Constable: Mother's Day brunches give way to COVID-19 loneliness, confusion

  • There will be some sadness celebrating Mother's Day for the first time without my mom, Lois, who died in November at age 92. But I feel for all those people who must explain to moms and grandmas in longterm-care facilities why they won't be visiting.

    There will be some sadness celebrating Mother's Day for the first time without my mom, Lois, who died in November at age 92. But I feel for all those people who must explain to moms and grandmas in longterm-care facilities why they won't be visiting. Courtesy of Kay Babcock

 
 
Posted5/7/2020 5:00 AM

I've written dozens of Mother's Day columns during my newspaper career. This will be my first Mother's Day without my mom. Lois Constable died in November at age 92.

I realize how lucky that makes me. Most people don't get to celebrate 61 Mother's Days with their mom. I wish I could remember them all. The ones that stand out are those years when my sister-in-law in Elgin hosted a Mother's Day brunch in her backyard with our moms and the grandkids. Her mother-in-law, Gammy Dot, her mother and my mother-in-law, Grandma Jean, and my mom, Grandma Lois, would always dress up, look great and have such a good time. They're all gone now.

 

My wife, my sisters, and my sisters-in-law are the matriarchs now.

Lots of suburban families have the same memories of fun Mother's Day gatherings, before Oma, YaYa, Bubbe, Nonna, Abuela, Nana, Baka or Grams passed away, and new moms took their places of honor at the Sunday brunch.

As much as I'd like to be able to spend one more Mother's Day with my mom, I would have dreaded this Mother's Day during COVID-19. Mom was wonderful when we went out to dinner for her 90th birthday celebration, and still pretty sharp at age 91. But the last few months of her life, when we were forced to move her into assisted living facilities, were difficult. She got confused easily. She sometimes couldn't remember where she was. She couldn't understand how to manage the buttons on her power recliner, launching herself to the floor a couple of times. Her eyesight had gotten too bad to read books or allow her to do The New York Times crossword puzzles. She even would tell me how she had visits from Dad, who died in 2003, and other dead relatives from time to time, and acknowledged she had difficulty recognizing what was real and what were hallucinations.

During my frequent visits to Indiana to see her in the facility and take her out for lunch, she often thought we were on the way to some new place for her to live, or heading back to the family farm that was her home for 69 years. My sisters, Sally and Nancy, both came from their homes in New Jersey to care for mom and make her happy.

Trying to explain how COVID-19 means that none of her children would visit her, let alone take her out for a nice meal, would have been impossible, and heartbreaking. Standing outside her apartment window holding a "Happy Mother's Day" sign couldn't have competed with a simple hug.

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Each of the 75,000 or so deaths in the United States attributed to COVID-19 so far means 75,000 or so grieving families are suffering a loss. But death isn't the only way to experience a loss.

More than 2 million Americans live in long-term care settings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them are moms who won't be able to celebrate Mother's Day with visits from daughters, sons, spouses and other loved ones. The workers at those facilities might endanger their own health to make Mother's Day a little happier for all the moms who can't have visitors. That is such an important job.

There are plenty of moms, grandmas and fun aunts across the suburbs who won't grasp social distancing, face masks and lockdowns, and only wonder why no one is visiting them on Mother's Day. I'm thankful for all those Mother's Days I got to spend with my mom. Let's hope by next Mother's Day, a vaccine is the most popular present.

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