Kirk & Becky & COVID

Every night when I’m in bed, my mind drifts to COVID and my parents.

My parents are in their 60s and both have pre-existing medical conditions.

When I was little, I knew they were chronically ill before I had the words for it. But they were so solid. Unshakable. Even though my dad made his diabetes his hobby and my mom always made comments about hating her body’s unreliability—I was a kid, so as far as I was concerned, my parents would be around forever.

kirk & becky, 1980s, before the kids showed up

But then I started growing up.

And part of growing up is understanding your parents’ very real mortality.

At night, while I’m in my bed, I imagine my parents asleep in theirs ten miles away, and I think about how vulnerable they are to the world—the world where COVID exists. A disease that preys on the older populations, chronically ill populations—they’re the perfect victims.

It paralyzes me with fear. I get so scared my body forgets to breathe. The paralysis switches to convulsions as I start sobbing.

I hiss in and out and in and out, trying to regulate my breathing again.

It’s not easy.

See, it’s not so much the fear of what will happen if they die prematurely—

(Prematurely being anything before they turn 85, because I’m not ready before then and even then is highly debatable—)

If they die too soon, I already have these long, long lists of contingency plans, emergency plans, of how-I-will-keep-myself-safe-if-That-Unthinkable-happens plans that are miles long and one of them involves asking my therapist to adopt me—

No, what keeps me up at night is The In-Between.

What happens if they’re admitted to a hospital that ends up being understaffed, with no one to care for them?

What happens if they are denied a needed ventilator because doctors give it to someone more “deserving”?

What happens if they are alone in a hospital bed without me to hold their hands, to tell them how much I love them, to tell them how lucky I am to be their daughter?

And worst of all, what if they die without me getting to say “goodbye, I love you, and I’ll see you again someday”?

My therapist tells me to take these thoughts, like all negative and unwanted thoughts, acknowledge their presence, and then let them pass.

“Hello, I see you, now goodbye.”

To not let them take power or hold over me.

But oh boy, these thoughts are strong and loud and powerful, just like COVID is, and I keep saying “goodbye, thought” and then it comes back over, and over, and over again, all while the same picture plays in my head—

My parents, asleep at night,

So vulnerable to the world.

And I just want to say to them,

Please stay home. I love you too much to let you get sick.”

And to the rest of you I want to say,

Please stay home. I love my parents too much to let you get them sick.”

for your enjoyment:
“Here is a Heart” by Jenny Owen Youngs