nothing to do

My nonverbal disabled son and I are a couple of goddamn pros at sheltering in place with nothing to do. Seriously. Calvin and I can't play cards or board games or solve jigsaw puzzles. We can't watch movies together because he doesn't attend and can't sit still. We can't draw pictures, work crosswords or write haiku. We can't make funny videos and share them with others. He can't text or FaceTime with friends even if he had friends. We can't sit quietly in the sun and read our own books. We can't walk the dog together or throw her a ball. Though he is sixteen, I can't use this time to teach him how to drive a car. We can't ride bikes or bake bread or pop popcorn. He can't sit and play video games for hours on end. He can't climb trees in the back yard or help me rake or weed or pick up downed limbs and twigs or plant seedlings, water them and watch them grow. We can't dance together to our favorite tunes or talk about what this crazy coronavirus time means to each of us or how it makes us feel. I can't explain to him my indignation that some folks still think healthcare is a privilege, that others gripe about things like raising the minimum wage or paying teachers more. I can't describe my love for the all that is good in the natural and civilized world and for my good peeps, nor my contempt for things like voter suppression, corporate welfare and greed, inequity, xenophobia, racism, sexism and misogyny, and the reckless, backwards, ignorant, deceitful, egocentric, shameless, conceited, crooked, self-dealing, cowardly, lame-ass president.

Nope. Can't do any of it.

Instead, Calvin and I sit on the green couch and cuddle for a few seconds or minutes—as long as he can sit still—then I pad behind him in circles, sit back down on the green couch and do it all again. This cycle happens umpteen times within any given hour on and off all day long. When he wants a bath I give it to him. I help him out of his clothes and diaper. He sits there in the warm water biting his Oball, spinning and splashing and putting his face in the water, holding his breath or drinking it time and again. I help him out and dry him off and help him put on his clothes. I pry him into and out of his shrinking johnny-jump-up so he can spin in that too. I help him in and out of his bed where he plays with his Sesame Street cell phone and other toys made for babies. I give him lots and lots of hugs and kisses and tickles. I spoon-feed him and dole out finger foods, but not too quickly lest he choke. Most days, we go on long car rides to places where we can nearly glimpse the open sea, though I'm not sure he sees it. We take frequent short loops around the neighborhood and garden. I hold his hand most of the time so he doesn't careen into the street or fall into a shrub. Sometimes, he'll perch on one of the backyard benches trying his best to stare at the sun. When I sit next to him he puts his arms around my neck. If I'm lucky, I get a kiss or two, maybe more.

During this coronavirus shutdown, as in any other time, I wake at night to lay my sleep-sitting son back down and cover him since he can't manage to himself. I give him extra homemade cannabis oil if I sense a seizure coming. If he begins to moan and shriek and sob and writhe like the other night I give him acetaminophen, usually in suppository form, and then wonder what else I can do to stop his misery. With Michael, I hold him while he seizes. I note his ashen skin and blueish fingers. Afterwards, when he's back to breathing, though irregularly, I slip him more cannabis oil to avoid a repeat. I crawl into bed next to him. My palm on his chest, I feel his heart pound, his ribs rise and fall. Together, we drift off to sleep.

Yep. We've been practicing this sheltering in place for sixteen years. No place to go. Nothing to do. No one to do it with while Michael is hard at work in his studio. The two places Calvin liked to frequent—the grocery store and the coffee shop—are now off limits. We've become a couple of goddamn pros, and though I always hope for release from our unique imprisonment, it's probably not going to happen any time soon. So, in this coronavirus quarantine, I guess we're lucky that for us it's relatively easy to do.

Calvin giving me a kiss

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