It would be bleak outside save the shoots of bright green, the lacy mauve thing happening with the redbuds, the whole growing riot of spring, partying on in technicolor, even as the rest of us shuffle on in our shelter-in-place pallor. It’s not even April, yet, and we’re deep into Wasteland season. “I will show you fear in a hand . . . well, just a hand, actually.”
But enough about poetry, let’s talk about parents. This morning, I got a check-in note from a far-flung friend of mine, currently riding out the storm with husband and child in a very small Parisian apartment (“We’re getting to be like cats in a bag,” she said. “We have Bourbon, though”). Like the rest of us roughly 30-55, she’s fretting over her 70+ parents in Australia, who despite age and preexisting conditions have continued to go out to the shop for their daily newspaper, in defiance of all warnings, caution and common sense. This is a familiar line.
The real pandemic of this pandemic is how many of us, aged 30-50ish, will likely end up with permanent heart and gastrointestinal conditions caused by the constant levels of abject terror we feel when our 65+ year old parents continue to assure us they are fine and definitely, DEFINITELY staying home, except you know, for their trip to the hair-dresser, to Janice’s house for coffee, or 300 miles down the road for an overnight with the grandkids.
So look, I’m going to speak to you guys, you parents, you Boomers, collectively for a minute. I appreciate your good humor, your sanguine mood, your relative lack of anxiety compared to ours. Your smiles and reassurances are helping. I love seeing my mother’s face on the phone in the morning. Because I need to see my mother’s face on the phone in the morning. Because I can’t see my mother’s face up close in person, right now ,and will not be able to for the indefinite future. It sucks that I can’t hug my parents right now. It sucks so bad. So I get how badly it sucks that you can’t hug your grandkids, and your grandkids, but you can’t. And you can’t have them for dinner (although you can dine together via Zoom). And you can’t have book club with the ladies (unless it’s via Facetime). And you can’t just run down the market or the florist or the upholsterer or the gym. And you can’t go get your roots done, or go to mass or temple or meditation class. You can’t head down to the coast for a few days to see Brenda’s new condo. You can’t meet with your interior decorator.
Because if you do, we could lose you. And we’re not ready to lose you. We’re struggling mightily to get through this distance from you right now, but we know we have to do it so we won’t be distanced from you forever. That has a whole lot to do with the sleepless nights, the terrible dreams, the constantly churning stomachs of (roughly) two generations of adults globally. We, your children, are not used to thinking of you guys as fragile. And I’m 100% sure you aren’t used to thinking of yourself that way, but for the love of all that is holy, TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELVES. AND REMEMBER THIS THING IS PASSING THROUGH FAMILY CLUSTERS.
That’s why we’re not coming to visit. That’s why you should not come to visit. That’s why the best we can do is leave your groceries on the back porch and wave through the window because you must stay in. We’re going to need you more than ever on the other side of this thing for at least a few more decades of hugs, holidays, birthday parties, family beach trips, and long anecdotes about how much better the music was in 1970. I can’t promise a permanent moratorium on eye-rolling about that time you saw Santana or Moody Blues or America in college, but at least I’ll keep my most honest opinions on “Horse With No Name” to myself for a while.
Please, please, please, parents. We are counting on you. Don’t eff this up.
We’re really in this now, aren’t we? No way out but through. Damn.
Photo today is of my Mom, my stepdad, and my dad at my sister’s wedding a few years ago. Every person in this photo is a treasure to me. Take care, treasures. Be safe. Be strong.
As of this writing, 100, 443 people have recovered from COVID-19.