Since my 99-year-old mother - now two-and-a-half-months from her 100th birthday - moved last November to the Sunrise senior care facility a mile from my house, I visited her every day with few exceptions. Until three weeks and three days ago.
The final week I saw mother - though I didn't know at the time that this was the actual final week, or maybe I did know; that week was one of such confusion and unsureness, the week we were all about to transition from life as we knew it to life as it's become - I tried to warn my mother every day that the day might soon come when I wouldn't be able to visit her for a while. I warned her over and over even though at that point I didn't fully grasp or yet believe the warning myself. Still, I tried to explain to her that there was an epidemic and that we were hearing that soon, any day now, maybe tomorrow, Sunrise would be closed to outside visitors. She'd always tell me that she understood, but when I'd see her the following day she'd have forgotten what I'd told her the day before.
The day came sooner than I realized it would. But that's how it went with the epidemic: it seemed to crawl up to us then suddenly it was upon us and life no longer went on as it had just a few days earlier. And so I saw my mother on Friday, March 13 and on Saturday, March 14 all the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Ohio were under lock down. And a week or so later all of Ohio was under lock down.
Since then I've called my mother every day, sometimes several times a day, but these days it sometimes takes several tries to get through to her. I mean, to get through to her mentally. She no longer seems able to answer her own phone, and so I must call the desk at Sunrise and ask them to have one of the care givers dial my number and then press the speaker so that my mom can hear. Some days my mother's spirits and mental clarity have been good, other days she's been gripped by anxiety or confusion.
And yet, even on her most anxious, confused days, after I tell her that I can't come to see her because there's a terrible epidemic and we all have to stay home for a while she then comes around and rises to the occasion, maybe channeling the Army nurse she once was,
(It's funny, but the times when this epidemic seems most weirdly unreal to me are the times when I'm on the phone telling my mother about the terrible epidemic for which reason we all have to stay inside. Every time I tell her this I feel like I'm in a scene from a science fiction movie; "10 Cloverfield Lane," to be specific, that flick about an alien invasion (or maybe not?) /environmental contamination situation (or maybe not?) that nonetheless has the movie's protagonists sheltering in place, though not always with relish).
But I know she'd be better if she could see me. We both would be.