As it appeared in McSweeny's, 4/23/2020
I used to long for solitude. "Peace and quiet," as my father would say when I'd asked him what he wanted for his birthday.
I'm from a big Irish-Italian family. Dad passed away last March at the age of 101. My mother, 95, doesn't remember that, or much else. Yesterday the hospice nurse told me she has two weeks. I'm not allowed to visit her in the retirement home — not because they have the virus, but because they don't want it. I understand. Maybe I could bring a ladder and talk to her through her patio door.
Weeks ago, when I could visit, she seemed glad to see me. Once I had left, however, her caregivers told me, she didn't remember that I had been there. But in the moment, she smiled and carried on a fantasyland conversation. She always was a good storyteller. A great gossip. The Irish, I guess. I miss that already.
Mom would expect a big Catholic funeral Mass with friends and family and hymns and Communion. She went to everyone else's Mass. Some of my siblings are in Texas and California. No flying now.
Mom's outlived her four siblings. And her friends who are left would be too frail to attend even if it weren't for this damned virus. The funeral home tells us that the refrigerators are full. We'll need to bury her right away.
Lots of time on my own. I've been working on a novel for the past three years. This would be a great time to finish it, alone at last. But I'm so obsessed with the news about the virus and so angered by the politics that undermine sanity. And I can't visit my mom.
Today the sun came out. I went to the backyard, determined to get the garden going. I dumped over a barrel that had filled with rainwater and a dead squirrel swam out.
I shivered back into my solitude.