I come up with a lot of excuses for not writing, which is inexcusable. My last excuse was wanting to slow down time for a couple of weeks to enjoy Christmas. Other excuses include:
- I can’t see the computer screen through my new reading glasses.
- I’m hungry.
- My chair is uncomfortable.
- My kid is hungry and will eat potato chips all afternoon if I don’t feed him lunch.
- A worldwide pandemic caused by a virus leaked from a secret lab in Wuhan, China is killing millions of people, which is kind of distracting.
- I gave up my home office for my son’s Zoom classroom and now I’m trying to write in a cluttered corner of my bedroom next to a shelf where I store my toiletries.
- My writing sucks, my characters are hopelessly fake, and literary agents and editors won’t like anything I write (this is by far my worst writing excuse because it’s ridiculous—of course my characters are fake because I made them up—and ridiculously effective at hindering my creative output).
And now my latest excuse: my 16-yr old kid came down with COVID.
Monday, January 10th, 2022
After I made breakfast—scrambled eggs on an English muffin with bacon and shredded cheese—my son complained he had a sore throat. This alarmed me, because any illness these days alarms me.
I asked him what else he felt. He said he felt tired and his muscles ached. That sounded like Covid-19 symptoms to me. After he finished his breakfast sandwich, I took his temperature.
It started off at 97 point something, not quite 98. I told him to stick the thermometer back in his mouth for another few minutes. The next time I checked, his temperature crept up a little, to 98. I gave back the thermometer and told him to do it again. His temperature kept creeping up each time I checked. I’d never seen his temperature keep going up like that, right in front of me, in real time. I quit asking him when it reached a little beyond 99, because now it meant he had a mild fever.
With a sore throat and a slight fever, obviously I wasn’t going to send him to school, especially with COVID infections spiking around the country.
I emailed the school attendance office to let them know I was keeping him home.
My son ___ (11th grade) has a sore throat and feels tired and achy. His temperature is slightly above 99. I think its best he stays home today.
The school nurse replied three hours later.
Good morning, sorry to hear that _ is feeling ill. He will need a negative COVID PCR test in order for him to return to school. Please have him contact his teachers, thanks, Nurse K–
I suspected he got COVID and wondered where he got it. He was totally fine all weekend. We went nowhere, except church on Sunday. I wondered if he got COVID from church (yes, we do go to church, which, as a recovering atheist, is an interesting topic for some other day).
(By the way, my older son later told me he thought he caught COVID the week before, then came home to spend the weekend with us; he didn’t think it was important enough to let us know, which was not cool.)
A couple of hours later, I felt a little… off. I have no idea if what I felt was psychosomatic, just my overactive imagination due to my son’s illness, or if I had caught COVID and my immune system was kicking in. Here’s an excerpt of my journal entry from that morning:
10:27 a.m. I have the faintest tickling of a sore throat. If it’s not my imagination, that is seriously fast.
10:30 a.m. Now my arms feel slightly achy. Really? Omg maybe I have COVID.
10:51 a.m. Now I’m getting a weird achy feeling all over, as if I had just gotten a COVID shot.
But then—nothing. No sniffles. No sore throat. No symptoms.
When my kids were little, my husband joked that I had “super Mommy immunity.” The kids would get sick and stay home from school, and I’d be perfectly fine during their entire illness, sometimes for as long as two weeks. Then as soon as the kids recovered and returned to school, I’d get slammed with whatever they got and stay sick for weeks. I figured I would come down with COVID any day now, because I thought COVID was more severe if you were older. If my 16-year-old was sick with this, there was no way my “super Mommy immunity” would actually work this time, because my “super Mommy immunity” is not an actual superpower.
Tuesday, January 11th, 2022
My son’s symptoms worsened on Tuesday. His throat hurt, his nose was runny, he was extremely tired. He complained his breathing was labored, as if he went on a run and needed to catch his breath. But he wasn’t confined to his bed. He was okay enough to study for his semester finals.
I stepped away from my writing to take care of him. Heated some Campbell’s tomato soup on the stove, served it with his lunch. Gave him a glass of orange juice.
I tried to get back to writing.
I gave up my office so he could use it to study, just like back in 2020 when school shut down. I moved my laptop to the dining table and tried to write there, but the critical voice inside my head began to complain. The dining room chair isn’t comfy. I don’t have my reading glasses and can’t see the laptop screen. Sitting down seemed pointless. I needed the screen closer to my face to see anything.
I moved my laptop to the kitchen counter and tried to write. But the “chi” was off, or whatever you call that energy when the layout of a room doesn’t have good feng shui. So instead of working on my novel, which requires a lot of concentration for me, I wrote in my journal, which takes no concentration whatsoever.
So here I am, typing at the kitchen counter.
I finished my last (unpublished) novel in 2019. It’s now 2022. I have no excuse.
Except right now it’s 11:22 in the morning, lunchtime, and I’m hungry.
Let me just take a quick lunch break and I’ll get started.
And of course, after my quick lunch break, I didn’t get started. Once my focus is shot that late in the morning, I don’t recover it for the rest of the day.
Thursday, January 13th, 2022
Two days later, I took him to a drive-through COVID test site where the nurses looked like they were wearing hazmat gear—yellow medical coveralls, surgical masks, goggles and faces shields. It didn’t occur to me to take a picture until the moment the nurse stuck the extra-long Q-tip up his nose. Having anything up one’s nose is not photogenic, so I didn’t think to have my camera phone ready to take a photo. It took only a couple of seconds for her to do the nasal swab, then she was finished and we were sent on our way.
Later that night, an email notification popped up on my phone telling me the results were in, which was fast. I expected it to take a few more days. I told my husband, who immediately got up and started pacing the room. I logged into the medical website with anticipation. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. My husband joked that the test would show he was pregnant.
And then… there it was:
SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid DETECTED by NAAT/RT-PCR.
I had to read through the whole page a couple of times because of all the medical jargon. The result was “abnormal.” SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid “DETECTED.” Then way down at the bottom it finally said “Your Covid-19 test is POSITIVE” in clear bold font.
In other words, my kid caught COVID.
Friday, January 14th, 2022
When the nurse called on Friday to see how he was doing, I told her he tested positive. She said he couldn’t return to school until the following Friday, January 21st, which would mean my son would miss two weeks of school, including his semester final exams. But if he takes a rapid COVID test on Tuesday morning and it shows up negative, he can return as soon as Tuesday, January 18th.
Rapid test? Where were we going to find those?
“The last I heard,” I said to the nurse, “COVID test kids were sold out everywhere.”
She said she heard CVS got new shipments at night.
Saturday, January 15th, 2022
My husband went out on a Saturday morning to forage for our son, showing up at CVS ten minutes before it opened at 7 am. He was surprised there wasn’t a line out the door and that the place was completely empty. He asked for two test kits, and the clerk suggested he buy six, the maximum amount allowed, so he did.
Tuesday, January 18th 2022
Thinking my son might return to school that morning, I made him his usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, wrapped it in deli paper, and tucked it into his lunch box. I made his usual breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs. My husband stuck the Q-tip thing up his nose and did the test.
This is it, I thought. If the test comes up negative, he goes to school.
At first, nothing. Then after a few minutes, a faint line showed up at the “T.”
He was staying home for another day. And probably the next day too, since I didn’t see how he would test negative a day after testing positive.
I emailed the attendance office and nurse to let them know the rapid COVID test was positive. She wrote back, If he is asymptomatic, have him come to the school tomorrow for the rapid antigen test. He can tell the staff there that he needs a copy of the result for me. He can wait the 15 minutes for the results!
But that didn’t make sense. Why go through the trouble of going to school if he tests positive? I emailed her to ask. She confirmed that yes, he would be sent back home if he tested positive.
I talked to my son to find out what he wanted to do. Then I wrote back:
I’ve decided it’s best to keep [him] home and send him back to school on Friday, following Covid protocols. He’s been working hard, studying at home, but because he has missed so much school—all last week and also today—[he] told me he feels like he’s fallen behind and needs the opportunity to ask his teachers questions before he takes his finals. Also, my husband and I doubt he will test negative tomorrow given the fact the Covid test was a strong positive today. Therefore you can mark him absent through Thursday and I won’t fill your inbox with “[he] is still home” emails.
The weird thing is, my husband and I never got sick. I think I may have felt some symptoms, but I couldn’t be sure if it was my imagination. My entire family got vaccinated. My husband got the booster shot. My husband and I are not spring chickens, as the idiom goes. So why would my 16-year-old son get hit so hard with COVID while my husband and I didn’t get sick at all?
All last week I tried to focus on writing while my teen son was at home, sick with Covid-19. At night while I lay in bed, trying to go to sleep, that little voice inside my head, the same damn voice that tells me my writing sucks, that my characters are hopelessly fake, and that no literary agent or editor will ever want my book, also told me my kid wasn’t going to wake up the next morning, that he would die in his sleep, suffocating on his own phlegm.
Thank God that didn’t happen.
Thursday, January 20th, 2022
Today is the last day of my son’s quarantine. He’s fine now, fully recovered, with no symptoms. At this moment, he’s in my office, doing his homework, while I’m at my desk in my bedroom finishing up this blog post. My son will return to school tomorrow, and I’ll return to my home office where I hope to be more productive.
At the Air Force Academy, I was taught the Seven Basic Responses:
- Yes, sir (ma’am).
- No, sir.
- No excuse sir.
- Sir, may I ask a question?
- Sir, may I make a statement?
- Sir, I do not understand.
- Sir, I do not know (ironically, I completely forgot this one and had to look it up).
In other words, there are no excuses. If I want to get published, I need to stop making excuses and get back to writing.
I also need to shut off that annoying critical voice inside my head.