Post-Apocalypse Thoughts


From a time before COVID-19

The economic crash of 2008 hit my small rural community pretty hard. By the Spring of 2009, our neighborhood held as many empty homes as full ones. As the summer came on, even more homes were foreclosed on or simply abandoned.

The woods behind our house began to seem wilder as the humans moved away, and there were entire days when I never heard a sound other than the calling of jays and the hammering of woodpeckers.

During those bleak months, I used to walk my dogs around the block, passing one empty house after another. Sometimes I’d look at the plants growing along the roadside, or at the ducks in the pond across the street, and I’d let my mind wander.

“What if something really terrible happened to the world, and hardly anyone was left?” I’d think. “Could I manage to feed my family with dandelion greens and fiddleheads? Could we learn how to trap birds, or kill ducks or turkeys for food?”

I always had a slightly romantic view of how things would be, of course, because this was just a daydream. All of my grown kids would somehow manage to make their way home, and we’d combine our skills and strengths to build a big garden in our yard. Maybe we’d raise chickens.

I was sure that I’d come through the trauma as a stoic, cheerful, no-nonsense kind of Mamma. I’d clean the fish and make the dinners and be happy to use the bit of power we could get from our solar generator to keep everything clean.

There was a gauzy haze over this dream, as I walked around the quiet streets.

I never thought anything would actually happen.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic of 2020, as we sit in isolation from each other and wonder what in the world will happen next, the reality of a global disaster seems far less romantic.

After about a month of worsening news and scarier headlines, I have come to an interesting conclusion.

I don’t want to forage for edible weeds in the woods. I don’t want to fight my neighbors for toilet paper or soap or cans of tomatoes.

The reality is that not only can my adult sons not move here with their partners, we can’t even get together to share a meal right now.

My daughter and her family live a mere half a mile away across those fertile woods. I’ve been caring for her children every work day for five years. But now, in the age of Covid19, we can’t be together at all. I haven’t seen them since the day that schools were closed, almost three weeks ago.

And I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

We are staying apart, staying away from all other humans, because my daughter is due any day to give birth to her third child. If I leave my house to go to the grocery store, there is a risk that I might bring the virus back and could contaminate Kate and her children.

Because she sees her doctor at our local hospital once a week now, she is afraid that she might contaminate her father and I. So we simply stay apart. In our own little self-isolation pockets.

We’re all living in fear. And we’re all dealing with a total lack of control. Nobody on this entire earth knows what is coming next. Will the virus sputter out in the summer? Will it roar back in the fall? Will a vaccine be found, or a treatment?

Or will millions die? Will the economy of the world totally collapse, based as it is on a continuing flow of commerce?

Will schools ever reopen? Will governments implode into chaos? The truth is, we just don’t know.

Once, a few short years ago, those thoughts were just a way to pass the time as the dogs sniffed the fallen leaves.

Now they are right in front of me. And I am discovering that I am not the hearty pioneer woman I always imagined I’d be. Instead, I’m just another scared and overwhelmed old woman who desperately misses the touch of her children and grandchildren, and who has no desire to harvest cattails for dinner.

Ruh, Roh. This Thing Ain’t Going Anywhere.


I don’t mean to be negative or anything, but what the HELL is wrong with humans?

I went out for the first time in a week, just to run two errands. Neither one involved human contact. We used the drive through at the bank, sanitizing as we went. Then I went to a friend’s house, to pick up some fresh eggs that she’d put on her porch for us. I Venmo’d her the money.

My husband and I are careful. We really don’t like the idea of getting pneumonia. We shudder to think of needing a ventilator. Death is not on our schedule this month.

And we love our family. We love my 90 year old Mom, and all three of our kids and their partners. We are crazy about our two grandkids and we’re being extra careful because of the third one who is due to appear any day.

We also respect our neighbors, our doctors, the nurses who will care for our newborn and his Momma.

More importantly, we grasp that whole “no man is an island” thing. It makes sense to us that if tons of people in our town get sick, the whole town will be in trouble. Same for our state. And our country.

Same for the whole damn world. Right?

So when every smart person around the world tells us to self-isolate, we’re doing it.

What the hell is wrong with everyone else out there, huh?

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor has ordered that all “non-essential” businesses must close. Of course, grocery stores and banks are allowed to stay open, along with doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Makes sense to me.

But why is Ocean State Job Lot still open? And Walmart? Why is T-Mobile up and running? And General Nutrition? Really?

Folks, as far as I could see from my short drive around this rural-suburban area, this virus is not going away any time soon.

The liquor store lots were full. The Walmart lot was barely showing a single open space, and it’s the size of two football fields.

I understand that people want to get outside, I do. I understand that sometimes picking up laundry detergent seems vital.

But honest to God, when you pack shoppers into a store, pushing carts around with their hands, touching items and putting them back, coughing, laughing, talking to each other and using the same little bathrooms, then you are hading the victory to the microbes.

I’m back in my safe little sanitized house again now. Hands have been thoroughly washed, eggs have been put away. We’ve settled in now for the duration.

I’m not going back out there again, I tell you. No way.

Because the rest of humanity seems to think this is just a little head cold, and they’re not going to let it stop them from getting a bargain on nail polish.

Image Credit: “August 12, 2015” by osseous is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Adding Sadness to the Isolation


The world is quiet this week. The world is afraid.

As the swiftly spreading novel coronavirus moves around the globe, people on every continent are falling ill. Thousands are dying.

And hundreds of millions are huddled in our homes, waiting to see what will happen next. Schools are closed, and most of those who are still working are doing so from home.

I recently spoke to friends and families around the world, asking about what was happening in their home countries. What I found was that we’re all experiencing the same things. The same fears and frustrations are being shared in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Kuwait and Iran.

I’m sure the same can be said for all of the other countries now struggling with the virus. There are so many economic and social pressures on everyone, everywhere!!

But that’s not what makes me feel sad.

What drags my spirit down is when I hear the language that our leaders use when they try to encourage us. They say things like “Keep your chin up” and “We’ll get through this together.”

Then they always add a geographic addition. They say, “We can do this because the people of Boston are so special!” Or, “I know that New Yorkers are brave and strong!” I hear, “Americans are resilient.” “The people of California will prevail.”

Really?

I yearn for the moment when some world leader, somewhere, says, “Human beings will reach out to each other in our time of need. We will share our resources, our expertise and our knowledge. We understand that we are all afraid right now, and that for once we all face the exact same enemy.”

I want to hear someone say, “Humanity is resilient. Now is the time for every human to help the species. Now is the time for unselfish dedication to the recovery of the world.”

Maybe that way, when the new craziness goes away and the old craziness returns, we’ll have learned some lessons.

Maybe we’ll be able to do it better next time.

I’ve Been Preparing For This Moment My Whole Life


The world is going to hell in a germ-infested handbasket, but Nonni will not dispair.

Nope, not I.

You see, I have been preparing for this terrible global emergency for years. And when I say years, I mean decades.

First of all, Mother Nature was smart enough to gift me with a well developed sense of anxiety. Some have even referred to me as “neurotic.” In the past, this was seen as a defect, but now? Not so much.

Remember the fear that swept the globe as we moved from the 1900s to the 2000s? The so-called Y2K glitch was supposed to impact every computer on earth. We were told that it would shut down the markets, the banks, the food supply, the electric grid.

This Italian Mamma took the threat seriously. That was when I put together my emergency supply shelf. And stocked it with a few little items like 24 boxes of pasta, 3 big bags of rice and enough canned and dried beans to open my own Mexican restaurant. And tomatoes, of course. And lentils!

So when the Coronavirus hit us, I didn’t have to run out and empty the store. I’ve been hoarding for years! I can feed my family for at least a couple of months with just what I have in my kitchen.

I also had the foresight, right after the 2016 election, to expect the collapse of civilization as we know it. That was when I started to gather up extra items that might be needed if a) the North Koreans attacked us or b) Trump got pissed off and turned off all the lights.

Naturally, this means that we have lots of batteries (rechargeable and regular). We have a solar battery charger, a solar radio, a solar lantern, and even both gas and solar generators.

And light sticks, just in case it’s cloudy.

Oh, and I should mention the bleach. Somehow, every time I’ve watched the news since the 2016 vote, I have felt the need to have extra bleach around.

No need for this neurotic old woman to fight over hand sanitizer. Nope. I have enough stuff right on my shelf!

Finally, in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are faced with hours and hours, days and days, possibly weeks or months stuck in our own homes with only our family members for company.

After we’ve re-read our books, colored in all those crazy adult coloring books and beat our husbands at card games, the boredom will surely set it.

We might find ourselves binge watching “Outbreak” or “Pandemic”. People will be overwhelmed with a feeling of uselessness and depression.

Except for me!

Because once again, I planned ahead.

Unlike some people I could name (Mom, sisters Liz and Mary…..) my house could use, shall we say, a little bit of organizing.

Take my kitchen cabinets, for example. Oh, sure, my silverware drawer is organized; I’m not the kind of woman who lets the spoons carry on with the forks.

But I do have an area under my sink that could be declared a federal waste site. What with all the rubber gloves, bleach, vinegar, and eye protection, I can spend a day or six cleaning that place out. I might even find that lost bottle of Scotch.

Or an old sneaker.

And there is one cabinet in here that contains everything from cheese cloth to broken corkscrews. It’s that place where we put the stuff that doesn’t already have a place. You know, like shoelaces, a waffle iron and extra spatulas.

So you see, what once seemed like weaknesses (neurosis, disorganization, anxiety) have turned into Nonni’s superpowers!

When this whole terrible ordeal is finally over, you can feel comfortable coming to my house for a delicious dinner of lentil soup, served in a clean, organized house.

There. Don’t you feel better now?