Reflections of a newly freed man

David Trinko Guest columnist

David Trinko Guest columnist

I’ve served my time. I’m no longer a menace to society — or at least my immune system isn’t.

My wife, daughters and I have been locked inside the big house, or at least our house, without any in-person interactions with the general public. My wife tested positive for COVID-19, meaning the rest of us weren’t fit to mingle with society either. Luckily, no one else in our house ever showed symptoms.

Health officials dangle around terms like “quarantine,” but I’ll call it what it was: A prison sentence. For someone with no previous record, swallowing a 10-day house arrest was a little difficult. (We are grateful to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for commuting our quarantine sentence from 14 days to 10 days for asymptomatic people just in time for us to get new letters from the health department.)

An admitted introvert, I was a little surprised how quickly I grew tired of seeing the same faces every day. I longed to talk to people who didn’t live within the same space.

I know I didn’t even have the worst of it. I was allowed to work, bringing my desk phone from the office with me when we got the news of infection and my temporary relocation. I continued to monitor our reporters, emails, faxes, tweets and Facebook messages from my basement office. As I kept joking, I could do anything here that I could do at the office but say hello to you in the hallway.

After about five days in captivity, I joked we were in a TV reality show, “Real World: Quarantine.” You know, “when people stop being polite … and start getting real.” Our daughters’ varied personalities came out, and factions formed. The dynamics changed by the day. Luckily no one ever voted me or anyone else out of the house.

My wife was completely disconnected from her work running a local nursing home for the bulk of it, as she recovered from a legitimate case of the coronavirus. Fortunately, given her age and her health, she was able to fight off the disease. A week into our involuntary lockup, she was back to her regular self, aside from a weird spate of obsessive cleaning she blamed on boredom. (I’m all for clean sheets, but who changes them twice in the same week?)

The strangest thing I noticed from spending so much time in the same house with my girls is how much we talked about food. Usually by the end of lunch, we’d start talking about what we’d eat for dinner. When we finished dinner, we’d chat about the menu for the following day. At first, I wrote it off as Trinkos being Trinkos, since we’re known as voracious eaters. Eventually, I realized the variety of meals might have been the only thing that distinguished today from yesterday, the day before or last Friday.

We got a chance to see how “hybrid” learning worked for our children in middle school. From my point of view, it doesn’t. Setting up an iPad and pointing it toward the front of the classroom so your daughter can Zoom into class doesn’t seem quite the same as being there. After dinner, I’ve become a general education tutor, trying to help them understand algebra problems and prepositional phrases alike.

We tried to have some fun in the evenings and weekends, since our schedules suddenly opened up from the routine of running people to basketball practice, dance classes and gymnastics lessons for the younger ones vs. long days at work and night shifts for those of us older than 18. We played so many different card games and video games, I wouldn’t dare try to name them all. We even taught our 13-year-old and 12-year-old daughters how to play euchre, to complete their education as Ohioans.

Our quarantines ended at midnight on a Thursday, with permission to live our regular lives granted as of the first ticks of the clock Friday. Life returned to normal before we knew it.

I hope not to get thrown back in the slammer anytime soon. The downside to none of the rest of us getting the virus is knowing we’re all just as likely to catch it in the future as my wife did. It feels a bit like evading police but knowing there’s still a warrant out there for you. It’s just a matter of time.

If that happens, at least we’ll know how to get through our next incarceration: Lots of games, patience and thinking ahead to our next meal.

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.

David Trinko Guest columnist Trinko Guest columnist