It's after 10 p.m. and my kids are all in bed. I've spent the last 45 minutes getting updates on my phone in a text strand of friends about all the closings, warnings and doomsday predictions regarding the coronavirus. Per state warnings, several local colleges here in Kentucky and school districts, businesses and events are being cancelled one after another in efforts to keep sickness contained or at bay. Pictures of the empty toilet paper aisle at my local grocery store are being sent to me right now and it's all kinda starting to freak me out.
I'm trying not to panic. But it's hard when news outlets tell you to panic, the government tells you not to panic and your friends are all still deciding whether to panic or not. Ok. I'm really trying hard not to panic because four little people upstairs are no doubt going to look at the only parent they have left in this world (who happens to be an anxious, OCD hand washing, high-strung, easily-freaked-out parent) to NOT be panicked here. As they lay tucked in their beds upstairs, my mind is racing, my heart rate is elevated and I'm trying my best to talk myself out of running up the street to any store open to grab what's left of batteries, canned food, bottled water and apparently freaking toilet paper too. Are people just being overly scared and cautious about something that's going to blow over in a month? Or are we headed into a Lord of the Flies/Hunger Games situation here that I should prepare for in the next few hours?
I don't know what to do. I'm a 44-year-old widowed, single mom admitting to you all that I am as scared as a child. And I have no idea what to do. My husband—the level-headed, responsible person who would know just when to panic—isn't here anymore. He was a grocer. From the time he was employed as a bag boy at age 12 all the way up to his death, he ran his family's grocery stores. He had seen and dealt with lots of panic over the years from poor sales and power outages to snowstorms and weather warnings. The kind of warnings that force people running to the grocery store to stock up on milk and bread, Spam and yes —toilet paper. He was always calm. He knew what to do and what to say. He was always here to tell me "it's going to be ok."
Being widowed can show you how strong and resilient you can be, because you have to be. There is no other option, especially when you have kids. But it can also unleash an indescribable fear. A fear for the physical safety for you and your children while you sleep alone here at night. Fear of financial struggles and worry about your bank account's longevity. Worry about being alone forever. Worry about whether anyone under this roof will withstand the emotional scars that have been cut into our souls. All these fears I have had every night for the past 28 months are now compounded by the fear and panic this coronavirus is creating amongst people around me.
So I'm trying not to f-ing panic. I'm trying not to worry about vigilant 20-second hand washing, the amount of canned beans I have in the pantry and especially about the fact I only have about five rolls of TP left in this house. I'm trying not to sweat you, coronavirus. I'm trying to keep it together here for four kids.
Because I'm the only one left. I'm the one who's going to tell them "it's going to be ok."