As the owner of a “non-essential” small business, it can be hard not to feel anxious, unsettled, bored and well, non-essential. It’s said I’m a hero just for staying home although I can’t imagine Marvel Comics drawing up a guy in sweatpants and Birkenstocks and calling him Quarantine Man. Each day I hunker down in my assigned corner of the house and brainstorm ways to get through this, both financially and mentally. But the occasional pandemic humor can give me a lift. Like when Margo asked her grandma if she was around for the Spanish Flu in 1918 and then followed up with “are you sure??”
A lot is being asked of both the Wi-Fi and the wife at home so if they occasionally crash, I try to be understanding. The Wi-Fi is straining to keep all the Google Classroom apps, Zoom conferences and Tik-Tok videos humming along while the wife strains to work a full slate, help with schoolwork and make dinners. We’ve been experimenting with grocery delivery. Ordered a clove of garlic and got a pound so if the virus doesn’t get me the heartburn might.
I do help where I can, cleaning mostly. I’m unquestionably the best broom handler in the family. But I’m not going to lie, the household mojo can go haywire when your 4th grader is learning about the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, at home, on a Chromebook, with spotty Wi-Fi and an English Major dad.
Admirably, Kristen has been keeping up with her online workouts each morning. Elliott has even joined her for some of them. I almost feel bad but I may have to start charging them for basement gym memberships. These bills aren’t going to pay themselves, ya know? To clear my head and get some exercise of my own I’ve been taking long, hard-thinking walks. Whenever I see someone coming towards me, I veer enough to leave a gracious buffer between us because these days everyone is both a victim and a suspect. Since we’re all in this together I smile and offer a small acknowledgement as if to say it’s not you, it’s me. Unless, of course, it’s you.
Lockdowns call for movies so one night I was lobbying for the family to watch “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. Margo shot it down after I described it, thankfully. Why I wanted to watch a movie about a man who is losing his mind because every day is EXACTLY THE SAME is beyond me. Pandemics have a way of messing up your psyche. Heck, I cringe a little just watching “Treehouse Masters” because Pete keeps hugging everyone.
Elliott and I have passed countless hours playing basketball in the driveway. Otherwise he’s watching a Youtuber goofball named Flight who offers commentary on the NBA and NBA2k video game. His catchphrases include “Check out Curry, man. So Inspirational.” And his shtick is he will be doing the same moves “by June.” Elliott finds these straight-faced proclamations hysterical because Flight is comically bad at basketball. I’ve been shown so many Flight videos that I feel like he is sheltering in place with us. At least we don’t have to feed him, I guess? Marks on our kitchen wall show that Elliott has grown a full inch since the quarantine began so his goal is to dunk on the 9ft hoop setting by June, naturally.
Margo and I were on the front end of the sidewalk chalk art revolution and she has become a prolific painter. She has taken me under her wing as an apprentice of sorts. I get to sand down objects, lay out tarps, tape edges, hang canvasses and she almost always saves all the cleaning up for me. At night we work on jigsaw puzzles or giggle watching “Friends” reruns. It is far from the truly heroic efforts of many but perhaps in some ways, I am still essential after all.
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.