When I call my dad on weekends, we talk about many things. How family, politics, food, my mental health, and… yes, a halcyon ago when her dear friend, a mother was joking, when her kind mother was still raging, when she and her siblings were young and causing trouble, when mom was young and in her mind, and when all these people were very much alive.
Basically, we remember the past that we both have. When I was a kid and everything was "normal." When my biggest problems were the bottom line my mom had pushed my sister and I to play because she couldn't watch me and my big sister Denise "spend" our Barbies. I realize as I write this that it all sounds very bad but the conversations are actually comforting. As long as you can remember someone, they never went away. For a good moment, they are just as alive and alive as they remember us, making us laugh or make us mad or fill our hearts with love.
This weekend was nothing like any other weekend, except for the late father-in-law conversation between the recollections and the jokes that said it would be a minute before he came to NYC to see me. You see, my dad has never visited me since I was a teenager. He had planned to see me once, when my mother was still well and I had lived in Texas for 20 years, but I was surprised “by marrying my ex-husband whom he did not care for, so he abandoned the trip. Years later, I would travel to California and my sister Denise would come once a year every year where I was, while my baby sister, Deidre, lived in Bakersfield with me one summer. My mother, who helped me get out of there, came sometime in the five years I was there for fear of flying. But my father never visited.
Years would pass, I would go home to St. Louis, then to Washington, D.C., then, finally, to Manhattan. Denise visited for a while in D.C., but neither my parents nor my baby sister. Then, in 2013, my mother was diagnosed with dementia, and no one could really visit because her care was consuming. When I returned home twice a year, usually once for my niece's birthday and Christmas Eve, my family couldn't really visit. Or they wanted to. I was OK with this most of the time, even though I actually wanted to share my East Coast life, because at least I saw them twice a year. But before 2020 turned to a coronavirus nightmare, Dad was planning to try for the first time, and Denise was, or should have been, last week.
Now I don't know when I will see them again. Or more specifically, when I will see my dad again.
While both of my sisters were young and healthy, in their 30s and mid 40s respectively, my father turned 78 in February. I didn't go home on her birthday because I usually don't, as it is very close to my annual visit in December. Now I wish I had listened to my friend Audrey, who paid me for not seeing her. I've honestly thought I would see her in July, but every day, as the problem gets worse and more people die, this seems less and less likely.
My father is fine. But he is also alone. While he has my sisters and nephew to come in to him for a week, he has passed on both his brothers, both his parents, all his uncles and uncle, and his wife of more than 40 years. Basically every extended family that is not his or her own is missing children. But he is patient and he still has a lot to live for, so he is always happy when we talk, even though all we talk about is a lot. But as this lost month becomes two months lost and as things continue to be canceled – from events to flights – and I'm afraid of getting the disease (I have asthma, an existing condition that can make my lung disease harder or kill me), I realize I probably can't I won't go anywhere until there is a vaccine, and the vaccine is a year away.
My grandmother, the mother of my child, is 92 and lives far from Newport, Ark. My dad is 78 and is in St. Louis. And things like next year are not really promised by people like them. When my dad ran out that he might be coming to NYC this year it hit me hard because usually, I just see him, and I can't. And without a goal, it means I probably can't go home for Christmas this year, let alone this summer. Of all the things we have been losing this year, you can always make a lot of money; you can always get another job, but you can't give it back. We cannot replace lost time for disagreements or for being together. Thank you for my work, my work, my friends and my family. But as someone who was already lonely before this problem happened, this is very painful.
When can I see my family again? When can I see my friends again? And will I ever see them again, as nothing is promised? When will we all pass the face Zoom in or out by phone? When will I be able to kiss and kiss those I love again? How much time should I spend on my own? I know I can go for a walk or go to the grocery store, but that makes me feel better. The pain does not go away inside. I live alone. And I use this on my own. I try to stay busy and some days are better than others. But today is a bad day. Because I don't know when I will see my dad anytime soon. I wish I had made up my mind to go home when I had the opportunity, but it was too late. We are all too scared to get sick to go anywhere, so I must take it out hard. But I am writing this to remind you to remember your friends who live alone, who have family where you are. I am lucky that I have people watching me every day, but not everyone is so lucky. Sure, we're alone together, but some of us are alone.