By Melinda Munson

I have two houses. Not in the bourgeoise kind of way where one home is a snug winter retreat and the other is a summer getaway on the beach. My houses are modest Skagway rentals within four blocks of each other.

Recently, one of our children with special needs started acting out. He can be sweet as peaches canned in heavy syrup, but as he got older, his body grew bigger and his intellect stayed static. He became frustrated and confused, lashing out at siblings and forgetting boundaries. Too much stimulation is too much information for his brain to process. Our home with seven children made him anxious and cranky.

To keep him safely within our family, we decided to give him his own housing. We call his abode “The Cabin.”

We take shifts at The Cabin. Our 18-year-old cares for her brother on weekdays so I can work at the paper. I spend late afternoons with the little guy then bring him to the “Big House” for dinner and a visit with family. The adults rotate overnight shifts so now I sleep next to my husband every third night.

When I adopted this child, I made a promise in front of a judge to give him whatever he needed. This is what he needs, and for now, we can make it work.

Breaking up my family broke my heart. I didn’t imagine this is how I would live my life. With the help of my husband, I am doggedly trying to meet everyone’s needs; to maintain two households with double the bills and double the chores. We are working on hiring respite workers and seeking additional state funding but a pandemic isn’t really the time to ask the State of Alaska for more money.

Recently, I witnessed a different kind of breakup. The town that once pulled together is cracking amid fiscal uncertainty and isolation. It’s time to address the internet — I mean elephant in the room. 

Skagway Facebook groups are at war. There are threats of physical violence, posts mocking the grammar and content of other posts and the word “Nazi” being thrown around like a recess ball. This too breaks my heart.

For what it’s worth, here’s advice from someone new to town but with substantial experience keeping sh&% together.

1. Treat everyone like they have special needs. This isn’t meant to be degrading. Everyone needs help in some area. Assume the person in question doesn’t know any better. This will allow you to take the high road, Michelle Obama style.

2. Go on a virtual diet. Just walk away from Mark Zuckerburg’s worldwide social experiment. It will still be there when you get back.

3. Vent in a non-permanent format. For me, this is talking to my husband in my “sassy and condescending voice.” When I’m done, there’s no evidence of what I said and no regrets.

Skagway has never been so vulnerable. In a time when social distancing precludes even hugs from close friends and gainful employment is a desperate wish, strive to be kind. Help us keep our house together.