Danielle Y. Hairston-Green recounts an extended visit to her ex-partner's home during social distance measures. This story was recorded for an episode of the Madison podcast Inside Stories. To hear the full episode and subscribe to the podcast, click here: https://inside-stories.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-stories-covid-19-5
Narrator Name: Danielle Hairston-Green
Date of interview: 5/4/2020
So, I showed up. Yes, I did. I showed up on the doorstep of my ex’s home. I couldn’t take one more day social distancing, and isolated away from all of my family one thousand miles away. So, I woke up one morning, booked a flight, grabbed my bookbag and laptops, and landed on my ex’s front step, unannounced. His reaction, “Did you lose your job?” My response, “Of course not. I’ve decided to social distance here with you, my fam, and our daughter.” Who, by the way, was social distancing there after leaving her campus. Not taking his eyes off of me, he watched me, as I stepped over the threshold, and ducked under his arm, and headed up to his second floor apartment, and then made myself comfortable.
Senior, that’s what I call him, and I met in 1987 at McDonald’s where we both were employed. We were friends for a while, and then began dating two years later. We were teenagers.The journey of our lives is definitely book-worthy. We experienced every obstacle, pitfall, and milestone imaginable as teen parents. Despite the journey, and our love for one another, we eventually separated twenty years ago, and continued to co-parent our children.
In the beginning it was difficult trying to co-parent, mainly because I wanted him to co-parent the way I wanted him to co-parent, and, of course, he wanted to co-parent the way he wanted to. Eventually I decided to allow him to do what he believed was best for him and the children. We have three children. I realized at some point that the battle just wasn’t worth the scars. And I needed to control what I could, and that is my reaction to it all. We did the best we could. We respected each other’s role in our childrens’ life, and protected our friendship.
Here we are, great friends and social distancing together. The first week he checked on me every day, sarcastically wondering “How long is this really, really going to last?” I like to cook, and so everyday I was chopping up veggies, or sauteing something, or baking something fabulous, or cooking up the shrimp in his freezer, and rearranging his cabinets so I could find what I needed. To him that was simply too much activity in his kitchen. He would say “Why are you chopping up stuff all the time and messing up my kitchen?” Or, “I’ve never even used that pot.” Or he’ll say, “What do you mean do I have heavy cream? What is that?” Or, “Let’s order pizza, it’s quicker.” He’s a bachelor, and an introvert. So two extra humans in his home, and females, is just way too much for him.
Anyway, I made myself comfy in his man cave, and set up my computer, getting ready for a week of Zooming. While sitting in his man cave I saw a spider, and I called out to say, “Oh my god, there’s a spider in here!” And he came rushing in quickly, you would have thought I’d said we were being robbed. He completely murdered that spider. And I said, “Wow, see, you are my hero.You really didn’t want me to get bit, huh?” His response, “Of course not. I don’t need anything to prolong your short stay.” And he emphasized the word short. I rolled my eyes, as I always do, and continued to set up my new, temporary office space, as he walks away shaking his head.
The next morning was Easter. I got up and dressed and head out the door to pick up something from the pharmacy. And boom, down the concrete step I went, miscalculating my footing, with a handful of items, and a mask on my face that was actually blinding me because I was wearing glasses and breathing, and my lenses were fogging up. I guess you can’t do those two things at the same time when you have glasses on. Breathe and wear a mask, that is.The fall knocked the air out of me, and I ended up with two sprained ankles. Senior had to come home and carry me to his car, literally pick me up and carry me, so I could get to the urgent care. I know he was probably thinking, This was not on my agenda. I left out of the urgent car with crutches and a leg brace. I smiled at Senior, “Well, I guess I’ll be staying.” He didn’t even look at me, or respond. He just looked at the nurse and asked, “Excuse me, how can I assist in her speedy recovery?” He emphasized the word speedy.
Everyday after work he sneaks into his man cave to see if I’m still in there. He whispers, “Let me know if you need a ride to the airport. I mean, no rush! I just want to make sure you have a safe ride.” (laughs) Whatever. After thirty days he caught a glimpse of me walking across the room without crutches, and under his breathe I hear him say, “Yes!” I roll my eyes again.
But, yet, everyday he checks on me. He brings me lunch on his lunch break. He runs errands for me. Every now and again he steps into his former man cave and spends hours chatting about life with me. And just life in general. I may have started off as a house invader, but I can tell there’s a little something deep down inside of him that is glad I chose to social distance at his bachelor pad with our daughter. He’s my friend. He’s my co-pilot in parenting. And he’s my family.