Lifelines – a COVID story

On March 27th, 2020 my husband left to work on the COVID response team as a Nurse Practitioner in downtown Cleveland.  He could not come home due to possible exposure.  My daughters and I got close, really close.  We formed a nucleus, both physically within our home space and mentally by working together.  We went into survival mode to protect what was necessary at all costs – our hearts, our brains, our family.  “Lifelines” is a collaboration representing the 10 weeks my husband was gone.  These photographs were taken by me and my 5-year-old daughter using expired film in my toy twin-lens camera and in my mechanical Minolta 7s, or by iPhone.

Lifelines. I am looking for lifelines to break through the numbness. But not every day. Some days it feels good to wear the numbness. Comfortable, exactly what I want to do. I go back to the basics. I look for “how to” books for pen & ink. Something my hands can do. Something that tells me exactly what TO do, step-by-step. Direction in a directionless time. Something easy to pick up and put down while I monitor two children through home school who have sporadic needs that require all of my attention.

Indoors. There are days I don’t even go outside and enjoy the expansive outdoor space that we live on. I’m scared. It’s part of wanting to wear the numbness. Outside is invigorating, a treat, it hurts. It’s too hard to come back inside after being outside so I might as well stay inside and watch the joy and be happy about protecting childhood. When I do go out it is with camera. A Minolta rangefinder or toy twin-lens. I finally decide to shoot all of that expired film in my refrigerator that I’ve been toting around the country as we moved place to place after 15 years. Now we have room for the lettuce.

My husband. He can’t come home. He works on the COVID task force team. A “hero” but kept at bay, 6’ apart. We can visit but we can’t touch Daddy. We bring him food to his “home” the place where he is staying for now. No human touch. I worry for his mental health. It’s a sacrifice. But a sacrifice acknowledged by who? Appreciated by who? Celebrated by who? We breathe through it. The surge never comes. Still he is gone for 10 weeks. My daughters and I live in the same bedroom. We become close. I cling to that closeness. I feel grateful for it. We shrink the house down to one level, down to three rooms. It makes it easier to clean.

If I can just take a moment to breathe, I can see they are happy. I have done my job.
I leave the happiness outside, dream-like, vivid, strange and go back inside to work. Work on the scaffolding that supports the happiness, that keeps us all up. I look back on it now, I can’t believe I did it. I protected their childhood.

Written 9/18/20