The biggest strain on me was not being able to say goodbye to the kids at school or come up with any type of plan before the kids left, leaving us all feeling lost and unfinished. Trying to work from home without face-to-face contact with my coworkers has been hard. The resources I rely on from the building are now not available, but I am at home trying to produce the same amount of work. It has made me realize how much we are made for community and how much it affects us when we are alone. I don’t think I will ever take going to work for granted again.
A customer brought in eggs today. Free eggs for other customers. Customers have given me homemade masks. Masks they’re sending to health care workers who can’t get them. Yesterday a customer handed $20 to an elderly lady who was waiting patiently for her turn when she said, “Oh no, I left my purse in the car.” After she finished she went out to her car and came back in and handed the giver her $20 back. The giver handed it to me. “Use it for the next person who needs it.” A guy walked in later with a box loosely taped. I said it might not hold. “OK, let me buy some tape. Can you keep this tape under the counter for other pals like me?” Nah, let me get the tape with this $20 from earlier today and I’ll keep the tape under the counter for the next pal.
Sanitize, put on gloves, take my temperature — it’s all become so routine now as I enter the quiet school building. I watch as the ladies in our kitchen hustle to make breakfast and lunch for 150 kids. I greet families as they drive up to get the food, waving at the kids, checking in with the parents. Then it’s Zoom meetings, emails and messages where teachers ask if I’ve heard from this family or that one. We have families helping families, sharing ideas as they navigate this new way of life. We have staff working across all grade levels to meet not only the needs of their students, but the needs of their families as well. Although our doors are closed, our school is still very much open.
My first virtual dinner party was this week with my sister. Had a virtual cocktail hour with great friends. I have connected with family and friends more times this week than I have in a month in the past. Although we are all socially distancing ourselves, I see people getting closer, supporting each other and small businesses, and business supporting communities. I know times are tough, and things seem really hard at the moment, but I think we are beginning to pay attention to the little things, the things I used to hear my grandparents talk about after living through the Great Depression. The really important things — each other.
It seems I have nothing but time. Time to dust off my pasta maker, time to take apart and scrub my stove until every piece of it shines, time to write handwritten letters to old friends. I miss my friends. I miss school. I miss my older kids. I miss normal. I had huge plans for 2020. I think the whole world had plans, but by March our hubris was replaced with reticence. Going to the store is now an ordeal, and you don’t even know if what you need will be on the shelf. Bill Gates predicted back in 2015 that “Not missiles, but microbes would be the biggest risk for a global catastrophe.” We were very unprepared for this.
Grocery store employees are essential workers. Our mornings begin with sanitizing door handles on our soda coolers, freezers, check-stands, phones. Currency is one of the dirtiest things you can handle so I wear gloves, and to keep from touching my face I use a back scratcher. It seems as soon as you are told not to touch your face it’s the first thing you want to do. I am trying to do my part in this, but some of our employees had to opt out due to risks to their families. I ask everyone to help protect us all. Take care, be safe, and virtual hugs and elbow bumps to you all.
I find myself under the stairs. You know the place — dark and dusty, where all the forgotten junk ends up. I didn’t expect to find a friend here, but there she sits in the middle of her web. My intention was to clean, organize and discard. I have gone through every drawer and closet in the house and this space was the last holdout. That’s what isolation has done for me — made me reach into forgotten spaces. Reconnect with parts of myself I had neglected for too long. I take another glance at my friend and back away. I’ll save this one for another day.
Living alone for a number of years may have extinguished any passion I had for cooking but suddenly, magically, I channel my mother as I bend over noodle dough, willing it into submission with my marble rolling pin. Homemade stews and soups find their way into the open arms of the extra freezer and, any day now, I’ll be baking bread. I foraged for seeds and soil while others were out hoarding toilet paper. The newly sprung sprouts sunning themselves in my west-facing windows will become the salads and side dishes of tomorrow. Long walks keeping social distance from my friends, a fire in the wood stove on the still chilly nights, and at least one pup curled up beside me as I read and drink my tea — I think we’re going to get through this just fine.
Being a registered nurse, fire commissioner and KP resident have given me a unique perspective. I am amazed at the resiliency of the staff at the hospital. We have built isolation anterooms in the emergency department and erected tents, ADA bathrooms and hand-washing stations outside in anticipation of high volumes of patients. Fear of running out of personal protective equipment is a daily concern. My landlord employed her friends to sew masks for us. The KP Fire Department Board of Commissioners continues its work by holding online meetings. The Chief, along with our Medical Director, created protocols for staff and patient treatment that rival the best out there. I haven’t seen my family since the stay-at-home mandate. I figure I would be the biggest risk to them.
I have been a first responder chaplain for the Key Peninsula Fire Department for eight years. I was on a conference call the other day with 100 chaplains around the country. The Rikers Island jail chaplain in New York City has moved up the chain of command because friends above her died. A chaplain in Iowa said “Remember, people pass of other things as well,” and is using FaceTime for families to be with their loved ones in their final hours because they’re not allowed into the hospital. A Houston fire chaplain said 200 firefighters are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, and one is in ICU. Since no one could visit, the department surrounded the hospital with fire trucks. The man is now improving. Huge reminders we are fortunate here and we have fellow humans who are suffering.
Having been part of Disaster Planning most of my working life, it’s quite different to be in the “at risk” category and removed from that process. This community is really quite amazing and ahead of the government directives. They brought together local and county resources to evaluate community needs, looked for ways to fill the gaps in service to the most vulnerable, and looked for ways to assure local businesses remained viable. They weren’t waiting to hear “next steps” but began problem-solving and planning before the real crisis occurred.
I was born and raised in Scotland. My Irish immigrant grandparents were young people when the Spanish flu roared across the world killing 20 to 50 million people. Oral history is strong in my family and their stories made these times real and immediate. When I was 14, the extremely contagious Hong Kong flu spread rapidly and killed 1 to 4 million people worldwide over two winters. I remember that it hit the young and middle-aged because seniors had been getting vaccinated after a severe influenza in 1957. As a retired microbiologist, I am more conscious of germ spread than most. Some of my family are in the most vulnerable categories and some are on the front lines. I am calm not because I am indifferent or ignorant. I am calm in the certainty that I am doing all I can do.
While I’m making the most of this new but temporary normal, I ask myself how much of this current lifestyle I’d like to keep. Less hustle and running around. More time in the yard, taking in all the beauty that the KP has to offer. Enjoying the moment for what it is, instead of worrying about the next appointment or meeting. These are the things that make up the silver lining that is our fight against this time of uncertainty. My heart breaks for those who have lost their lives, and for those who have lost loved ones. I’m saddened for those who have lost jobs and are trying to make ends meet. My thoughts and continued gratitude remain with our heroes who risk their lives every day for our community and country.
I know that we can all survive from our pantries. Our avenues for entertainment vary also, from tackling projects left for another day, refining those cooking skills, reading an old favorite, dusting off the board games. But one thing I know we do not survive long is isolation. On my daily walks I stop (at a distance) to say hello to my neighbors. When I need to brave my local market I say hello to all, from a distance. Once, driving back through Key Center, I saw two children on a bench waving hello to everyone passing by. It yanked a tear or two from my heart as I waved back. “Hello” says how are you, I care about you, you’re not alone. It may even be the universal caress we all need to begin healing.
I have worked for Peninsula School District for 30 years, with 25 of those at Key Peninsula Middle School as a para-educator. Many kids are surprised I knew their parents when they were their age. You can’t stick around that long without loving what you do. The effect this virus has had on me is to rob me of the chance to say goodbye to my kids and my career. I have been vocal about my joy at retiring, but I thought I’d have more time to say goodbye. KPMS has been my second family. I am still working remotely, but miss the human contact with my students and peers. This whole experience reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode. All this time and nowhere to go.
I have been living on the Key Peninsula for over 17 years and working in health care for just over 10. It used to amaze me that the people on the KP come together to support and encourage one another, but it doesn’t surprise me that they have done the same now. It is refreshing to know that there are still good, honorable, responsible, caring people in the world. This crisis has made me realize what is most important and to stop worrying about things I cannot control. With that said, I’ll be happy when we can all get our lives back on track and spend time with the people we are currently separated from.
My neighbor of the last 30 years turned 100. Of course a large celebration was planned for Jeanne involving friends and family flying in from all over the country. She was a nightclub singer in Seattle during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and sang at the opening of Sun Valley in 1936 at the age of 16. With a gleam in her eye she asked if I was coming to her party. Of course, the party was canceled, so I was unable to kiss the forehead of my dear Jeanne and hold her frail body and show her I love her for all she has been to me and my family.
How do we survive this? How do we protect our loved ones? How do we pay our bills? As a first responder I am putting myself and my family at risk. My wife is a nurse, also increasing our chances of contracting this virus. We are taking our children to a childcare program to avoid passing our germs to friends or loved ones. Our instincts are telling us to be afraid of others, be worried that they may be contagious, that they could spread the virus without knowing it. We were a generation filled with hugs, holding hands, being friendly, and unfortunately this virus has taught us how to fear others.
KP News thanks these nineteen friends and neighbors who shared their thoughts (and selfies) to make this collection possible.
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