My parents and extended family currently live about five hours from me. When I moved across the state 13 years ago, it was definitely not my plan to stay – it was actually something that happened slowly over time.
First with a job, then with a boyfriend turned husband, then another job, and finally two beautiful kids. It was like life melted into this location, and every time it felt like the reasons were stacking up to leave, there were ten more reasons to stay.
Thankfully, we are able to visit often, and my parents also come to see us pretty frequently. FaceTime helps for the times in-between each trip, but I still seem to have moments where I miss them deeply. I get through most hard times by telling myself that our relationship is actually stronger and that the distance makes me cherish every minute we do get to spend together.
I also remind myself often that my family is very happy here, and that there is no way to guarantee that we would have the same quality of life back where I grew up. Yet I honestly will never know if this was 100% the right decision, or if the time lost with my parents will be something I regret in some way forever.
Because as I sit here today, my fear and guilt overwhelm me and feel like nothing I have experienced before. I am haunted by the distance, and am in a constant state of worry.
I feel on the brink of losing it over the possibility that my parents could be infected with the coronavirus. For the past few nights, I have laid awake contemplating how I would handle them getting sick and how quickly I can drive home if needed.
My parents both turn 70 this year and each have their own set of ailments that make them vulnerable. So, I fear for them as the people that the media speaks of as being at “high-risk” for losing their lives to this.
Thankfully they are still fully self-sufficient and living on their own, but still the fears taunt me. My brain sends me on wild rides where I think about the many things I could be doing to help them. It goes into graphic detail of all of the tasks I would accomplish and the lengths I would go to in order to make sure they are okay.
My husband reminds me that even if I was in my hometown, there would be little we could do. The best thing for my parents is to probably be left alone. Keep our germs to ourselves and allow them to stay comfortable in their house – which is most likely the safest place for them right now.
Yet you read stories about older people crying in their cars in grocery store parking lots because they need food but are too fearful to get out. Or nursing homes where married couples of 50+ years are separated, not knowing if this will be the last time they see each other.
I text my mom article after article on how to prepare and ways to avoid being infected with the virus. She thanks me (with an eye roll I am sure) and then I immediately move on to tormenting myself by reading more and more about how vulnerable they are.
I know I can’t be alone in this. I know other people have to be feeling this same excruciating fear for their parents. I guess it just stings a little more for me when I can’t touch them or see them in person. Just like the married couple in the nursing home, I fear that each call or FaceTime could be the last.
So I will do my best to take it one day at a time. I know how lucky I am to still have my parents, and I need to keep today on the forefront of my mind vs. what tomorrow could be.
I will continue as often as I can to remind my parents how much I appreciate them. Because even though I am not sitting in their living room, showing them love is actually something I can do rather easily from five hours away.