• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Notes from Home - Six Weeks In

I’m writing on our back deck on a warm April afternoon, six weeks into our stay-at-home order. Our neighbors are having their roof re-shingled. The sounds of roofers mingled with barks from a dog down the street make this feel like a normal afternoon. None of the four guys in the roofing crew wear masks. They speak Spanish to each other, have their radio tuned to a local Spanish-language station that plays upbeat music. Our neighbor from the other side of our house is a retired bus driver who lives alone. He finds his way through our yard to the roofing crew, tries to talk to them without much success. They are focused on their work. He watches them for a long time as they crawl across the naked roof, nail down sheets of shingles with nail guns. Rat-a-tat-a-tat.

Over the weekend, when we were outside working in the garden, that same retired neighbor unthinkingly walked right up to my husband Mick to show him something and I almost lost my mind. I heard Mick tell him, six feet please. I was surprised at the ferocity of my anger toward our neighbor for not paying more attention. A couple of weeks ago, he told us he was unhappy with Minnesota's stay-at-home order, anxious to get back to normal. He keeps getting in his truck, driving away and coming back 20 minutes later. This happens at least four times a day. Who knows where he goes? He has no one.

This morning, I made a call to a plumber. We realized over the weekend that both our outdoor faucets are in need of repairs. They leak. They’re old. Neither Mick nor I possess much plumbing ability beyond being able to clean hair out of the bathroom drain. I asked the scheduler question after question about how service calls are done during this time of pandemic, fearful about scheduling the repairs. But I did schedule them; we have a garden to get ready and need to be able to use our hoses. It occurred to me that the plumber was probably just as anxious about me taking precautions as I am about the plumber doing the same. He’s coming on Friday afternoon. When I hung up the phone, I was slammed with grief about how making these arrangements feels so risky.

Later, I got a text from my friend who lives down the street. She was organizing a socially-distanced Friday morning coffee date with a few neighbors. We would all bring out our own coffee and lawn chairs to join in some much-needed community that didn’t involve a Zoom meeting. My friend figures the roofers will be done by then and we’ll be able to hear each other talk from several feet away.

It might almost feel normal.


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