When sense of self is lost
Christie stared into her teacup until long after its contents had gone cold. The fight with her son had left her broken. Or, rather, had revealed just how broken she really was.
Though she had done her best to continue to engage in life in meaningful ways, COVID had stolen the most precious things from her. She struggled daily with its aftereffects, never knowing if she would be well enough to leave the house or to spend time with others, most importantly, with her young grandchildren.
Devon and Leslie lived for their visits with Grandma. She had been so involved in their lives…before. They cried when they couldn’t see her, not knowing that she cried too. They were too young to really understand. Lately, Devon, the older of the two, had started asking if she was going to die.
This morning, Christie had had to cancel a playdate with the kids—again. The pain that made it difficult to lift her mug was rivaled only by the exhaustion and dizziness that had returned with a vengeance. Today was a bad day.
When she had called Aaron to tell him she couldn’t see the kids today, he had yelled at her, told her she was selfish and that she was hurting Devon and Leslie. The unfairness of it—of all of it—had broken over her and into her, shattering her pretense that somehow, despite life as she knew it having been taken from her, she was still okay.
She had lost it on Aaron, telling him just what COVID had taken from her. She had lost so much of her sense of self-worth. She felt like she could no longer be there to take care of the people she loved, to be a real grandmother to her beloved grandchildren. She was terrified that this was going to be her new reality and that her life had been stolen forever.
She had pointed out to Aaron that, of all her children, he had never been there once for her during her illness. He had only called when he wanted something from her, and that this had been his lifelong pattern of behavior. “What have you done for me in the last thirty seconds,” she said, could have been his mantra.
And then she had hung up on him.
Tears began to fall, dripping into Christie’s cold tea. She was broken. Everything was broken. She was so absorbed in her misery that she didn’t hear the front door open or the sound of footsteps approaching from the hallway.
She didn’t realize Aaron was there until he had set a tray of Starbucks coffee on the table and knelt down to draw her into his arms.
“I’m sorry, Mom” was all he said, as they cried together for all they had lost.
This story was both painful and cathartic to write. Part of is is autobiographical, the rest pure fiction. I cried buckets as I wrote it and created the image that accompanies it.
The true part is that Long COVID has taken so much from me. I don’t see my grandchildren (two boys) nearly as much as I want to, and it’s hard on all of us. I continue to process the grief over this as I hope that my health will improve. As of this writing, it’s been seven months. By the time this publishes, it will be eight.
I knew I wanted to create a watercolor image for this. I went through many iterations before this one appeared. I love the dripping of the paint. It seems to telegraph Christie’s grief.
Unfortunately, the original showed a hand that would have, I think, added to the impact—except it was grossly abnormal. I had to edit it out. It leaves the picture feeling a little out of balance, but maybe that’s okay too. I don’t think Christie is feeling particularly in balance.
Has having had COVID impacted your quality of life or that of anyone you know? We’re all, in one way or another, dealing with the changes to daily life the disease has brought to the world. Comment if you feel so moved.