Cut the pill with the pill cutter.
Crush the pill with the pill crusher.
Carefully pour the pill fragments into a syringe and push in the plunger.
Place the syringe in the cup of water and pull back the plunger.
Shake the syringe to dissolve the pill fragments in the water.
Check on children.
“Jackson, don’t squeeze your sister so hard. If she hits you, you’ll know why!”
Find the next pill and repeat.
A faint memory of dogs barking 15 minutes ago (or had it been earlier?) tells me the other side of my bed will already be cool to the touch.
I roll over and will the vision to clear through my one partially open eyelid, the other eye kept forcibly closed by the cushioned valley of my pillow.
If Miguel is already up with Jackson and the dogs, then surely no one will mind if I lie here a little longer.
No one will miss me.
Our routine was overwhelmingly foreign to most but familiar to me. Like an ancient map written in a language only I could translate. It was not one I ever would have chosen, but I couldn’t choose to deny it either. After all, who else would care for my medically complex daughter who functioned like a newborn but was the rightful size of a 3-year-old? My schedule, sleep, and self-value were dictated by her most basic needs. She needed me.
And then she didn’t.
And then the world hibernated during a pandemic and when it woke up and declared we could return to normal, I panicked because what was normal?
Some are running with wild abandon back to normal. Others are more hesitant, reevaluated priorities having taken root in their mind. Still, there are others that will have no clearly defined normal to return to. Those who have lost a loved one, a career, a home.
For these people, the return to normal is nothing short of traumatic.
When left with vagrant vacancies on calendars, daily details longing to be shared, rote routines requiring permanent detours, there is no way back to normal. There isn’t even a clear normal. There is just then and now.
We can call it a blank slate, an opportunity to shape time however we would like. But it is also hard to look at that blank slate and not see what is missing. Both are true: there is opportunity and loss, hope and grief. In our new normal opposites coexist and only in acknowledging them can we push forward out of this globally mandated social hibernation.
As Chaucer said, “time waits for no man,” and so, while we forge forward into the unknown, new normals will form around us, unbeknownst to us, in spite of us.
We will persevere because who else will care for our most basic needs but ourselves. And perhaps this is the greatest lesson of all: only in valuing our own lives will we find our next new normal. Still carrying with us all that we lost, we continue on because we must—and because we can.
I will my eyes to open and tell my feet to leave the soft warmth of the bed for the cold hard floor.
Plodding stiffly down the stairs, still groggy with sleep, I pass what should be my daughter’s room where the pill cutter and crusher are tucked away in a box on the high shelf of the closet. Mementos of a normal I don’t have the luxury to go back to. There is only forward.
“Good morning, family.”