“I’m really sorry sweetie,” Mom pleaded, “I don’t feel one hundred percent right now, and my patient’s COVID-19 test came back positive today. Just the possibility that I could have it scares me. I feel so bad that I’m doing this to you. All I want is for you to be safe.”
Right before I hung up the phone, I replied, “It’s fine! Please stay safe. Love you! Bye Momma.” I knew that if I gave her a hard time, I would make her feel even more guilty for putting us in this situation; it was not her fault, no matter what she believed. It certainly wasn’t fine, though. This was the third time this month that I was staying at my father’s house for an extra two days rather than going to my mother’s. After being at my father’s house for about five days now, the walls felt like they were closing in on me. I’d been in the same aquamarine bedroom for twelve hours, staring at my computer screen. My brain seemed to encourage me to move about, run around, or play with the energetic dog. However, my eyes stung from lack of sleep. I simply remained in my bed, feeling the rough springs of the mattress push against my back. Would this pandemic ever be over?
I couldn’t blame my mom. She worked three twelve-hour shifts a week in outpatient care. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, she started to treat and test patients with the possibility of the virus. Mom and her colleagues dressed like mad scientists when dealing with a patient who has a fever; they wore blue N95 masks, plastic lab goggles, and latex gloves. During this pandemic, health care workers seemed more courageous to me than any of the Avengers, who I idolized more than anyone else. Not only did they have to work with people who had the lethal virus, but they also had to do it with a limited supply of protective equipment. I just wished that Mom could stay home and safely be with me.
“Why do we have to self-isolate?” I whined to myself, knowing the answer already. I understood that it was to keep ourselves and others safe. I definitely felt isolated without my mother, my friends, my teachers, and even the strangers I met at ShopRite. I felt like Rapunzel if she wore pajamas all day and complained all the time.
I wished that I could go out. Do something. Anything. I imagined being at my mom’s house, taking a walk with her, enjoying each other’s presence. The idea of us being together like that seemed to slip farther away by the minute as a new thought entered my mind: What if she does have COVID-19? My stomach dropped and my eyes became blurry. I collapsed onto my bed once again and silently let the tears stream down my face and onto my cotton pillowcase.
The buzz of my phone that ran through the mattress and underneath my pillow surprised me. I sat straight up, dizzy from the abrupt awakening. Text messages from Mom flashed across the screen, multiplying by the second. I decided to call her.
“Momma?” I asked as I picked up. “What’s going on?”
She exclaimed, “Sophia! I took the COVID test at work. It came back negative! So, you can come tonight night after I finish work.”
“Yay!” I yelled. “I can finally see you! See you in a little!”
Walking into my mother’s house at last, I quickly shut the door to prevent the mosquitos that come out at night from entering the house. I was greeted by my elderly German Shepherd, Whisper, and I sat down next to her. My fingers passed through her thick fur and then rested on her head. Whisper and I watched as my mom began to walk up the creaky stairs that were covered in a Persian rug pattern.
“Can you wait a minute?” I asked my mother.
“I’ll be down in a minute because I have to wash up. We don’t want that pesky virus being on my clothes,” she replied with an empty laugh. “Why, what’s wrong?”
I confessed, “Momma, I finally realized how scary it can be for someone in your family to have the virus. Could we have gotten through it if you had COVID-19?”
Mom sat down next to me. “I know this is a hard time for everyone, even those without the virus,” my mom noted. “We have to understand that this is new for everyone. We would definitely be able to fight the virus if I somehow contracted it. The way we need to cope with these hard times is acknowledging that there is still good in the world, even now. Look.” She pointed out the window of our back door. A small cardboard box rested on the bench outside. The package was labeled partly in Korean, which meant it was addressed to my Korean stepmother. “Your grandparents sent me their medical-grade masks in case work ran out.”
I know Grandma and Grandpa are in fantastic shape, but they’re in their mid-seventies. “I thought the virus is as bad in Korea as it is here. Don’t they need those?” I inquired.
Mom replied, “They most likely do, but they haven’t left their house in about two months. My point is, they cared so much about my health as a nurse practitioner that they sent their government-issued masks all the way over here from South Korea. And there’s so much more that people are doing to help!”
“It’s ok to be upset. You have every right to be mad about being cooped up, but you shouldn’t dwell on what is bothering you. I’m getting through this because I’m thinking about how many positive things people are doing to help. For example, the masks from your grandparents. It’s your turn to try to think of something good that is happening!”
I looked around the room, hoping for some inspiration. Finally, as I looked at Whisper once again, I realized what to say.
“Lots of dogs are being fostered now that we are all in quarantine!” I blurted out excitedly.
“Sure!” Mom remarked. “That’s a good one, sweetie, and that’s just one example! There still are some good things going on! When this is over, we’ll try to go out to help our community too. For now, the best we can do for ourselves and others is to stay at home.”
Share your own story here. Sharing stories is a powerful way to connect with other people. Be part of the Teen Health & Wellness Personal Story Project—like Sophia did above—and share your story about successfully dealing with or overcoming a challenge.