This morning my darling husband creeped into our room and gently tapped me saying “Jennifer, wake up”. I lifted my eye mask and saw that it was dawn and knowing how unusual it is for him to wake me up, I knew something was happening. He then tells me quietly “Your sister and your niece have tested positive for coronavirus” he then continues “Your mom is waiting for her results.”
In the past month I’ve taken a full hiatus from social media. I was becoming entirely too triggered, I could see the dangers ahead, as could any person outside of the US who wasn’t somehow in the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, and I just couldn’t be there. So as an act of self protection, and self preservation, to stop the overwhelm and get in control of my emotional life a bit more, I just logged out. This has meant that I haven’t been up to date as much as I was about what has been going on in the lives of my family members, who are predominantly pro-Trump, and haven’t been in up to date with any friends who I haven’t seen in my physical real life, which during these covid restrictions in New South Wales, hasn’t been many. My husband, however, has kept in the loop with a family group chat on Messenger, and altered me to the news.
I knew my mother was going to fly out from Tennessee where she’s been living for the past six years, back to California where my sister and her grown daughters are, along with my mom’s great great grandchild for a visit and a celebration for her 65th birthday. My mother has had some breathing issues in the past few years and has been using an oxygen tank to help her out when needed. When I heard that she was going to make this trip to California, right now, during the rampant pandemic, I made my protests known. When it became clear that she was very much going to make the trip, I made one last suggestion that if she needed to change her mind, that she could always reschedule if it didn’t feel right. She told me that she knew all about masks and hand sanitiser and would be fine. I couldn’t do anything about it, especially from Australia, so I had to make peace with it.
Before my mom arrived, I videoed with my sister and niece who were actively cleaning everything to make sure it would be clean and ready for my mom’s arrival. My sister was then going to head over to my Aunt’s house to do the same in case my mom was going to stay over there as well. At least they were taking precautions and doing whatever they could to minimise the possible spread of the virus in the state with the most number of active covid-19 cases as of August 2020 when I’m writing this.
My mom tells me that there wasn’t anyone in the airplane row in front or behind her but on other parts of the plane they were close together. She tells me about how her oxygen machine arrived at the exact time of her arriving at my nieces house when she landed. She tells me about how she hasn’t seen my sister yet because she hasn’t been feeling well. She also tells me how she is loving spending time with her great grand child, a very loveable three year old. At this stage, I’m just happy to see that she’s happy and enjoying time with family.
Of course, as anyone would in a place they used to live with people they love, there were so many things calling out to her for visiting. The next time I video her a few days after her arrival, she’s at the coast! She’s looking happy and is with my Aunt and other niece, having a great time. I haven’t seen my mother so happy in I don’t know when actually, and it makes me feel happy for her, and it makes me want her to have as much fun and enjoy as much of life as she possibly can. She’s a Californian through and through and for her to return to her home state after nearly ten years living away, I am sure it has been soothing to her soul. I make peace again that no matter what happens, with covid still circulating strongly in the Golden State, that at least she is having more fun than she has in decades.
So this morning, when my husband woke me up with this news, it didn’t come as a shock. I knew it was going to happen. I’ve been intermittently checking the coronavirus daily increases in California and Tennessee where my family are, and have seen them rising and rising. I have seen the disregard for what is happening in the US and how the US has so poorly handled this pandemic, especially in comparison to Australia, who has had us in various stages of lockdown since March 2020. I know that the health care system in the United States is inadequate and highly expensive. I know that the poorest of the Americans will be suffering most due to lack of resources and education. I knew it was going to happen and yet I couldn’t actually *do* anything to stop it.
I videoed with my sister who is ten months younger than I am. We are “Irish twins” and grew up doing everything side by side. When I videoed with her, the sound was all muffled and I couldn’t hear her, and the image looked heavenly with an opaque haze, it was eerie. We texted a bit, it wasn’t the same. She was having trouble breathing but was too afraid to go to the ER for fear of the ventilator, which was a point of trauma from when her husband died a few years back. My sister is highly stubborn, and when she makes up her mind about something, she digs her heels in and goes harder. She’s a free spirit in a whole other way than I am, but with that same similar thread of her own unique person, living life on her own terms. In my last message to her today I wished for her that this all just blows past her system and that she’ll be back to health soon. Her response was “I know I’ll be fine” and for some reason if I just read that in black and white I would read it at face value, but all of a sudden I felt the fear she had because that isn’t what she would normally say. She’s saying it to act brave, she’s saying it to placate me so that I won’t worry for her.
There is a point where I know that I cannot worry about this because there is literally nothing I can do right now. I can’t fly over there. I can’t even fully get ahold of my sister. I can’t speed up the test results for my mom. I can’t magically fix my nieces immune system too, although she said she wasn’t feeling good for a couple of days and is okay now. I just have to be here, on the other side of the world and try to allow life to take its’ course. I can pray, I can think good thoughts, I can distract myself. I can just try and focus in on my sweet boys, my supportive and loving husband and the life that we have here. I can watch the leaves dance on the eucalyptus tree outside my window in the August winds, and allow my worries to get blown away too.