My father-in-law passed away last week. When it was clear he wouldn’t be with us much longer, my husband drove to Chicago to be with him during those last few days. Before he left, we made the agonizing decision for me to stay home. Actually, making the decision wasn’t the agonizing part; accepting it was.

In earlier times – meaning any time before the pandemic – we’d have been traveling back and forth to Chicago regularly, especially as my father-in-law’s health deteriorated. But since March, we – like so many others – have stayed close to home. And because of underlying health issues that put me more at risk for serious consequences of COVID-19, I’ve been voluntarily housebound since then, staying home except when it was absolutely necessary for me to go somewhere.

In spite of feeling restless every so often, and always missing the company of family, friends, and neighbors, this hasn’t been as much of a burden for me as it has for so many others. I have the company of my husband, as well as a comfortable home, a peaceful view out our back door, access to the basic necessities of life, and plenty to do to keep me busy.

I do get impatient with the political posturing that has already cost so many lives, and with people who ignore the counsel of medical experts and common-sense guidelines that could reduce the risk for everyone. I’ve worried while people I care about waited for test results after being exposed to the virus, and I’ve mourned the loss of acquaintances who succumbed to the disease.

But this is the first time the pandemic has made me feel as helpless, paralyzed, and guilty as I did while my father-in-law was fading. I wanted to be with him, and with my husband, during this time. I wanted to be there for support, for last words, for final goodbyes. And I resented that I had to choose between the risk of going and the frustration of staying home.

Thanks to Zoom, I was able to see and talk with my father-in-law briefly a few days before he died. We both had a chance to say our goodbyes and to say “I love you” one more time. That, along with the many memories I hold of the times we were able to be together over the years, is what I’ll keep with me now.

October 17, 2020
©Betty Liedtke, 2020

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