I feel like I need to start this post with a bunch of disclaimers.
I very much comprehend that people are enduring suffering much greater than I am. As a result, out of an abundance of caution, I often start any conversation, written or spoken, acknowledging how much I get it! I hate that people are dying of Covid19. I hate that people who should not be dying are dying, period. I hate that my cousin & my friend are currently undergoing cancer treatment. I hate that my brother-in-law is on oxygen (100% of the time). I hate that people everywhere are going hungry, even some students who attend school with my own children. I very sincerely recognize that many are losing their livelihoods and that small businesses are going out of business. I also realize that many people are antsy and are so done staying home. I definitely think we need to find a way to remain patient while supporting each other through all of this. My guess is I am not alone.
If it helps, I hear you. I see you. I am sorry you are suffering. I am grateful for you.
In truth, I began writing this post yesterday, I mean, last week. In between my seventy-five daily “calm down” walks (maybe a slight exaggeration) and trying to encourage my extremely downtrodden children, I recognize that I am sad, like really, really sad. I am struggling. I cannot get my sleep cycle in the right place. It did not help that Eli began texting me at 3:26AM:
“Mom, I cannot sleep.”
After many back-and-forths, I was awake. In fairness, I asked Eli the night before to let me know if he could not sleep (again). I decided to “keep it simple,” (my new mantra), let him know I loved him and told him that I wished I could make it easier for him. Then I put my phone on “Do not Disturb.” Now awake, I wrote a middle-of-the-night frustration letter. (I did not send to the frustrated party, and no, it was not writing to Eli about texting me in the middle of the night.) Then I listened to the beginning of a book on Mosquitoes, called, “Mosquito.” (It is actually really good.) Again I tried to will myself to sleep. Instead, I touched Dave’s face every time his breathing became as loud as a snore. By 7:00AM, or thereabouts, I was back to sleep.
Now awake, I find myself in an erratic haze of self isolation, homemade masks, and dashed plans. I often feel like the words I need to express are floating right outside of my grasp. I spend way too much time watching YouTube videos, considering making cinnamon rolls & scrolling social media sites. I feel like I should learn how to play either Minecraft or Animal Crossing and by the end of episode two, I became bored with “Tiger King.” I know. I hear your voice in my head (because we cannot speak face to face),
“How could you get bored with “Tiger King?”
I do not have the energy to explain. I just did. I got bored with “Tiger King.” I am beyond certain that I am not alone. Where I may be more unique is that I am also a person who can easily take twenty minutes to answer a yes/no or “how am I feeling” question, or wander my way through an opening thought.
Here is the deal: Our youngest son, Eli, is a high school senior. He is a wonderful human, albeit a teenage human. He is wise, empathetic, sensitive, confident and kind. He is the first to consider other people and their feelings. He stands up for his friends (and even people he is not so fond of). He always stands up for me, especially when Kyle and or Dave are being dumb. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Can he be moody? Absolutely! Nevertheless, does he recognize that other people are more profoundly impacted by the adverse effects of Covid19 (the Coronavirus)? Most definitely! In fact, Eli is the first one to vocalize the manipulative racism he saw when someone called Covid19, “The Chinese Flu.” One of the reasons Eli opted not to meet us in New Zealand was his worry for his grandma and grandpa here in Utah.
“Wawa and Harvey are old. They should not be exposed to this. I want to stay home to make sure they are ok.” Did Eli also want to stay home from our trip because of his girlfriend? Of course he did (and that is also ok).
The other night was intense. After getting into it with our eldest son, Kyle, I walked into the kitchen. Eli was standing there when I burst into tears. He asked what was wrong. After listening to my weepy response, he suggested I “Dap him up*,” (a special handshake), which I did. (He graded my performance and gave my “Dap” a mercy A+.) As a result of his tender compassion, I was now sobbing. That is when my very disappointed high school senior cradled me in his arms and gave me a great big and very long hug.
The other day Eli and I were talking. Reflectively he said,
“Mom, my last day of high school was Friday, March 13. Yes! Friday, the 13th. I did not know it then, but it was my last day of high school. I wish I had known. I wish I had time to say goodbye to all of my friends. This is high school. This is the end of a long run. I was in a bad mood that day. I even sat out of my PE class. And now it is over.”
I felt the weight of his words. I knew my words would not make any difference, but I said them anyway.
“Eli, that just sucks. I am so sorry.”
It has been no surprise for me to hear that Eli is struggling to keep up with his homework. It was no surprise that he slept in until almost noon (remember he was texting me at 3:26AM). And has been sleeping past noon regularly. Last night he told me that day and night have become meaningless and that when he can see his friends again, they will have an all nighter to reset their sleep cycles. It was also not surprising when I asked him if he needed anything to help him get out of bed the other day, he said, “Bacon.” So I made him some bacon. He came into the kitchen and asked for a hug.
“Mom, I am not doing ok.” He said.
Then he ate his bacon and made a B.L.T. with the rest.
My heart hurts for Eli. My heart hurts for all high school seniors. I keep thinking about them. I keep thinking about the abruptness of this moment. I do not think any of us really understood this would be our moment. When Eli was born (in Northern Virginia), and the anesthesiologist was on the phone buying his 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics tickets, I never thought,
“Hey kid. I bet your senior year of high school will be hijacked by a global pandemic. Pro Tip: Make sure to go to a few extra proms.”
No. That is not what I was thinking or advising. Instead, at Eli’s birth I was in awe. When the doctor first held him up for me to see, I thought Eli looked a lot like Dave’s brother. I said as much. I also thought,
“why is this dude on the phone during a cesarean section? Like seriously, hang up the phone. Why isn’t anyone telling him to hang up the phone?”
Mostly, however, I was blown away. Eli was beautiful! (He still is.) He was breathing. This tiny, adorable human had such a powerful scream. He had ten fingers and ten toes, (still does, thank God). I was elated. This is is what I was thinking:
“I get to be his mom.”
And for the past eighteen plus years, being Eli’s mom has been awesome (for real). Sure, are there moments I want to throttle him? Yes. There are so many more moments I can’t believe this amazing human is my son. It blows my mind that he is eighteen. The time when a wonderful two year old Eli used to climb out of bed, locate Dave & me, then make up jokes so he did not have to go back to bed, and all the years since, went way too fast. I mean, come on. Wasn’t Eli just demanding to wear the dinosaur costume in the nativity play? And wasn’t I just neurotically making sure Kyle & Eli’s outfits matched? Wasn’t my neighbor just telling me after a playdate, that Eli would like to be referred to by the name, “Raymundo?” Didn’t Eli just fall asleep on the chairlift and in two different snow banks during ski school? Weren’t Eli and I just racing from the biting flies? Wasn’t Eli just learning a pogo stick routine for the 4th grade talent show? Didn’t we just eat gelato at Eli’s favorite gelato place, which just happens to be in Rome? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Eli broke his jaw and had it wired shut for two months?
Yes. It went way too fast. In reality, I cannot believe we are here. In fact, even with a proper traditional high school graduation, I am certain I would feel like this time rushed right on by.
Nevertheless, this year is different. Traditional is not what the class of 2020 will get and is currently receiving. Their end is abrupt. It caught us all off guard, including the school district. (They want the seniors to tell them what they want to do for graduation.) Every time I mention this to Eli, he says,
“What we want is a normal high school graduation.”
The class of 2020 will not have a normal high school graduation. Maybe someday it will make a good story about the time senior year was canceled. Right now it just sucks.
In the end, I have these two children. They are my gift. When they hurt. I hurt. Right now they are both hurting — a lot. The best I can do is listen, support and help them grieve. I know it will be ok. I also know it is ok to be disappointed and sad. I keep hearing people say, “The way to understand other peoples’ suffering is to process your own.” I agree.
We will get there.