Juggling transportation needs, mental health issues, staying safe while quarantining together, online schooling for 4 kids, securing affordable legal representation, and nudges toward independence… all that represents a short list of the things that Lucy is currently managing. Here are her reflections this week:
Today, my son isn’t getting out of bed. Julia has an appointment to fill out some paperwork about 40 minutes from here at 1:00 and then the whole family has a counseling appointment at a different location from 3:00 until 5:00. If I am able to get my son to school, I will need to pick him up at 3:45. There is a public transportation option, but using that makes his anxiety worse and I am trying whatever I can to alleviate it. If I am going to pick him up, I need to drive 40 minutes (if there is traffic and there often is) from the counseling location and bring him home, and then driver 40 minutes back to the counseling appointment to pick the family up, and then another 40 minutes to get them home. That would be about 3 hours total in the car for the day driving people from place to place. In my spare time, I need to show them how to use public transportation.
Feeling overwhelmed. …(one week later)…
In my last letter, I was overwhelmed. These feelings come and go like waves. One day I am overwhelmed and the next, I am not. Yesterday, I was overwhelmed; today I’m not. I mean, there is always an undercurrent of stress/anxiety, but I’m OK.
Now, a lot has changed in the month since I last wrote. Coronavirus has caused many changes. School has been moved to online for the last 3+ weeks. We go shopping once a week instead of almost every day. I had the foresight/paranoia to buy 5 cases of shelf stable milk, and two Costco sized blocks of toilet paper, paper towels, and rice. We go out for walks and fortunately, the weather has finally become nice. When I walk around outside, it seems like nothing bad is happening. Oh, and this is important…the state where I live has hardly been touched by the virus. New York seems like a world away. Still, Maria would not be able to get a job cleaning houses in this climate. If things do continue to be mild in my state, we may be able to normalize faster than the rest of the country. Easter is tomorrow and it is too early to make many predictions. The vast majority of religious institutions in my state are taking coronavirus seriously, so I’m not worried about Easter services but I am a little worried that everyone is going to Grandma’s house to celebrate.
Mental health issues with one of my family members continue to be a major thread in my life. I do believe that it is 90% unrelated to having this family staying with us, but I would be lying if I said that it had no impact at all.
The Coronavirus has shut down the court system as far as Maria is concerned. She no longer has to go to the office to check in each week. Juan had one court date but Maria’s was postponed indefinitely. Maria calls in and submits a photograph each week via telephone. Their counseling sessions now occur every week for an hour online. It makes the whole transportation thing soooooo easy. I hope it can continue that way when they move.
On the first few days of online school, I tried really hard to get all of the young people to do their classwork. Now, I am concentrating on my own kids and just nudging Juan and Maria to do their work. It is all just too much. I’m not beating myself up….I’m just aware of what I can do and what I can’t do.
The current exit plan is to rent a small apartment in another city for Maria and her family. I have a friend who will take over care of her. I will pay for the rent for three, maybe four months, and hope that they can take over after that. The friend will try to help her find employment. She knows a big church in the area who can help her with food and other bills. Usually it is difficult to find apartments in the city but with coronavirus, many people who arrive in the summer will not be traveling this year. This means more options for Maria and her children. The apartment that they are looking at is near public transportation, schools, and a park.
We found yet another lawyer who is willing to take the case for free. My parents are paying for the lawyer and have already paid $1200 (out of $4000) and perhaps they will redirect the remaining money to help Maria with rent. We had one very useful online meeting with the lawyer but it is always possible that something will go wrong and she won’t be able to take the case in the end. It looks good right now. When I say, “looks good” I don’t mean that Maria will win her case but rather that the lawyer will take it over.
Julia has a case manager who is helping us out. Julia qualifies for a case manager because she is a minor and the details of her asylum case allow for it. It turns out that the case manager is shockingly helpful. She found the free lawyer and she has also helped Julia get a social security card (she can’t work with it) and some kind of food aid (about $200/month). She also helped find a doctor who would see her and he refilled Julia’s prescription….yay!!!!!
Yes, we are quarantining together. Yes, it is hard. It isn’t impossible. It isn’t terrible. It is just difficult.
A lot of good has happened in the last few weeks. If you read between the lines, you can see where the challenges are. I don’t want to sugar coat them, but I don’t want to dwell too heavily on them either.