I was walking down in the woods today thinking about how this would be graduation weekend, were it not for the pandemic. Graduation weekend is always kind of a nightmare in a college town. I stay in, mostly. Sometimes I try to go home because graduation lines up tidily with Mother’s Day.
Last year, I drove up to Virginia for the day to have lunch with Mom and Nana at this grand old, ersatz-Tudor hotel in the middle of Roanoke. The hotel itself was kind of a family landmark. Mom and Dad held both their rehearsal dinner and their wedding reception there. And some years later, my aunt and uncle had followed suit (I was ten, by then, and the youngest bridesmaid). I spent a parts of my childhood running laps down the long chandelier-ed corridors off the lobby, getting myself deliberately caught in the revolving doors, studying the (now that you mention it) sort of problematic, stylized “Virginia History” frescoes in the rotunda, and being exactly the kind of doorman-vexing menace you’d expect from a kid whose favorite picture book was “Eloise.”
The hotel offered an elaborate brunch buffet with mimosas, a raw bar, and their kitchen’s famed peanut soup (actually delicious, ps). Nana, Mom, and I sat in the hotel’s now slightly shabby formal dining room with the wainscoting and the white table clothes paired with cheap convention center chairs and tables.
I was a little hungover (I’d been to a show the night before) and I felt a little like a schlub that day, all greased over and lank-haired, but Nana and Mom both looked radiant, Nana especially so, in bright blue and black. I’d balked at going and half -complained in my head all the way up and back the winding roads between the northern NC Piedmont up into the first rolling curves of the Virginia Blue Ridge. But remember thinking, as I sat with them, that I was so very lucky to have these women in my life.
I am so very lucky to have those women in my life.
This year, for Mother’s Day, I will not be seeing my mother. I will not be seeing my grandmother. Even without the geographical distance separating, I could not safely breach the required social distance to hug them or kiss them or linger close enough catch wind of their comforting smells (Mom smells like gardenias, jasmine, and botanical hair spray, Nana like cigarettes, cold cream, and the Chanel counter). I don’t know when I will be able to, and it is, if I’m honest, the single most devastating part of being alive right now in the world. Nana is almost ninety-four years old, with a number of preexisting conditions and a touch of dementia. Will she survive long enough for me to touch her again? Will she even remember who I am by that time? And my mother, my best friend, my mentor. I talk to her every day. We Facetime. We Zoom. We deploy all the tools in the technological arsenal, but it’s not the same as being together. The only way for me to take care of her is to stay as far away as possible. If she got sick, I could not get near her. I could not sit at the end of the sofa and try to make her laugh when things hurt. I could not visit her in the hospital. I could not hold her hand if she needed me. If I got sick, she could not come and take care of me. She could not stand in the kitchen and make soup. In fact, if I got sick, no one could take care of me. No one could hold my hand. No one could stroke my forehead and tell me it was going to be all right, even if they weren’t sure if it would.
Blah. Blah. Maudlin tripe. We all die alone. I get that. I had it written on the back of my high school notebooks, too. But the moms, guys.
All I can think about are how many moms we’ve lost over the last eight weeks, and how many moms we’ll continue to lose. It’s two days from Mother’s Day and the country is reopening because apparently the people in charge are perfectly okay with sacrificing all the Moms (and the Dads and the Aunts, Uncles, Nieces, Nephews, Grandparents and Kids), especially Moms like mine. It’s hard for me to look at Republicans and ReOpen Protesters and wonder how they’d feel if it were their Mom. Or rather, I wonder how the will feel when it is their Mom. And for whatever portion of the populace trying to force people out and crack the world back open, the people defying social distancing orders and refusing to wear masks, the people swelling in neighborhoods and acting like the rules don’t apply to them, I’d ask them to remember my Mom. She’s great. She’s amazing. I love her. I’m not ready to lose her. And if they don’t care about me (they don’t), I’d ask them to think about their Moms, and their friends’ Moms, and their neighbors’ Moms, and how many people will be spending this Mother’s Day in mourning, and how many (and I fear it will be many, many, so many it makes my head hurt to count) more people will not have a Mom by this time next year.
Today, my mother has to travel to Virginia to spend the weekend caring for my grandmother. I’m not happy about this. I’m kind of furious, in fact, though I know it is a selfish fury. I’m aware that circumstances require it, that there is, evidently, nothing else that can be done. I’m aware that she will not leave Nana’s house once she gets there. I’m aware she will see no one else. I’m aware that there is a risk. A risk to each of them, to both of them. The two women I love most in the world. I’m glad they will be together, mother and daughter, even as my mother cannot be with her own daughters. And I would give anything to be with them, if only for a moment. It is my greatest fear that I will not, and my greatest hope that we all survive to safely do so again. Goddamn this pandemic.
Goddamn the assholes who don’t take it seriously. Protect the Moms, guys. They are irreplaceable.
Today’s picture is of Mom and Nana last year on Mother’s Day.
As of this writing, 1,359,728 have recovered from COVID-19.