A humor series on navigating this difficult time
Today, for my Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!), I’m sharing the fifth installment of a humor series from my friend Pam Goldman, centering on a woman named Ramona, who tries to help… in her own way.
Day ? in the house (apartment, mansion, underground bunker)
K. and I are still speaking to each other on sunny days. When it’s overcast or rainy, like today, our moods dampen and we garrumph and grrrrr as we pass each other on the staircase because we know we’re stuck inside and won’t be able to take our daily bucolic walk up the road past the barking pit bull (help!) on a long leash (whew!), two luscious babbling brooks and a horse wearing a blanket and no mask.
These days you can feel the tension as K. and I vie for primacy at the toaster oven. He usually goes first, leaving lots of those white dots from his English muffin on the counter. Double grrrrrr. And it’s not beneath him to grab the last banana before Instacart maybe delivers more next Tuesday.
I get the thermometer and see that my cabin fever is off the charts. It’s time to shake things up. I go out on a limb, way out of my comfort zone and make the bed before I take a shower. Crazy, I know, but you only live once. And while recklessness abounds, I may not brush my teeth since no one but K. is coming any closer than six feet. Ibid. Deodorant.
I’ll mop the floors today. They’re not that dirty but it takes a half hour and gets me that much closer to lunch. Lately I’ve been making tuna fish, the dullest of foods (Sorry, Charlie)… by adding mayo, chopped celery, hard-boiled egg whites, s&p and paprika. Voila! Artisanal tuna fish. (I had heels replaced at an ‘artisanal’ shoe repair shop before all this. The advantage was it was more expensive). Anyway, the tuna is delicious and virtuous because you get extra protein from the egg white. Or is it the yolk (which I hate) that has the protein? I shall Google and get back.
I’m back. “The egg white contains 16 calories and four grams of protein, while the yolk contains three grams of protein. Next time you want to avoid the egg yolk, keep in mind that it also contains protein. By not eating the egg yolk, you are consuming only half of the total protein in an egg.” (Why does Google sound like my mother?)
I am needing human contact via technology. I’ve already called all my friends and relatives. I could call people I’ve been estranged from for many years who were once among my closest friends. How does that happen? Why do people drift apart? I’m aware lives go off in different directions blah blah blah but sometimes it just may be they don’t like you anymore. Or they may not like your spouse. Still it’s sad. That’s how I frame it if I can’t admit it’s really hurtful and that I miss being in touch like in the old days and also because as I grow older my circle shrinks and I could use reinforcements.
I could call people I never call, just to change it up. My Aunt Bella, for example, an accountant in Parsippany. Then again, it’s been so long I wonder if she would even pick up when she saw my name on her iPhone. “You only call in a pandemic?”
Now I remember why I never call.
I could call my forever-suckin’-on-a-lemon cousin Rita, whose wedding dress I borrowed and who never spoke to me after I spilled Malbec on the bodice. (She needed it for her second and third weddings). I could call to apologize. On second thought I’d rather call someone in the military or a veteran.
Now might even be a good time to connect with a former boss who politely said, “I’m sorry but ‘we’re going in a different direction,’” and axed me. I could tell him that even though he screwed up my trajectory it all worked out fine in the end. I became Madeleine Albright.
I could probably use more time outdoors but then I remember that other existential crisis, global warming. Let’s prioritize our existential crises people!! Of course I’d wear a mask and it wouldn’t necessarily have to be an N95. Anything make-shift would do, a bandana, a scarf (Dr. Birx, may I borrow… ?) I’ve even seen a YouTube video from Great Britain that recommends wearing thong underwear backwards over your nose and mouth. Cheerio!!
If I were in the city maybe I’d take a nice stroll past the CLOSED Starbucks, CLOSED Bloomingdale’s, CLOSED Baked By Melissa. I’d skip the bubble gum pink neon sign blinking OPEN in front of the subterranean parlor giving “Best Backrub and Foot Massage.” Trust me they don’t do deep tissue from six feet away. And if I dared drop in at the “Psychic, Tarot and Readings” den next door I surely wouldn’t pay the gypsy with a DIY schmata on her face if she told me she sees a vaccine coming by my birthday. (It already passed).
K. has again bought too much Dijon mustard (six jars) and way too many pistachio nuts (five one-pound bags). He thinks they’re staples. He also bought enough pasta for all of Italy. Toilet paper? Sore subject. The last time I looked K. and I had four cheeks between us. With 1000 sheets per Charmin Super Mega roll that’s about 240,000 wipes per cheek over the next three weeks. I am beside (or should I say behind?) myself.
I talked to a woodpecker yesterday. I did. I asked him if he was as frustrated as me as he bored through the trunk of a Douglas fir in our yard. I wondered if acting out in this way provided him some relief. To my surprise he answered “Six feet away lady!” and I retreated. I tried pecking my nose 50 times against the next tree I came upon. A bloody nose and pounding headache made me forget the pandemic. Peck and learn.
I raked leaves and did spring cleanup in the garden with a cheap rake from Target. The part with the teeth kept disengaging from the long wood handle. I switched it for our four-inch wide rake with 5 long curled teeth that remind me of Gloria Swanson’s fingers framing her face when she says, with eyes bulging, “I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille,” in Sunset Boulevard. The big gun (K.) will now have to pick up endless piles of leaves and twigs and pack them in large plastic Hefty bags. He will tackle this chore with whatever the opposite of great good humor is.
I wonder why my phone isn’t ringing off the hook? I thought everyone craving connection was back to using the phone. Why is everyone still texting? K. and I FaceTime daily with the kids and grandkids but then hours go by when we feel like we’re the only ones on the planet. Maybe we are. How would we know?
Anybody out there?
I shouldn’t complain. My friend Vicki calls every time her dog, Jamie has to poop. I “go for a walk” with them until she does her business. So nice.
I’m aware most folks are working remotely from home and don’t have time to chat on the phone. I suppose you can tell from these musings that I’m redirected. I never use the word retired because that makes me feel finished, done, kaput, which I’m not.
I’m not exactly sure when I reached full redirectment age. Probably when I became aware of my knees. I walked all over N.Y.C. for 45 years, scurrying around like a mad woman, from one job to the next, even from one profession to the next, trying to find myself, prove myself, become myself, until my knees spoke to me. “We’re done,” they said.
Now, 20years into this millennium I am finally off my feet, unaware of my knees, spending my days clicking away on a laptop at home, which, ironically, is where I found myself.
I wish you a nice-olated weekend with someone who gets on your nerves minimally, cooks fantastically, makes you laugh hysterically and gives you backrubs uncomplainingly.
I’m jogging (exercise!) from the living room to the kitchen to bake chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, half with chocolate chips (for me) and half without (for K.). I will eat mine in one sitting. K. will eat one-a-day for a week.
Love baked in during the time of corona.
Pam Goldman is a writer, therapist, wife, mother and (young) grandmother. Her work has been published in The New York Times and VIVA Magazine. She is completing her first book, titled LEFT.
This originally appeared on Medium.com