Having been in quarantine for over a month now, I’m sure we’re all getting a bit antsy. Aren’t we all dreaming of the time when we can go out to eat, go on vacation or just hug our friends and loved ones? But now is NOT the time for frivolity. We need to be vigilant and keep our distance physically to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
While I am lucky enough to live in an area where I can go out for daily walks and venture out into my front yard for the daily 7 p.m. applause/noise making session to show my appreciation for all of those who are on the front lines; I do not take the situation lightly. I have a responsibility as a citizen of our planet to do what is necessary to help slow the spread of this disease and NOT endanger ANYONE with carelessness. I filled my gas tank on March 11 or 12 (the last days that I worked in an office building). Since then, for the most part, I have ventured out only once a week to purchase groceries (with a trip or two to the wine shop). Since the end of March every time I have ventured into a store, I have worn some kind of face covering. We are dealing with a pandemic; it is my responsibility to act in such a way that protects myself and those around me.
With all that said, this Saturday, my family and I took a trip to the Jersey Shore…
Let me preface that with some information. My parents have had a house at the shore since the mid-1990s. Since around 2015 they have been spending more time there than at the house where I grew up. It’s easier for them to navigate; and it has more bathrooms! At the end of last year, they officially sold their home and moved permanently into the house at the shore. While I see them less (the last time I was at their house was in February when my mother had eye surgery), I keep in daily contact with them. In the beginning of March, I actually thought we might go down to see them as a family. That never happened.
What DID happen this Friday was that my father had a serious computer problem. My husband, a stay-at-home dad, also does computer repair. He’s been helping people for nearly two decades. More recently, due to the pandemic, he’s been doing his best to help people over the phone. Or, some have taken to leaving their laptops on the front porch; he does what needs to be done and when he is finished calls them and leaves it back out on the front porch and they leave a payment (or pay electronically.) After several calls with my father, it became obvious that the situation was not one that could be fixed over the phone. An in-person visit was necessary.
In the past a visit to my parents would not have required a lot of thought. Not so in the time of COVID-19. We needed a plan. So plan we did.
The three of us packed up on Saturday morning. My husband making sure he had all the tools he might possibly need. I made sure I had all the supplies I had previously purchased for them were in the car. (I also meant to pack up an extra roll or two of paper towels…which I forgot…they weren’t with my previous purchased items, which just goes to show WHY I need a list and a plan.) We had face masks for each of us. I also brought some back up scarves. We brought our own bag for garbage. We had hand sanitizer.
We left the house around 9:45 in the morning. I let my mother know we were on the way. I asked her to unlock the side door which would let my husband directly into the “den” where my father has and uses his laptop. I told her I would call her again when we were close to the house.
As expected, traffic was light on the road. Although not as light as I might have assumed. It wasn’t your typical Saturday morning flow on the Garden State Parkway, but there were a good number of people on the road. We passed the PNC Art Center, now open for COCID-19 testing for healthcare workers. Though I didn’t see anyone getting off the parkway at this exit, I could see that there was plenty going on in the parking lot where testing was set up.
When we were a half a mile or so away, I called my parents again to make sure the side door was open and to let them know that my son and I would be on the back deck. I parked the car. Hubby put on his mask, gathered his tools/equipment and entered the house. My son and I took the supplies that I had purchased for them and went to the back of the house. Covering my hand, I opened the porch door and left the bags there.
It took my husband about an hour to do his work. My father was in the room with him as my husband had to show him certain things. Both wore masks at the time, stayed only in that room and stayed as apart as they could. My son and I stayed on the back deck. It was sunny and relatively warm, so my mother was able to come out and talk with us. We were also able to talk “over the fence” to a neighbor. And we observed how clear the lagoon on which my parent’s property backs up on as become. For the first time in memory, we could see the bottom. We spotted a crab. And we spotted a deck chair that had long ago been lost during a storm.
The hardest part, was of course, leaving. The whole time we were together, we were apart. There were no hugs or kisses and that was REALLY (emotionally) difficult.
There were no stops of the way down or on the way home. No quick stops at the beach to see the ocean (which we could see from a distance when we came over the bridge on our way down). No trips to the local Wawa for a diet peach iced tea or a soft pretzel. Not even a stop to fill up the gas tank. (I had done so the night before, taking less than $20 worth over a month after I had last filled up and paying under $2 a gallon.)
It was not your typical road trip or visit to the NJ shore. While there was so much I wanted to do and STILL want to do, now is not the time. The time WILL come again. I need to be patient. WE need to be patient. There WILL be a time when we can travel freely again. There WILL be a time when we can visit the beach (or the mountains or the lake or … ). There WILL be time when we can embrace friends and family again. Until that time, we need to be mindful and careful. We all must do what we feel we NEED to do, but we must do so with respect, love and caution.
Until then, stay safe and stay well.
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than six years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.