I wake up differently now.
I don’t want to sleep in. I want to get out of bed and get the day going. It starts with temperatures. I check temperatures on all of us and feel a second of gratitude when they all read normal. I let the boys have whatever they want to eat. Sometimes it’s cereal or toast. Sometimes it’s tortilla chips and popsicles. It doesn’t really matter, you see. I know they eat nutritiously throughout the day so it makes no difference what they put in their bellies first. Not right now.
I’m an essential worker. I’m a nurse in an emergency department and because of coronavirus I have a fresh perspective on how I live my life. I live like I might be dying. I carpe the heck out of all the diems.
I live like I’m going to end up on a ventilator.
I am fully present in the moments of my day. I put my phone away and play with dinosaurs. My wife and I let the boys’ imaginations guide our day. We take walks with no direction and let them pick which way to turn next. We play outside for hours. We make messy crafts. We let them dump the flour and mix the brownie batter. “All messes can be cleaned up”, I say. There are moments of loud singing, crazy dancing, and raucous laughter.
Bedtimes aren’t so strict right now. Bath time can stretch for an hour or more and there is always room for fresh hot water and extra bubbles. We watch movies while cuddled under blankets with bowls of popcorn. We fall asleep on the couch. Or all four of us snuggle in our bed, complete with a dog and cat.
Our kisses and hugs are intentional. I play with their hair as much as they’ll allow. I drop whatever I’m doing and comply with every request to be held. This means dishes will sit in the sink and the laundry might have to wait. That stuff really doesn’t have the same urgency anymore.
Healthcare workers are repeatedly exposed and, therefore, more likely to become sick.
This new order of the day isn’t perfect. I’m scared and sometimes I give in to the fear and let myself cry. Harsh sobs that double me over and steal my breath. I think of the worst case scenario and become lost in grief. I think of my wife and kids living without me. I think about bringing the virus home and my wife becoming sick. I think about having to live without her.
I have those moments. I let myself experience them but I’m careful not to set up camp and live in fear.
Instead, I hug my wife a little bit longer. I say “yes” to using every single pillow and blanket to build a fort that takes up the entire living room. Because if these are my last weeks or months, I want them to be the most love-filled days our family has ever known. I want my children to have memories of me that are joyful and make them smile. I want them to feel my love even when I’m not here.
I am grateful for my newly opened eyes and heart.
I pray these days aren’t my last and I pray I will carry this awakening with me far into the future. I pray that the things we took for granted will now and forever be the things we do with intention.
The day ends with kisses and hugs and another round of temperatures. With the boys asleep, my wife and I sit together and I crochet while she reads her book. We sit together in silence and feel connected.
We are terrified and we are grateful.