Life in the Time of Coronavirus: A Diary to a Daughter

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Hello sweetie. Today is March 18th, 2020. You are five days short of becoming twenty-two months old. I am writing to you now because something has happened. Something which we will likely tell you stories about in the future. It will likely alter our future in ways you will not notice. They will be normal to you, strange to us.

I’m sure you will hear us tell stories about this one day, as my parent’s heard stories about World War II, or your grandparent’s heard stories from their parents about what it was like to live through The Great Depression.

You see: At first we thought it was no big deal.

“The flu kills way more people” we said. Which was true initially, if you just looked at the numbers. But not true percentagewise, or contagious-wise, we’d soon come to learn. Even NPR ran an early story about how many people the Flu killed each year (multiple thousands, millions infected) as if it was supposed to soothe our fears.

Yet for some reason, I don’t know why, I thought it this virus might be a bigger deal than many thought. For once, I was the paranoid and cautious one, your mom the skeptic. I tried not to freak out. Others fled to the grocery stores and stockpiled toilet paper, and flour, and ground beef.

This could be a big deal, I thought, but it would not really affect us that much. I mean, sure, it might spread a little bit, but the media and everyone was overhyping it. Of course. What could happen to us? We were the United States of America!

Yet we in the U.S. had also grown arrogant lately, thinking we were immune from the natural disasters and viruses that strike others across the globe. So, at first we did not take it so seriously.

Your mom’s best friend, Laura, has had to cancel her wedding in Utah at the end of March—a wedding in which your mom was supposed to be a bridesmaid and you were supposed to be the flower girl. I was going to walk you down the aisle. Your mom is still very sad about it.

I still go into work downtown everyday, but pretty much everyone else except me and another are guy are walking from home (I have to roast coffee and can’t really take a coffee roaster home).

 May 23rd:

Downtown Portland is deserted. Schools are shutdown. Masks are in short supply. We practice “social distancing” as we go out for a bike-ride or make a trip to the grocery store for essentials. Yet, there is no traffic, so that’s good I guess? Falling carbon emissions and all.

There’s a very good chance that my business, the coffee roasting company I helped co-found eight years ago in Salt Lake City—La Barba Coffee—will go out of business. The only thing keeping as afloat is our grocery and online sales. This will likely be the end of small businesses as we know it, which is just, crazy.

Right now, Governors in many states are forcing cafes and restaurants to close their doors or pivot to a “take-out” only option. This will force many businesses to close. Business is all about maintaining good cash flow and there’s no way most businesses have the proper cash flow to float them for two to three months with no revenue coming in. If the government doesn’t seriously step up and offer loans or some type of bailout many small businesses (and even large) will go out of business.

While at first I took the threat of the virus and the need to quarantine very seriously, now I wonder about the economic costs of forcing businesses to close. It’s basically a choice we have to make at this point, one between going into an economic recession or saving lives. Yet recessions also lower the quality of life for all. I don’t know. There are no easy answers or calls to make right now.

We’ve started going on lots of bike rides. We have this new rear bike seat that you ride in and you love it. You try to say the words “helmet” and “bike.” We take lots of walks. Amelie, our dog, is very happy.

April 1st

On Wednesday your Mom went into work. I tried to watch you at home AND get some work done. HA. That was a good one. I was optimistic at first. You could just watch Daniel Tiger all day! But no, you’re too young to be occupied by anything (including T.V.) for more than 15 minutes. We survived, but barely. You dumped your food and toys out all over the floor. You screamed to go outside. You didn’t take a nap. Tigertastic!

April 3rd 2020

Today was tough for me. All you wanted to do was two things:

1. Go play in the snow and

2. Go on the swings.

We could do neither, but I let you put on your snowsuit and we walked to the park.

You can barely talk but you kept saying the same things “esnow” and “swing” and “pease?” Asking all nice and being all cute. But I kept having to say no to you.

“No sweetie, we can’t go on the swings, we can’t play in the snow or the park or go visit your cousins because there’s this thing called COVID-19 and we could hurt people like great grandpa or even your aunt Alyssa, and I know you don’t understand any of this and I swear I’m not trying to be bad or mean dad, we just can’t, and I’m sorry for drinking and smoking too much cause I want to live as long as your alive but I’m also stressed out and thank you for understanding in whatever way you can and not screaming at me even though I feel like I deserve it. I promise, sweetie, one day this will all be over…”

Rather than feeling frustrated and anxious and mildly perturbed by this whole thing, now I just feel sad.

Saturday April 4th

Saturday we went up to the snow to get you your snow. We drove up to Mt. Hood and parked outside Ski Bowl and just played in the snow in the parking lot for twenty minutes. All the trails and ski resorts and sledding hills closed. You laughed and giggled and smiled. The hour and a half drive totally worth it.

Sunday April 5th

You wake up early. Man, I am so exhausted of trying to take care of you and keep the house clean and take care of the animals and try to get some work and/or writing done that at times I feel just this utter frustration coupled with anxiety tied with exhaustion. I am so so so tired. I try to write but I can’t focus. I want to go for a run but I just end up eating too much.

Luckily your mom takes second watch and lets me take a nap and I watch some Netflix. Alas, if only I was childless and could binge the third season of Ozark and lay on the couch all day! But, no. There is still all of life to do and get done during this quarantine—laundry, cooking, dishes, childrearing, work—only now it takes place within a designated space. This is not vacation.

Monday April 6th

I bounced back on Monday. Monday I watched you again while Mom went off to work (really not that unusual as I often watch you on Fridays and Saturdays). In some ways, as an introverted homebody, my life has not changed much. Only now I am forced to stay inside and not go to parties or bars or trails and there are no parks or story times or indoor play centers to take you to.

I kept the coffee and exercise flowing throughout the day. We painted. We gardened and dug in the dirt. I mowed the lawn. Took the weed-eater out for a spin. Stained the railing on the front porch while you danced around the front yard in your diaper. Went on a bike ride along the Springwater trail with your mom once she was done with work.

I began the rising process on my first ever Sourdough starter loaf, (which I am eating now as I write this, two days later). Delicious, airy, tangy. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The butter slowly melting through the cavernous fermented insides. God this sourdough bread is better than any cigarettes or alcohol or sex I’ve ever had! I plan on entering it into the Great White American Bake Fest that is apparently taking place all over the Internet.

April 7th  2020

Well sweetie, it is now Day fifteen since the Governor of Oregon issued a stay-at-home order for all Oregonians. Thirty days since my office issued social distancing practices barring all but two workers in the office at a time. Two weeks since your daycare closed. Restaurants are closed. Parks and playgrounds are closed. Trails are closed. The Forest! Nature itself! Closed.  Everything is closed.

As of today, there have been 374,320 cases and 12,064 deaths in the U.S. And we have not yet reached the peak, so it makes sense that we are doing all this, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m only going into work on Tuesdays and Thursday now. To cup and roast and ship some packages out. Keep the samples flowing.

Saturday April 11th

The U.S. is now officially the country with the highest death toll in the world, surpassing Italy, at over 18,000 deaths. Wait, I wrote that sentence late Saturday night, now it’s 20,000 by the next day. Wait, now it’s, 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand and April is the cruelest month and somehow over so soon.

Friday May 1st

Somehow March lasted forever and April just flew by. March we waited for what was to come. April meant that quarantines and stay-at-home orders came and we adjusted as well as we could, on the fly. I guess we are getting used to a new normal? Keeping busy? I don’t know.

You are staying at grandma and grandpa’s (or as you call them, nana and papa) this weekend while your Mom and I get a much needed break as we’ve spent the last six weeks with you with no break. Grandma has been seeing your cousins every week but now is she going to watch you for the weekend and then self-quarantine for two weeks and then go back to watching your cousins. Such is life. It seems as if we have hit the plateau though. Cases and deaths are dropping. Restaurants are opening back up for take-out. But one thing is for sure, things will not be returning to normal anytime soon. In fact, they might not ever return.

When will this end? I have no idea. Now people are protesting stay-at-home orders. Some of them bring guns to state capitols as a form of, well, I really have no idea. They just like their guns and protesting the federal government I guess.

I am all fine with social distancing and quarantining for the foreseeable future, but please, open the outdoors, just a little bit. I get National Parks being closed. But trailheads with no bathroom and it’s literally just a parking lot and a wide trail and the woods? Why do we have to close those?

It feels like there has to be some middle ground between total state lockdowns and letting the virus roam free. Make county-by-county or state-by-state decisions or something, which I guess is kinda what’s happening as no one in the White House has the skills or temperament to lead us through this.

Unfortunately, this whole pandemic has become yet another politically divisive issue. People point fingers and blame each other.

Still, there have been some inspiring stories. The good of humanity continues to endure.

I’m sure you will hear us tell stories about this one day, as my parent’s heard stories about World War II, or your grandparent’s heard stories from their parents about what it was like to live through The Great Depression.

What a time to be alive! 

Oh, great, now I see from my news feed that giant murderous hornet have recently invaded Washington! *deep breath*

Now I must return to the kitchen to feed my sourdough starter and check on the kombucha fermenting on the counter.

May 3rd 2020

We broke quarantine and headed to Hood River to pick you up and stay the night. We went to see your Great Grandpa at his senior care facility as well. I feel so bad for him. He’s all alone in his senior living center. The old folks there cannot eat together. They cannot walk together. Bingo is out. As are all other games and activities. They are basically forced to sit in their rooms and await the meals placed outside their door.

We said hello to Great-Grandpa Rogers on the back patio, keeping appropriate distance and making sure you did not touch anything. As bad as I feel for your Great Grandpa, the last thing I want to do is to be an asymptomatic carrier for COVID-19 that then unleashes it at an old folks home unknowingly.

Afterwards we took a long walk on the Indian Creek trail. Then I helped your my dad hang some plywood in his wood shop. Then we got take out from The Hood River Taqueria and are it alongside Columbia.

“Moon,” you said and pointed to the moon, a pale-white, downward facing Pac Man, barely noticeable in the blue sky.

“Tree” you said and pointed to the green fauna around us.

“Choo choo” you said, as a train sped alongside the Columbia on the Washington side.

“Boat,” you said as a white and red-rusted tug boat fought the current East.

“Blue,” you said and pointed to the water.

While this whole thing has really stretched my patience and mental health, things could be much, much worse. They are for many others. We are doing fine, all things considered.

So, now I say to you others reading this: Stay safe out there friends. We will get through this.



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