We could have been homeless—A story

It was the end of February, and I was scared.

Something was going on in China. It was shrouded and strange but scary. People were getting sick, and many were dying, and it was growing at an alarming rate.

I started to suspect that it was already in NYC. “I mean, how could it not be?” I thought. It’s a global city, and the number of people who do business in China and have connections there was numerous.

So the four of us in our family self-quarantined and social-distanced, keeping our kindergartner out of school, even though the school called us to tell we should be sending him there and that he would get unexcused absences. But we didn’t care. We cared more about his life, his health.

Also our second child, our baby, had a cleft palate and lip. The latter was already repaired, and the former was scheduled for surgery on March 18th.

But it didn’t feel right. We felt this urgency, that it was only time before NYC was in a panic.

So we moved up the date. They had the 9th open. And we took it and prayed that nothing would happen to cancel it before then.

We were also planning on moving out of NYC even before the pandemic. But that changed these plans as well. After moving up the surgery, we moved up the move and the closing date for our new home in St. Louis. The latter moved from mid-April to March 20th, and the movers would come to NYC on the 18th.

So everything was changed and set.

And now it was the beginning of March, and all we could do was wait.

The first few cases occurred in NYC. But there wasn’t panic yet. People were still going out. No one was wearing facemasks. Bars were still full, restaurants bustling. The city was still the city.

The 9th finally came. Donning a facemask and latex gloves, I walked an hour with our baby in the stroller, to avoid Ubering, to the hospital. I marched into the hospital, ready to do battle against this invisible enemy. No one else wore a mask.

The surgery was a success, and the doctor let us out early because he saw that we were seriously concerned about this virus.

I walked home that night and was greeted by my wife and firstborn. We were happy and relieved and tired.

The following days my wife and I were busy pumping various painkillers into our baby (since he had the roof of his mouth carved up and put back together) and packing to get ready for the movers.

All the while, the cases were jumping. People started dying. We were worried.

The surgeon wanted us to come in for a postoperative appointment. We tried to get out of it. But he wouldn’t let us.

So on March 16th, I went, wearing another facemask. It was quick and easy. Our baby looked great. But then the doctor told me news that sent shivers down my body.

All elective surgeries were canceled that week by the hospital to get ready for the onslaught of patients from COVID-19.

If we hadn’t move up the date for our surgery, it would have been canceled for some indefinite date.

And even now, as I write this, it looks like we would be waiting a very long time to get rescheduled, and we would have needed to go back to NYC to do it.

Instead, we were on the other side and done and just making sure our screaming baby wasn’t in too much pain while we waited for the movers. They arrived on the morning of the 18th and quickly started moving our things into the truck.

Right after they got there, I went into New Jersey to pick up a Suburban we were renting to drive back to St. Louis. We didn’t want to risk flying.

Riding my bike down to the ferry was wonderful. The air was crisp and the Hudson River was on my right and the city was on my left. But it was already changed. It was quieter, more fearful, less certain.

I was the only person on that ferry during rush-hour.

After picking up the car, I got back into the city quickly since there was very little traffic. People were already working from home.

As the movers were finishing up, I wiped down the whole Suburban and started packing it with all of the stuff we needed for the next couple of days. (It’s amazing what a family of four “needs.”) And we had our 80lbs dog and cat.

Driving through the night while still dosing up our baby with a concoction of Motrin and Tylenol, was interesting. But we made it to St. Louis the next day, the 19th.

After staying a night in an Airbnb that a friend let us use, we were set to close on our new home on the 20th. We requested a mobile notary to bring us the documents to sign for our new home. He did.

The movers were supposed to move us in on the 21st, but they said that they could do it on the 20th. So on that afternoon, after we closed, we were totally moved in and unpacking.

On the 20th, NYC was locked down.

On the 23rd, St. Louis was locked down.

If things were off by a couple of days we could have been trapped in NYC; or worse, we could have been homeless. But things worked out, miraculously.

Sure, I guess we could say, “Wow, we are amazing to have done all of that,” but that would be ridiculous because we had no idea what we were doing. We were like a blind person wandering around NYC for the first time: Lost.

It was a Divine hand that was guiding us. It was God’s grace that held us. We were objects of mercy.

The timing was too perfect to be planned.

Right now, we are comfortably situated in our home working, playing, living. We’re still quarantining and healthy. And as each day passes, we are more grateful.

For those of you who prayed for and thought about us, thank you. We really needed you.

We hope you are well, too, friends.

Lots of love,
John


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