Essential

I was at my grandfathers’ funeral luncheon when Gov. Cuomo announced that 100% of the workforce in New York state needed to stay home.  This would be disastrous for me and Hubs, who live solely on his paycheck right now due to my health issues.  For a couple of tense hours, we waited for his boss to call a meeting.  Finally, he texted me: “I’m essential.”  I had a shot of Jameson to celebrate.

Here are some people who are not essential:  my parents, though they are lucky enough to be working from home.  My sister, whose fairly recent promotion means nothing because no one is trying to rent a tuxedo during a pandemic-she’s out of work until further notice. 

Hubs works in shipping and distribution of safety equipment, so he is considered essential.  He was immensely relieved by this information.  But the shine of essentiality did not last for long.

First, there was the order he sent out the other day to DC with the tag name “Pence.”  Hubs is an Independent, and hates both extremes of the political spectrum.  He considers Pence to be the right side of that spectrum, and was furious he had to ship something that may end up assisting the man in some way.  He is trying to focus on the fact that Pence is head of the COVID task force, or whatever the hell they’re calling it, and hopefully the products he ships help someone in the end.

One time, he did an order for NASA, for the space station.  His fingerprints are in space.  They gave him a NASA t-shirt.  That was a better day.

Then, there’s the neglect.

Everyone is sharing memes and stories and such about nurses and doctors and police and fire and grocery workers.  I’m not saying these people aren’t important, they definitely are-but no one is mentioning distribution, past truck drivers.  Who do you think is loading those trucks? 

My husband.

He has a thankless job on a regular basis, and now he sees all these other people getting praise for being essential, but no one notices his contribution, or the contribution of the million other people in his position.  He knows he works behind the scenes-he finds little joys, like the NASA thing, or the fact that the work he does keeps people safe, but those are far-reaching concepts when confronted with your day to day trials.

Mostly, he is worried.  He is worried the work will run out, and they will lay people off.  He is worried when he unloads something from another country or NYC.  He is worried on the three buses he takes to work, and on the three buses he takes home.  He is worried for his job.  He is worried for the health of his high-risk wife.  He is worried for the health of his children.

Still, every day, he wakes up.  He smokes his morning cigarette and drinks a glass of juice and gets dressed.  He trods to the bus stop.  He rides those three buses.  He walks to work.  He unloads trucks, he drives a forklift, he checks orders, he cuts pipe, he cleans, he organizes, he helps his team.  Then he walks back to the bus stop, takes three more buses, and walks home.  He complains about little things; he complains about big things.  I listen, because he is on the front lines in his own way, and everything is changing.

The tenacity that Mark is showing in this trying time is remarkable.  I think that were I in his position, I would hide under a blanket and cry.  He just keeps going, despite all the worry he wears on his back.  If you ask him why, he give you some outdated hullabaloo about a man supporting his family, but really, I think that deep down he does it for him, to keep as close to normal as possible.  Mark’s work has always defined him, and he is usually proud of what he does, but the lack of recognition had him feeling down.

Until this morning, as we watched the morning news and saw a story highlighting workers who aren’t in healthcare or customer service.  A man drove by on a forklift, and Mark gleefully exclaimed “Thank you!”

He knows his job is overlooked by the average person.  I, myself, hardly ever thought of distribution before having a husband who worked in it.  Think of a jar of jam on a shelf at the grocery store.  How did it get there?  A stock boy-a truck driver-a loader.  It takes at least three people to bring you that jar of jam, and we never really consider them.  It is, by definition, a thankless job.

And yet, Hubs finds the joys.  He gets up and goes in day after day because he believes he is helping someone.  It’s kind of a beautiful way to look at a job most would turn their noses up at-and sadly, most do.  But he perseveres. and it inspires me to do the same.  I am trying very hard to find all the silver linings of this pandemic, and his persistence during this situation is certainly one of them.  I’m so proud of him for what he does for his family, and the risk he takes everyday to provide for us and keep others safe. 

He will always be essential to me.

Edit:

Mom: “You’re father and I are technically essential. I even have a letter from the governor.”

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