How the Coronavirus Saved My Relationship With My Mother

If your daily droll resembles mine in the slightest, I’m sure it’s sixty percent coronavirus discussion, thirty percent anxiety, and ten percent trying to go on living your normal life before all this.

Now, if the above percentage wasn’t indication enough, I’m absolutely certain you don’t want to hear me spout on about how everything going is to be okay, how we’re all gonna die, or talk about either.

On the contrary, I want to talk about how all this has somehow positively affected my relationship with my mother.

To begin, I am what’s called “essential.” In fact, so is my mother. I’m a bank teller. She is… Well, her job is difficult to explain and I don’t entirely know what it is she does (first example of why I’m not the best son). I do know that she is the head of her customer service department at a paper manufacturing plant but she has a lot of duties. We live together in East Tennessee.

My mom has heart disease and actually just had a quadruple bypass almost a year ago. I have asthma, which I’ve had under control for several years. Even still, I have a healthy dose of fear, particularly for her.

Her job can be done from home but they haven’t made that decision yet because there are only a handful of confirmed cases here and in the surrounding counties. My job cannot. My job will never be able to be performed from home. It’s only been a week since my bank made the move to drive-thru only, opening the lobby only to appointments.

Blah blah blah. Doesn’t matter. Mom’s job: interacts only with coworkers. My job: interacts with coworkers and clients. If either of us is giving it to the other, it’s probably going to be me. Impossible to know, but I’d blame myself either way naturally.

Anyway. Before it even got to Tennessee, before it even got to the States, I talked to her about it. About how she needs to be careful, avoid large gatherings, not touch her face, etc. Oh, I may have forgot to mention, I don’t talk to my mom. I never talk to my mom. We live to together but we never talk. Well, we talk when it’s time to eat or about groceries but that’s it. Now, we talk all the time. (In case you want to stop reading now, that’s the kinda moral of this story).

I’m not sure when it happened exactly but we drifted apart sometime around the end high school and the beginning of college. Rather, I sprinted away. I’m 27 now. Where there was love and respect for her, I filled it with resentment. With love sprinkled on top. And it only got worse when my uncle, who lived with us, died five years ago. She loved me unconditionally nevertheless. But I couldn’t let go of that anger. I later discovered that it was partially because I had been hiding my homosexuality from her, which has since fixed bits of the issue. (If you didn’t know before, SURPRISE!).

It started out just in passing. Like “Hey, the CDC is recommending people 60+ avoid large public gatherings. Not that it’s even in our area yet. And not that I’m calling you old.” She said thanks but didn’t seem to be very worried. That was on March 2. By Thursday, March 19 it had transformed into full in-person conversation, something that up until that point had to be pretty damn important. Again, she didn’t seem particularly worried. She had ‘put it in God’s hands’ she’d said. I’m not very religious. Again, doesn’t matter.

So last week I had an anxiety attack that very quickly turned into an asthma attack. Around here, most people aren’t taking this seriously and I, with moderate anxiety issues, have to interact with those idiots on a daily basis. Conveniently, it happened right after I picked up my inhaler from the pharmacy, but as you can probably imagine from the context of this story, I was positive I had COVID-19. It was impossible to breathe. Vulnerability is not something I’m generally really comfortable sharing with anyone. I’d rather quietly panic than let anyone know anything was wrong honestly. But an asthma attack? That’s terrifying. And by the time I’d decided that I needed to call her, it was pretty bad.

I call Mom. I’m like “Mom, I can’t breathe right, please help me calm down.” (Keep in mind at this point I am certain I have the virus and I’m certain that she does too now. Also I am driving while totally hysterical.) So she puts me through the breathing exercises she used to when I was a kid. In through the nose, out through the mouth. No matter what I did, my lungs just felt heavy. It just felt like I had to force myself to breathe. “Mom,” I said, panicking. “It’s not working. I can’t.” “You have got to calm down,” she said in that unmistakable Mom tone. That didn’t help. That made it just a hair worse. I was yelling at the car in front of me. Well, gasping really. Swerving probably. But weirdly that internal eye roll at my mother’s inherent sensibilities sorta helped. I was definitely still panicking but there was that ‘you can always count on her to be her’ moment that lassoed me back home where I finally calmed down.

And… I just can’t even really articulate it. But now everything’s just fine. Yeah, it’s only been a week and sure, it’s a little rough around the edges. But at least it’s one cohesive piece again for now.

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