It's almost three years since you died. I don't reach for the phone anymore to call you to tell you about the kids' triumphs; I don't check the caller ID anymore and have that moment when I wonder if I can dodge your call. I don't plan my vacations around letting the kids spend time with you, and around finding ways to limit the days I spent with you, because we both know there was an optimal number of hours we could spend together without winding ourselves up to great mutual frustration. I don't do these things anymore, and I know you're gone. But I really need to talk to you.
I'm frightened. This thing grew so fast. When I went to the New Orleans face-to-face meetings at the beginning of February, we knew there was a chance the virus was coming to the States from China, but apart from using more hand sanitizer than I normally would, I didn't do anything differently. Nobody did. Seven weeks later, New Orleans is on the coronavirus maps with big red circles around it, although not as big as the circles around us.
When people started dying in Kirkland (that's where I work, Mom!), we thought, well, these were medically vulnerable people, but more people are sick, more people are dead. Three weeks ago, we were told to work from home. The high school closed the following week, and Indiana's been home with nothing to do. Atanasia's art school in the UK closed last week; she's home. Sebastian, of course, lives here. And now we're all under a mandatory state stay-at-home order.
You'd think it would be nice, wouldn't you? Just get dressed and walk downstairs to my desk, no hour and a half commute each way. I have Atanasia home (she was hospitalized with a kidney infection at the beginning of March, and I was frantic that I wasn't close enough to make sure she got to the doctor, or had enough food in her room when she was discharged). All good things. We're all home. And, except for Sebastian who has to work (somehow his employer is considered essential), we're all staying at home.
I'd say you can guess how that's going, but probably you couldn't, having been an only child. Indiana (so close to 16 and stuck at home) wrangles like a trapped cat trying to get to me let her out of the house to see her friends. I told her, the governor specifically mentioned "no sleepovers" in his stay-at-home order. Does she care? Suddenly, she's a jailhouse lawyer, trying to argue us around, splitting us off into separate potentially permission-giving adults to play us against each other. She's relentless, and getting angrier and more sullen every day.
These days at home, looking inward, are piling onto each other, creating a weight of worry I can't get out from under. The fear hasn't gone away, having the kids where I can see them, check on them, help them. Atanasia said she thought the kidney infection was coming back, before she got on the plane to get home. I was tied in knots worrying that her fever would get her screened out of boarding the flight. Last Sunday, Indiana found me and told me I needed to turn up the heat, because Atanasia couldn't get warm. When I checked on her, she was shivering in bed with a temperature of 101.6. I took her to urgent care; they said it wasn't another kidney infection, and tested her for the virus. I don't know how long it'll take to get the results.
I know I haven't written anything for far too long. First, Trump was elected and that sucked the creativity out of a lot of people as we tried to absorb the gut-punch that so much of the country apparently hated many of the things we most value. Then you died, and Nanny died, and it was just me: the last woman in the chain of all the southern women I knew growing up, the great-aunts and Nanny and you. And now it's just me. How can it just be me? I know you can't answer. I've been glad, lately, that you missed this, that you missed the fear and worry, and selfishly that I don't have to worry about you, too, added to the crushing load of worry I do my best to pretend doesn't exist.
I miss you, although missing you hurts less than it used to. And it's easier now to tell you how much I love you.