2020 is the year of the rat!
And that’s pretty awesome. Especially if you’re like me and love rats. My odd admiration of these cuddly creatures (yes, that’s right; I said cuddly) is the subject of a different story on a different day. (They’re basically little dogs that you can keep in a cage. Don’t be hatin’ on them.)
With as complicated of a relationship as people have with rats, it’s really no surprise that 2020 has been a, well, complicated year thus far.
Before we got any farther, I will acknowledge that technically, the year of the rat didn’t begin until January 25th as the Chinese calendar is slightly different from our Gregorian calendar. This is why I’m technically a snake and not a horse despite the fact that 1990 was the year of the horse. According to the Chinese calendar, being born on January 14th means I was technically born in 1989. Learning this fact did not help my Hufflepuff/Slytherin identity crisis phase, but, once again, that’s for a different story on a different day. I bring this up simply because if I don’t, some sassy Ravenclaw will fly in and
to point it out because they’re smart and stuff. (Don’t even get me started on Gryffindors.)
I turned thirty this year. That’s complicated. I honestly try not to think about it too much. I look back at the quarter-life-crisis I had at twenty-five and shake my head in pity. “Oh, you poor, young thing. You had no idea.” I’m not sure why twenty-nine sounds so much more appealing than thirty; that one year makes all the difference. That one year is enough time to figure out your life and get married and get pregnant and buy a house. At twenty-nine, you can still be footloose and fancy free, but once those three-hundred and sixty-five days are up, it’s time to be serious, child.
Covid 19 is complicated. I suddenly have all this time on my hands so I should be happy. This is the dream, right? I’m getting a regular check from the Starbucks (albeit a smaller one than I used to) after working absolutely no hours. I’m also getting a nice check from the government just because I’m here. I have all this time to work on my art and learn Spanish and practice with a slow-cooker and learn how to buy light bulbs (it’s hard!). So why am I so depressed? Maybe the crazy man standing outside Walmart, yelling at me to go home when I was just trying to buy some groceries had something to do with it. Maybe seeing all of my friends who don’t have it as well as I do struggle has something to do with it. Maybe the fact that Netflix recently removed classic MST3K HAS A LOT TO DO WITH IT!
And then there’s my dad. For those of you who don’t know, he passed away (somewhat) unexpectedly on January 28th. It’s wistful to think that amongst all of this quarantine, his death has somewhat taken a backseat in my mind. It’s sad. Shameful. I think that there is still a not-so-small part of me that doesn’t actually believe he’s gone. I know that the stages of grief aren’t linear, but I sure do feel as though I’ve been stuck in denial for a while now. Compared to the rest of my family, I suppose it’s understandable. Mom and my brother (obviously) saw him every day. My sister and brother-in-law saw him (basically) every day. I live in Milwaukee, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to go weeks without seeing him. It’s so easy to put all of this on the back burner of my mind and think that everything is the same. It’s so easy to imagine that I’m sitting here, still doing my thing, and Dad is back home, still doing his thing and we’ll see each other at the next social gathering. All of this social distancing makes it incredibly easy.
Everyone in my family seems to have a different opinion on quarantine and Covid 19, but I take a lot of comfort in the fact that my dad (as he was someone of a germaphobe) would be ardently telling me to stay away from the house if he was still around now. He would be the one buying up all the disinfectant and spraying down our house every hour on the hour. He’d be the one wearing gloves and a medical mask twenty-four seven. My father wasn’t a Marine (he’d served in the Air Force) but when it came to supplies, his motto was to always be prepared. The basement was his mancave (his own sacred space), and he kept it stocked like Y2K was just around the corner. Everything from garbage bags to model train sets to fifteen amplifiers to canned goods to gallons of water and paper plates and hydrogen peroxide and spare sets of underwear (still in the packaging!) could be found in the basement. He was fastidious to say the least.
It’s difficult to write the word “was” when it comes to my father. I struggle to truly fathom the idea that he’s not just hiding in the basement or doing another short stint at the hospital. My mother had limited mobility and hasn’t been down in the basement in years. In order to communicate with each other, Dad installed an intercom system so Mom didn’t have to go yelling when dinner was ready or there was a phone call for Dad. Mom’s end sits by her chair in the living room and Dad’s end sits by his massive computer in the basement. When you go into the basement, you can still see the bottle of sparkling water that my dad was in the process of drinking the last time he was down there. Known for his horrible eyesight (it’s where I get it from) he was also prone to leaving various pairs of glasses scattered throughout the basement. The intercom. The bottle. The glasses. All of these things will need to be thrown away or disconnected eventually, but for now they sit as a silent and understated monument to my father.
This year has been complicated. And it’s only April.
My dear friend Melody pointed out that 2020 must be the year of the survivors. It is the year of the rat after all, and these little critters are the ultimate survivors. Do you think that they live in sewer systems and each garbage because it’s their idea of high living and fine dining? They do it because that is how they can survive. We’re all probably in a position now that we wish we weren’t. We all are between a rock and a hard space and while other more glamorous or prideful animals would shudder or look away, the rat does not. The rat cannot. The rat keeps moving forward and doing what he must. The rat knows that now he’s eating the moldy crust of a crappy takeaway pizza, but someday down the road he’ll be eating the tip of a homemade straight-from-the-oven pizza (because the tip’s the best part!) He knows that you have to put up with some crappy days in order to see the truly wonderful ones.
You may be in quarantine or working your butt off as an essential worker. You may feel disconnected and powerless, but you must remember that you are not. You are a survivor. We will get through this. We will see the light at the end of the tunnel and hug one another again. My heart aches now and my mind can’t keep up. But it’s the year of the rat and we’re gonna survive.