The Final Minute

We’re hunkered down for the virus. Well, sorta. I’m at home, like we’re supposed to be, but my wife’s at work at the small store she’s managed since it opened 10+ years ago. Because I’ve worked from home for years, and she’s at the store, our life somewhat resembles what it was before Clovid-19. Except my wife and her boss are offering curbside service now; and her store’s cooking classes have been cancelled; and they’re wiping the place down after each customer. Cue the black & white film stock.

Meanwhile, back here at the house, when we set aside what appears to be normalcy and take a good hard look at our hand scrubbing, and the absurdly long stares we give table tops and silverware before we touch them, and the paranoia we face when a package arrives at the door and we’re unsure the health of its senders, its carriers, its deliverers, it feels like we’re living through some sort of Walking Dead shit where bleach replaced machetes and my wife and I feel the need to debate kissing. Yeah, kissing. We breathe the same air, share the kitchen and bathroom, and a bed. But set aside logic, I’m searching for time.

I spoke with Mom tonight. We talk often. But our calls feel more precious now. She’s 98. I’m almost 60. We’re in Covid-19’s crosshairs. Both of us. But my priority is my life. Not hers. Because a mother shouldn’t watch her only son be buried. Not after she’s put so much effort into keeping him alive. I have to outlive her… by at least one minute.

I’m an only child who’s lived from a wheelchair for 50 years, a child whose mother willed him through a decade-long battle with a deadly illness, a mother’s child who wishes that as an adult I had eaten better, kept exercising, traded screen light for sunlight. For just that minute.

Daddy died 25 years ago. That’s when I knew my job. It was to get healthy. So I began swimming and eating organic — protecting my life. For her. But then I met someone and settled in, got lazy and careless, rediscovered doughnuts. How many minutes did that doughy goodness cost me? It matters now.

My childhood was spent in hospitals, but I was rarely alone. I was often afraid, but fear was never allowed the ground to root. Because Mom was there. 

My mother’s constant presence and her devotion shaped me into an optimist despite the Hell around us. But to leave her without her child would be to abandon her to a different Hell/the worst Hell. How can I abandon her when she never abandoned me?

One minute.

I missed grades 7-12. Illness. But ten years later I graduated from a top tier university, married a woman far above my grade, started a surprisingly successful business that lasted until the 08 crash took it down. You know how and by whose invisible hand. You know.

Yet you can’t ignore dark clouds or ticking clocks. The machinery continues. It’s up to us to adjust. To “stay in place.” To breathe less deeply until the virus passes. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

My wife and I are in our fifties. We don’t have kids. I am an only child. That means our DNA’s speeding down a straight two-laner and heading toward its end. No exits. No attractions. Just an end. By Covid-19 or whatever. And I’m okay with that.

As long as I last those final 60 seconds.