by Catherine Meyer-Looze, 06/16/2020, Traverse City, MI
As we were getting ready to board our second plane in Chicago traveling from Traverse City, Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia in April 2020, my daughter said to me, “I will be able to tell my kids that Grandma didn’t just travel once. She traveled twice in the middle of a global pandemic. Your grandma was one brave chick!”
The reality of those words didn’t hit me until she said them. I looked around the sparsely populated airport and replied back, “and you can show them how we all wore masks in 2020. That will be in the history books for sure!”
Never once during both travel times, did I feel brave. I did what I had to do. My mom and step dad were visiting with us in northern Michigan the first week of March. They were planning on moving from El Paso, Texas, to northern Michigan to come back “home” and be closer to family as they were growing older. In one week, they managed to find my step father’s dream home on a lake in Kalkaska. It was a log home with a large pole barn and yard. Plans for the pole barn as well as an addition to the log home were already under way.
They flew back to El Paso and began packing as the closing date was on April 5. Their home in El Paso was already sold. In fact, they closed on that house March 22nd, and on March 24th my mom called me to tell me she was taking Gerry to the hospital because he had been in bed and unresponsive.
While they were in the hospital’s parking lot, I asked my dad to talk to me so I could hear his voice. He responded, “I am here. I am not dead yet.” Then, they wheeled him away in a wheelchair from the car. My mom was on the phone with me for a few minutes in shock. She wondered if she should wait in the car until she received word about his condition. I did know enough about COVID 19 to know that they would not allow my mom in the hospital, and I didn’t know what El Paso’s current hospital load was so I encouraged her to drive home and wait for them to contact her.
Nearly a month of agonizing wait along with news that had its ups and downs, my step father, Gerald Wayne Lichon, passed away from coronavirus on April 19. My mom was able to go to the hospital and watch him take his last 20 minutes of breath as they took him off all of the machines that were keeping him alive. She called me right after and asked me if she had done everything that was humanly possible.
I heard the anguish in her voice and knew that this strong German descent of a woman who had been living alone for the past month packing her things for a move, not knowing what was going on with her husband of nearly 45 years, was going to crumble and crumble quickly. I immediately called my sister, Erika who lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and two young sons, and told her we need to get to our mother – NOW!
Erika, an empath, was extremely nervous about the global pandemic and had been diligently following all of the legislative and medically informed guidelines. She, too, wished to be with our mother, but she did not want to meet up in El Paso; she wanted me to “pick her up” in Atlanta and go to El Paso together for her own emotional security.
Upon arriving in El Paso, we were greeted by six military looking fellows upon plane exit. Each passenger, all 10 of us, were to be questioned by one of these guys. Erika and I went to the first one standing at the gate. He asked where both of us originated our travel from. When I said Michigan, he was no longer interested in me. However, when Erika said Atlanta, Georgia, she was told she would have to quarantine for two weeks in Texas or until she left the state. She began falling apart, and I politely told the military guy that we were there because our father just passed away, and we had no intention of leaving my mom’s house. We were there to support her. He reiterated that I was free to come and go, but Erika must be quarantined. (They ended up checking in on her at my mother’s house twice during our stay).
Texas’ response to sheltering in place was very different than Michigan. With Erika being quarantined at the house, I was the one who went out with our mother to get moving supplies and dinner menu items for when we were too exhausted to work anymore. Everywhere we went – Home Depot, Walmart, the liquor store (yes, the liquor store where I managed to find some Traverse City wine) – there were military personnel standing by the entrances and exits with guns visibly seen. I am not sure what the purpose was. Everyone wore masks. I did not see a single person out without a mask. There were also the social distancing X’s on the floor in each establishment. Yet, no one was practicing social distancing. I was jostled around so much in Home Depot that I dipped myself in hand sanitizer after taking a shower upon my return to the house.
Erika and I were determined to do what we had to do to get my mom packed and settled somewhere. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in El Paso with friends or go to Georgia to find a house by Erika’s. What she was sure of was that she didn’t want to live in Michigan with snow without her husband. While she was taking care of needed paperwork and phone calls and flip flopping on her impending next stage of life decision, Erika and I feverishly packed up a 4,000 square-foot home along with a very large pole barn full of wood making and other tools and resources.
We finished our task in a mere four days along with an illegal and impromptu garage sale, which served as my dad’s Memorial. With my own daughter worrying about me back in Traverse City, I secured plane tickets on day 7 only to be told on day 5 that my flight was cancelled. My options were to fly home on day 5 or potentially wait another two weeks. Having stabilized my mom’s emotional state to a healthier level, my next priority was my daughter whose anxiety continued to rise on a daily level not knowing when I would be home. I flew home on day 5 after my mom made the decision to move to Georgia. Since the house was packed and movers were scheduled, Erika and my mom made plans to fly to Georgia on day 7.
And our next adventure with COVID 19 began.