyptic feel, especially at the beginning. It felt like some version of a movie we had watched coming to life. But this time, it was real, and like it or not, we had to live it. I needed to write this down, as it was fresh in my mind. I started writing it as it was happening, and the only words that kept coming up for me were “how bizarre.”
It is April 23rd, 2021. Its been over a year since the pandemic landed in Nova Scotia. Outside, a northerly gale is blowing cold, bone-chilling wind. Inside our warm home, the sound of ripping duct tape over and over again is all I hear. The sound never bothered me before, but today rip after rip makes the sound amplify the obscurity of this task. I am putting one strip after another on the air exchange inlets in the four rooms where Bernie, my husband, will live separately for the next two weeks while we wait.
I put the last strip on the last one, making sure to secure it to not breathe the same air in our home. I realize I am a part of a worldwide club of people in love with essential rotation workers who work away from home, and because of this, each time they come home, we have to stay away from each other every time they arrive back home. All I can think is how bizarre.
I am very much aware and filled with gratitude that we have a home large enough to do this as many do not. I have seen on the news some are quarantining in their garages, in tents, or RVs. Worse, like so many medical front-line workers entirely away from family in separate apartments or homes at times.
Each time he gets through a quarantine healthy, I get to breathe deeply again for three weeks before a part of me holds my breath until the next time he comes home. Each time he is home, I hold him a little tighter and have become filled with gratitude for each day I have with him.
This is our fifth time doing this over the past year. Bernie works on ships sailing on the Great Lakes over 1400 km away and is only home every 5 -8 weeks, but luckily, he is usually home for five weeks in between. After the first couple of times I became accustomed to his quarantine until today; I am feeling an extra dread in my gut this time.
There is a reason that this time is as scary as the first time I had to do this, when so much was unknown. As all of us hear on the news, this new variant, a more contagious virus, is raging out of control in Quebec, Ontario where my hubby works, and has even started up again in our small province of Nova Scotia, where we live. My thoughts start racing again. “I have got to stop this doom and gloom thinking”. As a compulsive over eater when stressed, this is where I must practice allowing my feelings of vulnerability to be here and not shut down. I remind myself “gratitude” to replace the fear, not food.
“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding, The antidote for foreboding joy is gratitude” . Brene Brown
Brene Brown calls this “Foreboding Joy,” and she says the antidote for this is gratitude. It very true, when I allow feelings of gratitude, my mind cannot hold fear at the same time. I take a deep breath and think of all the things I am grateful for, and there are too many to write. I think of Bernie and our love for each other. I turn my gaze outside through the window, I see the large evergreen trees waving in the cold wind and ground myself again with another deep breath and continue. Trees have always held a grounding force for me, sometimes a glance or a touch of their branches or leaves help me to see the bigger world in which I have the privilege to live. Its humbling and beautiful at the same time.
I set up tables to hold appliances, dishes, his favorite tea mug and other things to be self-contained. It seems crazy to be preparing a separate space for a man I have missed and love so much. I bring out a mattress and put on our couch, and make it up into a bed. Luckily, Bernie has his entrance so he can go to his shed for a while each day.
I forgot, I have to bring his truck to the garage and fill it up with gasoline because he has to go to Yarmouth 3 times to be tested for Covid during his quarantine.
There are dozens of little detailed things that need to be done before he gets home tomorrow morning. The following items I need to have in his room bring a reality to my tasks that make my stomach churn. These items must be present, a thermometer, humidifier, medication, and home phone.
The hardest things of all; even though I have not spoken this out loud to anyone, I get ready for myself a disposable rain jacket, new rubber gloves, mask and face shield; this is in case I have to say goodbye; God forbid he is taken away in an ambulance. It remains unspoken and only in my thoughts until now.
I get a text that he is on his way to a motel in Montreal by taxi. My stomach flip-flops again. “Foreboding Joy,” I remind myself and retake a deep breath. From there, he has to take a flight to Halifax and another taxi three and ½ hours to home. “God, please protect him, and I imagine a white light surrounding him as he travels home to me.”
It’s morning again; I hear the early morning melody of the chickadees and other songbirds, the sun is out, and my spirit is lifted. I am so excited that Bernie is coming home this morning for a split second, and then I realize Bernie is coming home this morning, and my body tightens. Another deep breath and let it go. The last thing I do, just because it seems so final, I close the door that separates us and duct tape all the cracks in the door jam where I feel a draft for his room. How bizarre
Thank God this morning I have the Soulo Zoom meeting. The writers’ group that I have had the privilege of joining the last few months; it has been a saving grace for me. It will be so nice to focus on the stories of other beautiful people from 11:00- 12:30 as Bernie is on his last leg of his journey home in a Taxi, he will arrive around 1:30.
I sit outside on our patio about 12 feet from Bernie’s entrance to our home as he pulls up the driveway. He gets his suitcase out of the trunk, gives the driver a tip. I stare at his handsome face obscured by a black mask hiding his black and silver beard, which I love. His beautiful masculine body comes towards me and stops suddenly about 8 feet away; when I put my hand up as a reminder, he steps back. We are both wearing a mask, but our eyes meet; I hold back my tears, we say nothing for a second and then he says, “It’s sure nice to see you in person, hon.” He turns towards his door and then turns back to me; he is now 12 feet away and says, “Babe, can I just see your face for just a sec before I go in?” I quickly pull my mask down and smile, I see his eyes twinkle, and we each go into our separate living quarters to video chat. We are both trying hard to be strong for each other, but I can see the worry in his eyes. I know those eyes intimately.
Now we wait
“Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a gift. That is why its called the present” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Each morning I hear those sweet words, “I’m fine, Babe” We video chat for a few min, I try my best to put on a brave face. I don’t tell him that I was awake from 2 until 5 am. I did something so stupid; I looked at the possible Covid exposures. All of the flights last week were from Montreal to Halifax. Damn! The last flight on the list was on the 19th, and he came home on the 23rd. So, we must wait for updates. He does not need to know this yet unless his flight is posted. The cases in Nova Scotia are rising everyday.
These ritual check-ins continue each morning. Over the next two weeks, there are three mandatory Covid tests to come next. Each time we wait long hours for the results. Each time the test comes back Negative, we both breathe again that day. Each day I am hypervigilant about the noises I hear from his side of the door. I hold my breath each time he sneezes, or I listen to him cough. “Are you ok, honey?” “Yes, Babe, I’m fine.”
Finally, its Thursday and it’s been 24 hours since his day 12 Covid test, and he receives his results; Negative! He is due out of his quarantine Friday which is tomorrow. Unfortunately, I came down with a nasty sinus infection and decided to get a Covid test incase on Thursday. Now we wait for my test results, and it takes until Sunday at 1:30 pm for my results NEGATIVE!! Finally, after 16 days apart, I tear the masking tape off the door.
Its 3 weeks later and he is off again; as he leaves I am feeling empty, now we wait another 2 weeks as he arrives back on his ship. Knowing full well if he gets sick with Covid he will not be allowed to come home and will be sent to hotel alone to ride it out. There are times this thought is to much to bare. I take another deep breath and do my best as everyone else in this situation has done; live as much as possible in this moment, one day at a time.
Now we wait
What a strange, bizarre ritual
UPDATE July/ 21 : Now that we are both fully vaccinated he no longer needs to quarantine for now.