Notes from Maine – 3

When we’re not in total lockdown, I have friends come over every Thursday evening. We catch up on the past week, debate where we’re going to have dinner, and usually end up at a local restaurant, holding the menus at arm’s length and trying to read them with our aging eyes. This Thursday night thing has been going on for years and years and it all came to a stop for the pandemic. 

My brother said that his neighbors had a virus party the other day. He and my sister-in-law could hear the kids through the woods—running around and laughing. So far, the hospitals around here aren’t completely inundated as far as I know. My father is currently “incarcerated” as he calls it, following his surgery. I talked to the surgeon on the phone because I haven’t wanted to go in. The surgeon was upbeat and optimistic, of course. Aren’t they always? It takes a special kind of person to look at a sick person and think, “If I could just cut him up a little bit, slice this old man in just in the right way, I bet I could fix them.” Miraculously, they’re often right.

Sorry, my mind is wandering again. I was talking about the hospital. Granted, my father isn’t the best reporter, but he said that the hospital staff in Augusta aren’t overwhelmed yet. They’re expecting the surge and preparing for it, but it hasn’t arrived. The county he’s in (Kennebec) has nineteen cases so far. Maine is always behind on everything. We didn’t get a Taco Bell in the state until the mid-nineties. 

So was the virus party a good idea? Of course not, but I think maybe I understand the impulse. The odds are good that you’re going to get it. Fortunately, the odds are decent that (if you’re young and healthy enough), it might not even be too bad. So do you want it now, when there are only nineteen cases in your county, or in a month when Maine finally gets the surge and all the hospitals are overwhelmed? It’s an interesting question, even though I have to say that it’s completely irresponsible to encourage the spread. We have to think about the people who can’t risk infection because they’re already compromised. 

A lot of you have reached out to me about my father—I really appreciate your kind thoughts. As I referenced, the surgeon feels that everything went great. Dad is crabby, in pain, and pessimistic, so I guess you could say that he’s completely normal. 

I’ve worked really hard this week to try to return to my pre-pandemic routines. It’s going pretty well. Things feel more manageable when I’m in a rut. I haven’t vacuumed this week. That’s a chore that I always do on Thursday, before people come over. I guess I didn’t realize that I was mostly doing it so visitors wouldn’t think that I’m a pig. Maybe squalor is my natural state. 

I hope you’re well, and safe, and sane.

Many have asked about my cellar. I was down there the other day, working on a small project. This house has an odd, enormous cellar. The new part of the house has a concrete foundation and that’s where my woodworking tools live. Then, beyond where the floor transitions to dirt, there’s a really old cellar. The foundation stones were dragged into place right around when Maine became a state (the house is from 1810 or 1820, depending on which document you dig up). I try to imagine the first people who lived here. Maybe they were a young, intrepid family, trying to carve out a future at the edge of their known world. I find it really difficult to picture anyone actually building this house though. In a way, it seems like it must have always been here. People have lived here through the centuries, but it has never really been owned. I don’t think it can be owned.

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