We are in week 10 of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. I have been working from home since two weeks before Governor Tim Walz declared a Stay-at-home order. I’m a writer and by nature and more introvert than extrovert, so the seclusion has not been as much of a challenge for me as it has been for others. Still, I miss my friends. And I miss seeing my mom.
I can’t see my mom because she’s in memory care. People in any elder care facility have been quarantined because COVID-19 has hit the elderly population disproportionately.
I can only have contact with my 82-year-old mom from a distance or what they refer to as “social distancing.” But since Mom is in a long-term care facility, I am not allowed in.
But I have had two FaceTime visits with my mom. While this allowed me to say hello and see that she looked fine, I’m sure Mom wondered what was going on. The nurse who connected me for the FaceTime visit wore a cloth mask covered in pastel cats. She held the phone up so my mom and I could see each other.
“Hi, Mom! It’s Kris.”
She looks at the phone and laughs.
I must look like Mike TV from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
She’s probably wondering: Who are these aliens in masks? What have they done with my daughter? I think I see her in that small phone screen, but how can that be Kris in that gadget?
In 1947, Mom was just eleven and her mom was quarantined. The confinement separated them for a year and a half. As that time dragged on, my mom wrote letters and dropped them at the hospital, but her mother couldn’t answer the letters because nothing could come out of the hospital. TB germs were highly contagious.
In 2020, we have been hit with a new infectious disease. The tables have turned and my mom has been quarantined. Not because she is sick. But so she doesn’t get sick. The quarantined is a precautionary measure. COVID-19 is a sneaky bugger. Someone can be an asymptomatic carrier and not know they have it. Similarly, my mom was a carrier of the TB germ but it never materialized.
What is my mom thinking of all this?
Nurses in masks.
No visits from me or her other two daughters.
She must think we have abandoned her.
Mother’s Day 2020 flew by without brunch. My sister Jan, the middle one, dropped off flowers and a card, signing everyone’s names.
But the Alzheimer’s disease that has taken up residence in Mom’s mind confuses her. Time and space meld. Anything we measure, she no longer can.
How long is a week versus a year?
In her mind, she could be any age, memories jumbling together like the carrots and pineapple in the lime Jell-O she used to make.
The first time I visited after Mom moved from her assisted living unit to memory care area called Sunny Cove, I asked a worker where she was. The worker said, “She’s in Psycho.”
“What?” I said, taken aback.
The woman punched a secret code into the keypad and the door clicked.
Then, I realized she must have said Sunny Cove, which gave me a much-needed laugh during one of the most stressful times in my life – the time when I became the guardian for my mom and had to start making decisions for her when it had always been the other way around.
I followed the worker inside and there was Mom, sitting at one of the captain’s dining room chairs at a table with some other residents. Her face lit up with a smile when she saw me. Recognition. A good day. In the time of COVID-19, I can’t gauge the good days against the bad. It’s hard to tell through a phone and a short conversation. Human touch and hugs had become the most meaningful communication but now they are not allowed.
Photo copyright 2020, Janice Vosika