Novelist | Singer
We’re in our 25th year of marriage, which sounds impossible to start with. Al was 55 when we got married in Zaire, so even if we try to deny the passage of time, he is in that undesirable “elderly” category. That category was undesirable even before this virus. And though some information on COVID-19 has changed, older people still are more susceptible to death from the disease. Al has always been just a complete picture of health, but had pneumonia several times in his youth. Of course it is the unknown that is most worrying.
Throughout our marriage, both of us have been lucky to retain our own persona; this often led to fights and struggles, but both of us were able to hold our own. Marriage is an interesting institution, and one that I deeply admire. I don’t think there is another relationship with such a mix of emotions in this world. Of course, we love each other through it all, but if you are married, you know what I mean.
We are looking for positive news these days, as our entire world has been flipped on its top. It’s like a blizzard with no end. Looking out my living room window on the world below, nothing appears to have changed, but everything has changed. Even going out to the mailbox has to be a deliberate action. Disinfectant spray? Purell for two people who never used it before? Tell the truth–do you find that these days you are using Purell when you don’t actually have to?
I’m using sick time for a while until we know the extent of this, this pandemic. Feels creepy just to use that word, and I don’t think I’ve said it yet. As if it stays on the page, it isn’t real. Going out feels the same, even though nothing is open. If we buy anything, we are careful to take things out of bags, leave the bags on the deck, spray the contents with disinfectant and sometimes leave the items on the outside table for a while if they don’t require refrigeration. The point is: we don’t know. We can’t see it, and it might well be everywhere. We won’t know for a couple of weeks if we come into contact with the virus. We’re just doing our best. We go out together and stay together for the most part. Though we’re not talking very much, it feels good to be together. And we’re being much more patient with each other than we ever have been.
Perhaps it’s our age. We’re old enough now to be patient. But it’s also our situation. We really haven’t thought about life’s end yet. The end of our relationship. The time when one of us will be left alone.
So like many, we’ve been logging more screen time than usual. Our chairs are side by side; cushy, comfortable chairs with a small table in between for our drinks and reading lights. And over the chair arms and table, we’ve been holding hands.
It feels so good to hold hands these days. It feels comforting and sound, like I belong right here. It fills the space that words do not and sends a clear, loving message, “I am here for you, and I appreciate having you here in this time of weird isolation.” Life in the time of COVID-19 is a big test. I would hate to do it alone, and check daily with friends who are flying solo. And we hold hands like kids.