My calendar is still set to March 15, the day COVID changed our lives. I keep the calendar set there to remind myself life can change at any moment.
I didn’t know on March 15 how much worse it would get.
I found out on April 23rd.
That’s when my brother was diagnosed with COVID. He died just hours after his diagnosis.
The worst part was I couldn’t grieve with my family. Not only do they live across the country, but regulations prohibited funerals with more than 10 people. Plus, we were told we’d have to wait weeks for burial because there were so many deaths. My mother, at greater risk if she contracts the virus because of her age, had to say goodbye to her son by looking at pictures.
It is just all too much.
But we keep going.
In September school started. I went back to work as a 1-to-1 special education aide. I’m constantly cleaning my hands and wiping down the desks and surfaces we may have touched.
Then one day I felt achy.
Was it allergies? Was it because I slept funny and have a bad back? My temperature was 99.4 degrees. I took a day off just to get back to feeling normal and my employer told me I had to get a doctor's note before returning to work.
The doctor tested me for COVID.
I was positive.
I felt like a leper because I had to hide in my house and isolate. I was the one to stay away from. I was the one who people were wondering about.
“When did we see her last?
"Have my kids hung out with her kids?"
I worried about my friends’ reactions, but they were supportive. They sent texts, messages, treats, and food. I wanted to put my diagnosis on Facebook, to tell others to be careful, but I didn’t because I couldn't tell my family.
I couldn't put them through the stress of knowing I had it when we’d just lost my brother. I typically talk on the phone every day with my mom, but I avoided the calls because I didn’t want her to know about my diagnosis. When we did talk, I omitted any mention of my own circumstances.
I quarantined in an extra room in our house while my husband stepped up and took care of everything: Dinners, school work, the new puppy, dishes, laundry, and his job.
I had to kiss my daughter goodnight from behind a door and send "high fives" to my son via the air. I had no control over my life and my family, and frankly, it stunk.
I am happy to say I am better now. My kids and husband have thankfully stayed healthy. But being sick has given me insight: Those who contract the virus, like me, can be extremely cautious and still end up with it. This virus can happen to anyone. Don't get me wrong. I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Stay at home if you are sick. Be kind to all — because this virus has affected us all.
A version of this story was originally published on Macaroni Kid Bellmore - Merrick - Wantagh, N.Y.