613.260.3256 Erin@ErinScullion.com

The Norovirus, a highly contagious gastro-intestinal flu that causes vomiting and diarrhea, has hit the building and is prowling throughout, felling residents and staff alike, floor by floor.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Many of them have immune systems already weakened by time and the vagaries of aging. At least half the residents are suffering and everyone is under quarantine until the facility has been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

My mother, 91, is safe. She has hardly left her small one-bedroom apartment in the last two months, for different medical reasons. Her exposure to the outside world has been limited.

“No touchy!” I tell the young server who has knocked and walked in ready to hand me her meal. “It’s okay,” she reassures me. “I’m only delivering to the healthy people, I’m not in contact with those who are sick.” I look down at her hands, red and chafed from obvious constant washing. I take no chances and ask her to put the items down on the kitchen counter. She smiles and complies.

Given Mum’s arguable frail condition, this virus could easily carry her away forever. “That’s okay,” Mum says. “I’m ready.”

“Yeah, but I’m not,” I tell her and she gives me a dirty look.

My own mothering instincts leap into action. I will die battling any harm that dares approach, I say to myself. But deep down, I know it’s an impossible position to hold. One day, the mystery of death will take her from me. My eyes water and my heart hurts.

It has been a difficult two months. She has rallied, waned, and rallied. Depression. pneumonia, fatigue, loneliness. “I’m a pathetic old woman,” she said during a particularly difficult time. “No, Mum,” I reassured her. “You are not.” She gives me a resigned look.

“Oh. Wait a minute,” I deadpan. “You’re right! What was I thinking?! Of course you’re old.

“But you’re not pathetic,” I add. “Like many of us here, you’ve lived a good and generous life, doing the best you could with the cards you were dealt.  And thankfully, one of them was me.

“Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?” I ask.

Of course she can’t help but smile. How could she not?