I wake up every morning. I open my windows and I go outside. I see how beautiful everything is around me. Every day.
In the beginning, I cried a lot. During a whirlwind week, I spent Spring Break in Vegas, packed up my entire life in Tucson, and reunited with my family.
I feel like most of us can pinpoint the moment we realized everything was really real. For me, it was when I got the news notification that NBA player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. Shortly after, the NBA season was suspended. My mom texted me to come home. The next morning, amidst what seemed like breaking news every other minute, I drove seven straight hours from Las Vegas back to Tucson. I crammed my car with all of my belongings, said goodbye to everyone I saw regularly, and moved into my parents’ guest house.
That moment feels like months ago.
At first, my new routine went like this: Wake up, think about what’s happening in the world, stress, worry, maybe take a break from thinking, stressing, and worrying and do other stuff, read doomsday articles and cry myself to sleep.
That same whirlwind week ended with my dad telling me and my brother, Zak, on the day after my mom’s birthday, that she wasn’t acting how she usually did. Apparently the last time my mom was like “this,” my dad said, I was around ten years old; my brother was eight. The time before that, I was maybe five.
The next morning, I woke up to a missed call and a message from my grandmother saying that my mom had had some sort of “breakdown” the night before. I drove to my grandmother’s house and opened the front door to the smell of what I later found out to be tons of candles she had lit overnight.
My grandmother said my mom had spent the entire night at her house, rearranging books, hanging artwork, organizing silverware and wine bottles, and taking breaks periodically to check on my grandmother and see if she was still alive.
Soon after she told me this, my dad came over to trade stories with my grandmother I had never heard before, stories about my mom that I couldn’t believe were true, things that the rest of my family had worked so hard to hide from me. He walked into every room in the house, checking to see what my mom had moved around, blowing out the candles she had lit along the way.
For two weeks my mom slept maybe two hours a night. She went to sleep very early and woke up at 10 or 11 p.m. to start cleaning for the day. She scrubbed her hands so much they cracked and bled.
In lockdown, spending most of my time at home, my routine quickly changed to revolve around her. Keeping up with the rapidly changing world was not important.
On the nights my dad was at work, my brother and I took turns staying up with her until he got home. On the worst night, my mom came into the living room and told the two of us stories about her dad and her brother and things I couldn’t believe were even possible. We all cried; eventually, she went to sleep. Zak and I went to the guest house and sat on the floor to cry some more.
A week ago I was calling my dad at his work at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department at 2 a.m., asking him what I should do because Mom was suddenly up for the day, showered, dressed, and ready to drive over to my grandmother’s house. He told me to take her car keys and take mine as well.
Nine days later, I don’t really know what has changed. But at least my mom sleeps through the night.
Some mornings I will drive around town for an hour before ending up back in my parents’ driveway. I’ll drive by my high school’s marquee that reads that the school is closed for the semester. I’ll drive by my middle school that displays the same message. I had forgotten the rest of the world was struggling too.
Through all of this, I have learned of my mother’s mental illness as she rediscovered past traumas, I have lost touch with people I used to see daily, I saw my grandmother turn 92 the day after she fell and EMTs were called to her house.
Still, I wake up every morning, open my windows, go outside, and take a walk. I try to see how beautiful everything is and try not to be sad.
Yet I am. Obviously. Inevitably. I am sad every day for all that we are losing. Strangely, though, I have also never been so hopeful. I feel hope when I see my neighbors walking the same path I just walked. I feel hope when my mom just smiles or my grandmother answers the phone when I call.
Maybe I am so hopeful because I am trying so hard to look for good stuff. I go on drives with my mom where she will pull over every once in a while and take a picture of the clouds, sunset, mountains, trees, anything. She talks about how plants and trees and cacti look especially balanced and centered now. I try to notice too.