Twenty-Four Hours In Pandemic Parenting


In the end, it was the smartwatch that sealed my fate.

It started 2:30 Tuesday morning when I let my dog into the yard. He does this some nights, always between 2:30 and 3:30 in the morning.

I think, in these moments, of The Amityville Horror, of Margot Kidder waking up screaming – every night, at the exact same time, because her house is haunted, her husband is possessed, and she is just days away from being demonically evicted from her house.

It’s a soothing thought as I dart through the cold, dark house, hoping to make it to the back door before my dog pees on the carpet and the devil erupts through my crawl space.

I usually collapse back into sleep after my pup’s terrifying nocturnal sojourns. Not so much this night, when concerns about my teenagers’ schooling tumble through my head, minute after agonizing minute, like a dryer filled with sneakers.

The CDC says – thankfully – we can get kids back to school. My middle schooler’s education has been a challenge in the pandemic; his problems consume my thoughts this night. Demonic possession starts to have its appeal. Surely demons don’t sit up at night, worried about their kids?

I could do that. I could be a demon.

When the clock strikes four, I give up on both sleep and evil forces. I get up for the day, add “Ouija Board” to my to-do list – isn’t that how those things always start? – and try to get some work done.

My dad has a telehealth appointment this particular Tuesday. I spend many minutes on the phone with my mom, who is flummoxed by my directive to just click the hyperlink.

“It’s asking me for my name!” she says, excited because she, like my teenagers, has been cut off socially for nearly a year.

“Not your name,” I say, “It’s not your appointment,” I tell her to enter my dad’s name.

“It’s asking me if I’m the host,” she says, and I can almost hear her clicking “yes,” because my mom thinks any virtual meeting she is a part of automatically means she’s the host.

Thank goodness that myopia isn’t inheritable.

Also, I hardly think demons have parents with telehealth appointments.

My day is filled with navigating two teenagers schooling at home – there’s course selection, three tests, and one diorama to oversee, all while looking for pockets of time to do laundry, dishes, and work. I get a COVID vaccine. I make dinner.

As evening rolls around, I squeeze in a workout. It’s hard – harder than I would have preferred on a day I had a 2:30 wake-up call. But I crush it, thinking of how I’ve earned my lava cake and an early bedtime.

I’m about to peel off my sweaty leggings when my mom calls.

My dad, who has Parkinson’s, is complaining of chest pain. My mom, a retired cardiac nurse, is picking up an irregular heartbeat when she listens to his heart. She wants to know why I didn’t just buy my dad the smartwatch that can take an electrocardiogram.

“I did,” I tell her. And if you think walking her through a hyperlink was fun, you’d really enjoy guiding her through an electrocardiogram on a smartwatch.

“It doesn’t have a crown!” she yells at me. “This is ridiculous!”

The smartwatch does, in fact, have a crown. I’m hoping the electrocardiogram is normal. The cheat pain has resolved. I’m sure it was just a sore muscle. I bought that smartwatch for moments like these, moments where I know my dad is fine but my mom needs some reassurance.

“The electrocardiogram says he has atrial fibrillation,’ my mom tells me.

Traitorous smartwatch. If I was a demon, I’d probably be able to make that smartwatch say whatever I want it to say.

I take my dad to the emergency room, where seven hours later they declare him healthy and send him home. He’s exhausted as I get him settled, make sure he takes his medications. He missed his bedtime dose; it’s evidenced by his shaking left hand.

Demons don’t get Parkinson’s, right? I scratch out “Ouija Board” on my to-do list and write “Two Ouija Boards.” My dad is a Marine, a Devil Dog. Devil Dogs are tough, but I’m thinking there wasn’t enough devil in that dog to ward off Parkinson’s.

If I’m going to Amityville myself, I’ll just Amityville him too.

It’s 2:30 when I arrive home, exactly twenty-four hours from when my day started.

I try not to think about Thursday. It will be a seven-hour workday, followed by some testing for my son. Testing that worries him.

You know, I really need to make him a demon too. Make that three Ouija Boards. Or can he use mine? How does that work? Is it one possession per board? Can you share, or is that like sharing your Netflix password – done but frowned upon?

I also try not to think about Friday, when I will call out of work so I can take my dad to his follow-up appointments. My parents don’t drive, which I seem to remember James Brolin doing all the time after he moved into his haunted house.

I’m unwinding Saturday when I read about the Marshall Plan for Moms. It sounds reasonable, even though it doesn’t call for more sleep or more hours in the day.

It doesn’t call for Ouija Boards either. But I’ll take what I can get. I’m a mom in a pandemic.

I’ve learned I can’t be picky.

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