It’s been four weeks since surgery. Last night I was able to cook some red lentil pasta with vegetables. The pot of pasta boiled up a white foam dangerously close to the lid of the pot if Mary and I didn’t stir it constantly. I greased a glass pan and gathered three kinds of shredded cheese while Mary stirred the lentil ziti continuously. Each time she would lean over to stir the pot of sauce and chopped veggies, the lentil pasta would heartily foam up again and threaten to overflow. She’d jump back and stir furiously while we laughed uproariously. Such hubris, trying to escape the pot like that!
Mary and I strained the pasta together, laughingly avoiding the billows of steam coming out of the strainer. I layered the ziti and veggie sauce while she sprinkled a generous amount of cheese over the top. Our team work lead to an amazing baked ziti dish for dinner. My MIL (who is quarantined with us) was mildly perplexed. She’s had the kitchen to herself for the last month. It’s seen a borderline-illegal amount of garlic, and almost no vegetable products.
To my surprise our kitchen contains full heads of garlic, minced garlic, garlic powder, garlic salt and a garlic seasoning called “perfect pinch.” She proudly displays these and explains that she uses them ALL for each meal, along with some Goya seasonings. My MIL cooks a lot of traditional Puerto Rican dishes. My children love this. I suppose I am just as perplexed as she is when she looks at my food.
In this time of quarantine, it’s best that I do not share my feelings. We are all stuck here together and it is best if I don’t respond to her many, many opinions about cooking, child-rearing, housekeeping and marriage. The woman may have more opinions than forms of garlic in her cooking!
As I nod my head benignly, I let my MIL’s words wash over me like so much rain. I pay little attention and therefore I don’t have any idea what I am nodding along to. This is the time Marcus pops up and begins asking me (in a roundabout and rambling way) if he can go and visit a friend. What?! Full stop. Now I am listening.
Absolutely not. Luke and I have said no to his girlfriend coming over. We have said no to his friend coming over, even if they “stay in the basement.” He doesn’t understand. Marcus is straining at the confines of this house. He wants to go out and be in the world. Since he is twenty-two he must be absolutely immortal and impervious to infection. Additionally, he knows this friend and so, obviously, the friend couldn’t possibly be infected.
I clearly and firmly state that he cannot be in contact with others. Full stop. I briefly outline why some people can be asymptomatic and still spread the germs. I remind him about using Facetime, Facebook Watch Party and Google Hang. I state the facts without lots of words because once he is upset too much language just doesn’t get processed. I do this over my MIL’s mounting panicked protests. She has a lot of anxiety.
After he stomps downstairs, I agree quietly while MIL reminds me that Luke has Type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure and is now on immunosuppresent medication. I nod while she complains that Marcus refuses to wash his hair because his dreadlocks aren’t “mature enough” yet. Supposedly, only his girlfriend can wash them so they don’t unravel (?) Honestly, I have to pick my battles with Marcus. It is very difficult to keep him home. It is difficult to convince him to wear gloves and mask at the pharmacy and grocery store. It is even difficult to get him to shower when he gets home from the store.
Marcus bubbles up with frustration, he pushes to be free. I take a cleansing breathe and exhale slowly. I am straining against the constant string of advice from my MIL. Instead of engaging I go and find Mary. Together we take a perfect baked ziti out of the oven. She smiles at me and makes a “sqee!” sound of joy.
This period of social isolation has worked well for Mary. She is transforming into a happy, well-adjusted child. Rather than straining against circumstances, she’s adapted well. Perhaps I should follow her lead.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.