A long row to hoe

We’re two weeks in: shelter in place. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll do this, but I think we have a long row to hoe.

Collective crisis

I see the frantic posts as friends and family settle in to work from home, not work at all, isolate with children and parents, or isolate all alone.

I read helpful posts about how to cope, how to disinfect, reminders for self-care, poetry to lift us up, naming this grief.

But honestly, I don’t feel most of it.

I do feel something because this is a collective anxiety, a collective grief and confusion. For the most part, however, the coronavirus has not changed my life.

  • I’ve shopped in bulk for thirty years so I didn’t need to make a special run for groceries or toilet paper.
  • I’ve worked from home for twenty-four years, so 1) I still have work, and 2) my workspace has not changed.
  • I’ve been stocked up on supplies for all the little projects I want to tackle, and when I don’t have something, Amazon Prime delivers.

Yet, my life is different. Not necessarily in bad ways. I’m more mindful. Mindful of my movements through public spaces, of going into public spaces, of the surfaces and clothing I touch and use, of where and how I spend my time. I’m alone less, with my partner working from home now. I stay home more. These aren’t bad things.

Staying home means staying away

The last part, staying home more, is probably hardest for me. I usually spend half my time on the farm, close to my folks, so I can help mom and dad as needed. Now I can’t risk giving this invisible enemy a ride to the farm. So I won’t go back for a while.

Last week, I made a grocery haul to the farm to make sure mom and dad have enough.

I don’t stay long.

Mom asks questions and seems to understand, but then asks again.

When are you coming back?
I’m not sure. The virus, remember? But Audrey and Jason are staying here. They’ll be safe to spend time with you soon.
What are you going to do?
I’ll stay in Baton Rouge with Steven. Work.
When are you coming back here?

Back to the garden

Before I leave, I go with mom to check on the garden and greenhouse. I remind her gently, Don’t get too close to me.

We check on the plants, decide to transplant the zucchini. I didn’t come prepared, so I hoe a new row for the zucchini in flip flops and a sundress. We water. We talk. Mom asks questions. I hold my hands up: No closer!

I planted the garden with mom hoping to give her manageable tasks that help occupy her day, help her feel useful. But some days, she tells dad How am I going to do this!? Some days it’s a little much. Especially now. The virus and isolation.

When I’m with her to help, she enjoys gardening. Tugging at the hose just so, making sure it’s straight so it won’t scrape across the plants in the neighboring row. Pulling up the weeds and rogue grasses. Muscle memory and meditation.

A long row to hoe

I watch her knowing I may not be back for weeks, months even.

When are you coming back to do something with those tomatoes?
I don’t know, but I’ll make sure Audrey helps you.

My life hasn’t changed much because of the virus. I still spend about sixty hours a week in front of my two computer screens, working, writing, paying bills. I still cook most of my meals, go to the garage for paper towels when I use the last towel from the roll in the kitchen, plant seeds in my garden, pull weeds, move rocks, dig holes. My life is pretty much the same, except I wear gloves to the grocery and disinfect the containers when I come home.

Mom’s isn’t the same. She’s more isolated than ever. Little doors are closing in her brain. No church. No grocery runs. No PT.

When are you coming back?
We have a long row to hoe, Mom. But we’ll be okay. And I’ll meet you on the other side of this. I promise.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020.

About Pennie Nichols

This little corner is dedicated to some of the things that interest me and to those of you who share those interests about relationships, travel, cooking, gardening, canning, jewelry, and writing. I’ll throw in some recipes and stories for your reading pleasure.

10 Replies to “A long row to hoe”

  1. Jere Cassidy

    This was lovely to read. It is interesting at my home. My husband and daughter work from home, nothing has changed for them. I have permanently lost my job because of the virus. I am lost, and they are still in meetings, working and having an income. This is definitely a time for learning and adapting.

    • Pennie Nichols Post author

      Sorry to hear you lost your job. I think we’re all, even those of us who can continue to work, are reconsidering EVERYTHING and adjusting our priorities, expectations, and dreams for the future. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is sometimes painful because if involves letting go. I hope you come out on the other side of this with new hope and light and adventures. Stay well.

  2. Rena

    I was just thinking this morning how much harder this would have been so much harder were mom still alive. I am thinking of you and are keeping you in my prayers.

  3. Carolann Iadarola

    Yes, my life didn’t change much either with the exception of shopping and dining out with my hubby. I feel broken inside for so many people, like your mom, who can’t see their loved ones as much. I also feel broken that I have to Skype with my son, granddaughter and DIY too. I pray this will end for us all soon. I love your garden. What a blessing to still mingle with our green friends.

    • Pennie Nichols Post author

      Yes. Gardens are a blessing now. And even though we can’t be with people in person, thank goodness for technology like Skype and Zoom and Facetime. We’re being physically distant but staying socially connected.

  4. Doreen Mcgettigan

    This really is too much sometimes but one of the blessings (at least now) of getting older is time does seem to pass more quickly.
    My Mom is in Florida, alone. She was scheduled to visit the Netherlands, to see the tulips and enjoy a riverboat cruise and then to visit me here in Philadelphia this month.
    I need our June visit to happen. I’m keeping the faith.

  5. Tamara

    This makes my heart sad.
    I feel it’s the toughest for the senior citizens.
    Usually my parents, who live in the same town, take care of my son once a week. Not anymore. I take groceries to them, trying to keep my physical distance.

    Hope they all will be OK! Those will be the best zucchini ever!


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