I Can't Plan, And That May Be The Hardest Part of COVID-19

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
I Can't Plan, And That May Be The Hardest Part of COVID-19
Scary Mommy, icon0/Pexels and Ana Tavares/Unsplash

My husband’s parents want us to come visit them when his school finishes. I’m too terrified to make the drive up the coast, because pandemic. So it’s not going to happen, and they’re going to be very upset when it doesn’t. But what about the beach this summer — Nags Head has reopened, and won’t it probably be all right to go, especially if we don’t stop at rest stops? Beyond that, what about school next year: will my husband be teaching in a brick-and-mortar building? Every day? Part-time? Will they mandate that his students wear masks? This is the hardest part of COVID-19 for me. I can’t plan anything. I don’t know what will be happening next month, next season, or even next year.

I Can’t Plan Our Vacation

I want to tell my kids, yes, we’re going to the state parks this summer. But I can’t plan for that. I don’t know if people will be practicing proper social distancing in my area (they don’t seem to be). I don’t know if the parks themselves will be too crowded, and we don’t want to meet unmasked people huffing and puffing their way off mountains. I can’t plan a simple visit to the park across town to drop our kayaks in the lake for fear of unmasked jackasses at the boat landing — forget planning a trip across the state.

I can’t plan for our beach vacation. We always take a trip to the beach in the summer, and so far, the house looks like it’s open. My in-laws have stayed completely isolated, and so has the rest of the extended family, so we’d be safe to come together. But can I trust that everyone would observe proper protocols while driving: don’t touch gas station handles, don’t use restrooms? I can’t plan for everyone else’s safety protocols, and the idea that everyone might or might not observe them makes my head explode. COVID-19 tends to be more concentrated in restroom areas, says a study published in Nature, and therefore I can’t be comfortable going into roadside restrooms ever.

I don’t know that people will agree with me, no matter how much science I show them. So I can’t plan that we’ll go to the beach. I’m not spending months in isolation only to contract COVID-19 because we just had to go to the goddamn beach.

I Can’t Answer Simple Questions

My son asks when he’ll be able to see his friends again, and I have to stop myself from laughing in his face. I can’t plan for that. “One day,” is the best answer I can give him. Because we homeschool, I can decide when they’ll interact with other kids again. And at this point … I can’t plan for it. I don’t know if it’ll happen around August. I don’t know if it’ll happen in September. I don’t know if they’ll be allowed to see other children while they wear a mask, or if they’ll be permitted at all to play with other kids until a vaccine is in place (because kids aren’t known for their adherence to the rules). Hell, I don’t know if we’ll go to Target until a vaccine is available.

I can’t plan goddamn Halloween costumes, because I don’t know if my Halloween-obsessed children will be able to go trick-or-treating. What are people going to do in terms of social distancing — toss candy from across the lawn? Do Halloween masks count as “real” masks? Maybe I could plan to dress them all as medical personnel.

I can’t plan for any contingencies or eventualities. I don’t know where we’ll spend Christmas — and my in-laws still have Christmas presents for us from last year. I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit my grandfather, whom I haven’t seen in a year and a half. He’s a in nursing home. I can’t plan, honestly, that I’ll ever be able to see my grandfather again. I can’t believe I’m writing that, but it’s true: I can’t plan a time that his nursing home will ever open up again, not until there’s a vaccine, and we have no idea when that will happen.

And I can’t plan that if any of our older relatives pass, we’ll attend the funeral. My husband and I both have one grandfather. Both are very ill. We live knowing that we have likely seen them for the last time, and that if they pass, we will not attend the funeral.

Even Everyday, Practical Things Elude Me

I can’t plan on a time to get the puppy spayed. It has to happen; we know it has to happen; we have to call the vet and make an enormous deal of it, and we’re subject to their whims. I can’t call and make a convenient appointment — especially when I can’t get them on the goddamn phone, because they’re never in the office. I have to call and wait days for them to return my message.

I can’t plan on regular doctor’s appointments. My kids’ physician will write ADHD scripts and do telehealth; my primary care physician insisted I show my face in his office, in the middle of a pandemic, when they were not requiring masks of patients — though they offer telehealth for “high risk” patients. “Well, you’re exposed to the same thing when you go to the gas station or Bi-Lo, and I can assure you we sterilize a lot better than Bi-Lo does,” the appointment desk snarked at me. I hung up and promptly degenerated into a massive panic attack.

My date book is empty, empty, empty. What would normally be full of playdates and vacations and notes about school starting dates is blank. It will remain blank for the foreseeable future, with no end date in sight and no inkling of when any of our usual activities will feel safe or okay. And this is the hardest part of COVID-19. I don’t mind being isolated, truly. I don’t mind being at home with my kids. But I can’t plan anything. I don’t know what I’ll be doing when.

Like Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.

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