Through the Looking Glass

By Jay Wilson

It’s a family story that has been around for as long as I’ve been alive.

I was born a month early nearly 50 years ago. Upon delivery, I was whisked away to the safety of 1970s neo-natal intensive care technology. Into the bassinet I went, covered in tubes and glass, un-held and largely untouched for the better part of a month.

My mom tells me that she was distraught—sent home without her son, able to only visit from a distance, viewing her newborn through panes of glass as I slowly worked my way to full health. When I was finally released, she held me for days at a time, trying to make up for the lost time and touch that made up the first weeks of my life.

Fifty years later, the onset of COVID-19 has brought things full circle for my mom and me, in a way we could have scarcely imagined just a few short months ago. She lives in an assisted living facility, with underlying health issues that make it difficult for her get around on her own.

For the past few years, her living arrangements have been good for her and for her only child. She has a lovely two-bedroom apartment and activities and friends that came into her life after my dad passed away. She’s still independent and able to visit us for family dinners and outings, and she has a wonderful relationship with her three grandchildren.

Coronavirus has changed all of this.

Today, my in-person visits with mom are once again through panes of glass. Except now, I’m on the outside looking in as her facility enforces critical safety measures for their residents and for those at the adjoining nursing home. I shop for her on a weekly basis and bring the items to her. Doing so requires going through a set of double glass doors, dropping the items on a table while mom and a staffer watch through another set of sliding doors. I then walk back out so the staffer can disinfect the items and bring them into the facility. All the while, my mom waves and blows kisses.

It’s heartbreaking.

Mom and I talk by phone frequently, of course, and my youngest spends Saturday nights watching movies on Disney+ with her via Facetime.

But it’s not the same. And, honestly, we don’t know when it will be the same again.

The worst part of this is the not knowing.

There are thousands of families in the same boat as ours in the Tampa Bay area, and likely millions across the country.

But we have hope, my mom and me.

We’ve been through this before, this separation of glass barriers, and we’ll get through it again.

One day soon, I’ll be able to give my mom a hug. It’ll be the best.

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