College trip of the plague year

Hard to believe that the Loquacious Pup, who wasn’t even two years old when this here blog got started a week after 9-11, is now starting her senior year of college. But there you go. Her college, for reasons of its own, has opted for a “hybrid” of some on-line classes and some in-person (though all students have the option of all on-line). Because she has a couple of “hands-on” classes, she has opted to return to campus (or near campus, anyway, as for various reasons, she and two friends are renting an apartment near by… an unfurnished apartment– more on that shortly). [A little diversion, btw, on a happy note, to wish a happy 30th wedding anniversary to TD Sister and TD Brother-In-Law. And on a sad note, to bid good bye to the greatest N.Y. Mets player ever, Tom Seaver.] Where was I? Oh yes.
The Pup’s college’s reopening plan involves testing all students for coronavirus immediately upon their return, and then more or less every month, with the last few weeks of the semester all “on-line.” (They have an isolation plan for anyone testing positive.) Because of the vagaries of the house she rented, this meant an arrival on Friday evening, with “move-in” the following Monday. At around a 7 or 8 hour drive, returning home for the weekend made no sense; besides, the Pup had arranged virtually all her furniture through a combination of Craig’s List, Facebook, a garage sale and a thrift store. Indeed, she had already scouted out the complete furnishings for a bedroom and kitchen for less than $200, assuming Dad could carry them in a 2000 Mercury Sable station wagon (solution: several trips, including trips to the hardware store for tools). The weekend was used for scouting out any missing items that wouldn’t be available for the Monday logistical challenge (when we picked up a free desk, a $10 kitchen table– and free chair, two $50 dressers, and four $3 kitchen chairs).
And somehow, with adventures including needing to put the free desk on the roof of the car (rope was purchased for this contingency in advance), and then unscrew her door to fit it in her bedroom (a trip to hardware store!), and her roommate’s car battery failing, we somehow assembled her main furniture Monday night, and the kitchen table on Tuesday (before my 8 plus hour drive home, culminating in finding a tunnel back to New York closed, because America).
While we stayed over at a comfortable chain motor hotel, many people (especially hotel staff) would only wear their face masks (despite a local requirement that they do so) if you stared at them. But the college trip marked the end of a nearly six month adventure that began in Madrid, where she was doing a semester abroad, when Familia Talking Dog abruptly left when Trump misread his own announcement and suggested that American citizens would be locked out of the country. This “misreading” likely created crowds at airports that led to public health “mistakes” that had their role in spreading coronavirus in the United States.
And thus began perhaps the most remarkable six month period of our lives (and that probably includes the aftermath of September 11th). For one thing, we have never spent this much continuous time together. For another, perhaps not since my early childhood have I spent this much time at home; indeed, even the TD cats (two of them, now eleven years old) finally got substantial quality time in our backyard– which they never had before, but hey, we’re all around, all the time. And at home we stayed: if New York were a country, its coronavirus deaths per million would be second highest among countries (only New Jersey is higher). For the bulk of March and April, I could count my trips outside (other than to take out garbage or take in mail) on one hand; groceries were delivered, and take out food was occasionally delivered (with a weird sanitizing ritual that we have since dropped).
Both Mrs. TD and I were fortunate to have jobs that both continued (and continued to pay us), and permitted us to work from home (though Mrs. TD has had to work from her office now for several weeks; I often drive her to work to minimize her contacts with dreaded humans). The Loquacious Pup had managed to get jobs and internships she could perform online. And so, the family was actually together. Three of the Pup’s four grandparents are still with us, though of course, they are in the coronavirus danger demographic; after a few terrifying weeks of not seeing them, we have finally seen all of them by now, more than once.
And now, I am amidst the second evening since March that the Pup won’t be staying with us. Here’s the thing: for all the right-wing bullshit, the United States of the present is the most anti-family country in the history of the world. This is discussed at some length in my book. While many if not most people in much of the so-called “third world” live in materially lean conditions, they do so with their own families, all the time. And yet, this is one of many “luxuries” that Americans are denied, because capitalism.
For us, it took a plague to have the opportunity to spend this much time together with the Pup. To be sure, it requires a solid family relationship; the lockdown and pandemic also led to a spike in domestic abuse. No one wants to talk about how much of this was caused by loss of income or other pressure on families, I suppose. In the American context (and only our fellow would-be fascist leaders in Russia, Brazil and India are racking up anywhere near the case and death numbers we are), this plague has truly been monumental: we are approaching 200,000 dead Americans, 6 1/2 million infected with the virus, along with tens of millions of unemployed (all while the stock markets hit record highs.) And in the middle of this, Donald Trump pretends that there is a snowball’s chance in hell that he can be reelected without substantial voter suppression, Russian intervention and assorted cheating (and he is moving on all those fronts). Why just today he encourages North Carolina voters to commit felonies, while he himself commits them!
Anyway, the “luxury” of us working from home (including the stress of no longer having any demarcation between home and work) presented an interesting opportunity for reflection, even as a pandemic plague continues to play out in our city, our country, and our planet. Indeed, for a while, we even had relative quiet and relatively empty streets (except for ambulances, and far too many of those), and then, of course, massive street protests. With the LP’s return to college, this interesting period shifts into something else. Perhaps I will remember it fondly. But we don’t have too much time for reflection; we all must continue to stay as safe as we can. Wear masks; stay away from people; wash your hands; take supplements (I recommend vitamins C and D, Zinc, Selenium, Quercetin, N-A-C and elderberry along with B-complex, preferably in a multi-vitamin). Sleep enough, minimize your stress, try to have a decent diet.
And hopefully, we will get through this. And maybe be able to consider things in a meaningful introspective way.