About two weeks into the Coronavirus Quarantine, I began noticing some odd behaviors. I was hypervigilant at every creaky house sound; I found myself wanting to stay awake until night lifted; I began checking closets before going to bed. It all felt very familiar. Soon I realized that my PTSD from childhood events was kicking in again.
My first “forced” isolation happened when I was twelve. I thrust it upon myself to stay safe, to keep myself away from an abusive uncle that my family visited every weekend. I believed if I told my parents, nothing would change. Instead, I told them I had babysitting jobs on the weekends and they allowed me to stay home alone.
During my girlhood isolation weekends I lived by a different schedule. I was scared at night, so I stayed up until five in the morning. I spent all my time in the living room with every light burning, the drapes closed, the tv on and music playing. I listened exclusively to Sergeant Pepper and Revolver. I read Tolkien and wrote poems.
One night I experienced the most terrifying thunderstorm of my life. I stood in the middle of the living room, shaking. I waited for the lightening to hit the house, to hit me, and burn us alive. Still I remember thinking: Even if I die, this moment is better than being at Uncle Bob’s.
I haven’t been terrified in our new forced isolation of Covid19, but once the vacation feeling left, I felt constantly “on guard.” I live at the end of a dirt road in the woods of West Virginia. I’ve lived here for three years. For the first time, I was checking closets, checking locks. Right after the quarantine, an owl began visiting. Not just at night but all day long. His “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call comforted me. I knew I wasn’t alone anymore.
In fact, I’ve come to believe that the owl called my dead to me. They hover around me now, day and night. My bed feels like a slumber party every night: my parents, my two brothers, my grandmother my dogs, all deceased, cuddle with me on the red quilt. When I sit on the porch drinking coffee, I feel them in the chairs around me, nodding, smiling, raising their glasses.
It’s been years since I’ve been “in love.” But now, I’m in love when I turn my head to see a picture of my mom, and know she’s hugging me. In love when Shania Twain comes on the radio and it’s brother Stephen saying hello. In love when “To My Daughter” pops on my Facebook feed and I feel my dad’s arms protecting me, or when it rains, reminding me of Jerry drowning, but knowing he’s safe now. I walk lighter. The windows stay open. I trust the darkness, because my dead look over me in ways they never could when I was twelve.