He stayed with me in Austin, Texas over the holdays, and got COVID.
When I picked my son up at the airport in Austin, Texas, the day before Christmas Eve, I wore a T-shirt that said, “Having a weird mother builds character.” I like to make him laugh. Plus, It’s hard for me to stand out in a crowd at my 5'2", and being of an age where women become invisible. He’s easy to spot at six feet five inches, and he has dreadlocks he dies bright red. Or turquoise. Or both. Or whatever color strikes his fancy. I’ve always supported his individuality. I think I contributed to it a little. We laughed at my T-shirt message, at how weird he thinks I am, and at funny movies we watched together for a week, and then he got COVID.
Before you read any further, know that my son is now mostly fine. He was with me in Austin for a week in December for Christmas, and the first three weeks of January He started having noticeable symptoms January 2nd. His symptoms included a mild fever for a couple of days, extreme fatigue for five or more days, lower back pain, congestion and sneezing, a short period of mild coughing, dizziness, and blurry vision. We feel extremely fortunate that he was back home here from L.A., California, where he currently lives, so I was able to take care of him while he was sick.
He worried about giving it to me, so he stayed in his room, leaving it only to go to his bathroom, and to pick up meals the meals I prepared. When he did either, he always wore a mask. Mostly, so did I. I also kept the back door often, in spite of both our allergies, to keep air flowing through the apartment.
I prepared meals, then put them on the counter for him to retrieve, as I scurried to be more than six feet away. He came out with his mask on, grabbed the food, and I snatched a few moments of seeing him while holding my breath across the room. He took the food back to his room and closed the door.
It wasn’t all that different from when he was a teen, and would disappear behind his bedroom door for hours, modifying his controller to play the “glitches” in video games, creating YouTube videos, and, I hoped, doing homework. Except now I couldn’t go near his door, or him, to check on him. As I write it, not much has changed there at all, except the homework and the distance we have to keep.
It was also terrifying. Every sneeze and cough made me jump. We texted back and forth, again as we did when he was a teen. Except then we had a house, and his bedroom was down the hall from the living and dining area. I started texting him then so we wouldn’t be yelling across the house, and because it gave me written proof of what I told him. Sneaky parent trick.
In my current apartment, his room is just the other side of the wall of the living room. That’s where I wrote or watched television every night after seeing clients, listened for sneezing or coughing, and watched my phone for texts from his room.
While seeing clients on video, I worried silently until I was able to text into his bedroom to make sure he was okay. I didn’t want to wake him since he was so fatigued. I read once that when you become a parent, your heart forever lives outside your body. That’s true whether your child is many miles and several states away in L.A., or in his room sick, separated from you by a wall.
He was sick for about a week. Slept for three days straight, then felt well enough to drive himself to get a COVID test. He wouldn’t let me drive him because being in an enclosed car with him would expose me more. He tested positive, and the following day I tested negative. I guess you can socially distance in a 1,200 square foot apartment.
A few short days after he recovered, he was back out hanging with his some of his friends here, all of whom had been ill with and recovered from the virus over the last six months. Even after I tested negative, because of my age and the close call and scare, I isolated for another two weeks. I’m an extrovert, with FOMO, fear of missing out, as he obviously is. I’m like a mama bear in a cage.
The week he was ill was the same week the Capitol Building was attacked by white supremacists. Sure, there were other people among the protesters, but we now know that white supremacists led the pack. My son is half-Black.
I live in Austin, which is the liberal sanctuary city of Texas, in every sense of that word. Still, we had far right protesters clashing with the far left in front of the Capitol Building of Texas on the day President Biden was declared winner of the election. Social media were full of plans from the groups that attacked the nation’s Capitol Building, to do the same at state Capitols on January seventeen and on inauguration day. I wish I could make this comedic, but I can’t.
What’s a mom who’s stuck at home, quarantining, to do when her son is out during a pandemic ? Even after he’s had it? Especially after he’s had it. Especially when he’s biracial and looks like the Black half, and white supremacists were presumably also running the streets.
Worry of course. And “occasionally” text or call to check up. Sometimes, it was his friends who Face-Timed me while he was with them. In the good old days before a global pandemic, he used to have me join him when he met his friends out, and they missed me as I missed them. Not as much, probably, but it’s nice to be missed.
Speaking of missing and being missed, he went back to L.A. after he was clear of symptoms for sixteen days. Though he'd been with me for four weeks, I hadn't really "seen" much of him. I was going to miss him.
As I drove him to the airport last week to fly back to L.A., he mentioned one of his friends was fixing up a bedroom for him for when he came back. When I asked why, he said it’s because I worry too much about him when he stays with me. Since I thougt I was making progress on the "worrying mom" front, I asked what he meant.
He mentioned how I’d asked him before he got COVID if he was sick because he was taking a bath. Ok, that was a little over the top. But in my defense, the only times he wanted to take baths growing up was when he was sick.
He brought up about me texting him on the night of January 20th to see when he was coming home. Again, I know, over the top. When I was twenty-seven my parents never had any idea where I was or what I was doing. And that’s a good thing. I get it. Still, January 20, 2021 and white supremacists. Enough said.
I am getting better about not worrying as much. I realize he’s a grown man who lives in Los Angeles, one of the largest, craziest cities in the world, and does just fine. I promise to do better next time he visits. Maybe when we aren’t in a global pandemic and when white supremacists aren’t roaming the streets of our town I’ll worry less. For now, he’ll just have to forgive a mom for a little worrying. Forgiveness builds character.