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Homebound for the Holidays

The COVID Granny Diaries

After lots of thought and discussion, my family decided not to gather for Thanksgiving. We are scared of the surge in cases and all the experts are saying family gatherings are the source.

I guess we will have a virtual gathering at some point, like others are doing. I imagine a lot of people will cook Thanksgiving dinner and then eat by Zoom. However, I will literally be "Home Alone" and I am not much of a cook. Since nobody outside family calls anybody on American Thanksgiving, it is a true day off. I thought, Do I want to use my time off cooking and cleaning up just for Zoom and selfies? No, I would rather do something else that I don't normally get to do.

So I bought a frozen turkey dinner from Weight Watchers that is only 280 calories and takes minutes to prepare. I will then have something I can put on a fancy dish for the Zoom meeting without the need to cook it.

This plan also allows me to donate the money I would have spent on Thanksgiving to the Rhode Island Food Bank—a good thing to do since nearly 40% of Americans are experiencing food insecurity right now. I am grateful that I am not one of them, but don't get me started on all the yahoos out there refusing to wear masks or stay home and now don't have food.

Instead of all the cooking, I am going to clean the basement. I'm serious. For the holiday.

Let me explain.

My father was a brilliant and accomplished man, but I am quite sure he had ADHD. I think I got it from him. One of the telltale signs is clutter. He once told me that he had to keep his paperwork on his desk because if he put any of it in a drawer, he forgot about it. That's classic ADHD. And I am the same way.

The difference between us was that he had a little army of women (his wife, his secretary, his nurses) who not only cleaned up after him at home, in the office, and at the hospital, but coordinated with each other so nothing ever fell through the cracks. As a consequence, you would never have guessed he had a problem—unless you saw his desk in his home office, which is where I was sitting when he told me about his issues with file drawers. No one was allowed to touch that desk, so it had permanent layers of papers on it. I have the layers on my desk, but I don't have the solicitous backup. So it gets pretty bad.

Daddy died suddenly in a plane crash. After the accident, the mess on his desk was the thing that took the longest to sort through and deal with. It was more than a year later that my stepmother finished it. He died so suddenly that there were also no arrangements for his funeral or anything. (He would never admit he was mortal.) So, in the shock of his accident, we had to just try to imagine how he would want us to handle everything.

Then there is my mother, who is a hoarder. When she moved into her retirement community, her memory was already going. When I flew in from the UK to help her move, I found that she had basically forgotten to pack up her house. I had two days til the moving truck came and we were to fly to her new place. So in a major manic moment, I packed it all up. There was so much stuff. I literally found three ice-cream makers in her basement and that wasn't the only thing she had in multiples.

For years, I have sworn to myself that I would not leave a mess behind for my kids—even though I inherited both the ADHD and the hoarding (which are both heritable). You can see where I'm going with this. My basement is beyond imagining.

Then I got COVID—or everybody thought I did. My daughters both freaked out and my doctor ordered a test. That was back in April, when tests were hard to get. So I had to wait several days, go to the National Guard setup for testing, and then wait several more days for the results. I passed the time imagining my own demise, as I lay in bed feeling pretty awful. And you know what made me the most upset? The idea that my kids were going to have to deal with my freaking basement.

Here we are in the car, waiting for the National Guard to let us drive up for the test. Against my instructions, Liza came down to take care of me if I got COVID. Nova was then living with me, so she was there, too.

I didn't turn out positive for COVID. My doctor thought maybe I was just got dehydrated. Dehydration is a problem for me and I do get some pretty scary symptoms. But eventually it became clear that I was having a bad reaction to a medication that I had taken forever. Apparently that happens.

So, anyway, I got a reprieve. As soon as I was well enough, I went down to the basement and pulled together the big items that I knew I would never use, but hadn't yet been able to part with. I then hired a guy with a truck to come haul it off to some landfill. Yes, I should have put it all on Craig's List. Maybe some day I will have the focus to do that kind of thing. But, as it is, I have to strike while the iron is hot—before I get distracted. If I stop to figure out Craig's List, the whole project will go down the drain. "Know thyself."

After that first very big step, however, I did get distracted. I have returned to the task a couple of times since then, but I get one aspect of the room organized and don't finish the whole job. Eventually, my tendency to just come down there and drop things means anything I have organized has slowly deteriorated, dragged down by the entropy that follows me everywhere.

So this time I am going to finish it. I have four full days. I am looking forward to having it off my mind. The result may not last. It probably won't last. But if I can keep it neat until this surge is over, the basement won't be a source of shame for my soul if I die from the plague.

People are usually astonished to find out I have ADHD. They think I can't possibly have done all this research, written this book, and so on if I have ADHD. But remember the "H" in ADHD is for hyper-attention, which I have in spades. This is how I wrote a book and packed a hoarder in two days. ADHD people can focus like a laser and stay on task for long periods if they are really interested in something or really determined. And I am determined to clean this goddam basement over the holidays.

After the holiday, I plan to update my will and get one of those "after I'm dead, here's what to do" books to fill out. That is, if I can maintain interest.

So don't feel sorry for me because I am home alone this Thanksgiving. I am on a mission and feel very good about having a few quiet days to be hyper-attentive to the mess.

Happy Thanksgiving, however you plan to spend it!

Just a reminder that this post is the seventh in a series called "The COVID Granny Diaries." Other posts include:


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