Since my mom died in January, the goal was always to visit my dad (and brother) more often than we usually do, and have him visit us. We’d already planned a visit around Eastertime. But COVID shut that down, of course. And our tradition has always been to do a visit around Memorial Day, but that didn’t happen either.
But things have been loosening up enough, and I was aware that while (with COVID in mind) I was free to travel now, but who knows when I might actually get a job, so I asked Dad what it would take for him to be comfortable with me coming down for a visit, and it turned out he was fine with it.
So a little study of the calendar made Father’s Day weekend an obvious target. I’d drive rather than fly, since airplanes still feel like petri dishes of death. And, depending on whether or not C joined me, I’d have the freedom to make some other stops as well. And C decided not to come. He’s still far less comfortable with going out than I am, and the cases have been rising in North Carolina. But I figured I’d be as safe as I was as home, if I masked and social-distanced and washed my hands.
So I set out on Wednesday to pick up my rental car, took an Uber to the Avis lot with my luggage. As always, they gave me the ticket, I drove out, handed the ticket and my license to the gatekeeper, who reviewed them, handed them back and opened the gate. I tossed them in the passenger seat and headed over to the Buccaneer diner on Astoria Boulevard, to pick up a breakfast burrito and to stop at the Walgreens to stock up the car with snacks, kleenex, masks and hand sanitizer.
While putting the car together to make things easy to grab while driving, I realized that my license, which should have still been in the front seat, was not. I couldn’t remember whether I’d put it in a pocket or whether it had slid into a crack or what. So a frantic ten minutes of searching and folding the seat back and forth and retracing my steps to the diner and the drugstore, but nothing… shit. OK, better drive pretty carefully, although I was reasonably sure the thing was probably in the car somewhere.
So, headed out. It was going to be a full day’s drive even doing the dullest/fastest route, straight down 95. Across the top of Manhattan to the GW Bridge, down the Jersey Turnpike and so on. And then… I’d assumed that Avis would give me an EZPass for tolls. There was a box on the windshield that you open up like always. So I did that. But when I got on the Jersey turnpike, the guy in front of me went through and the little screen said “EZPass accepted”. Then i went through and the screen didn’t say anything! Hmmmm… and then I looked at the Avis EZPass box and it turned out there was nothing in it! Shit, I’d just essentially ‘ran a red light’. Luckily, I have my own EZPass (connected to my Dad’s account) and had brought it. But realized later that there were places where the EZpass is read, but you don’t get a warning about it, and I hadn’t been holding up the device to the windshield. So I ended up just leaving the thing on the dashboard, but I’m assuming they took pictures of my license plate and will catch up with me through Avis and who knows what kind of weirdo charges I’m going to get in the next month. Anyway…
Other than that, I had playlists and podcasts and snacks, was happy as a clam. Stopped for bio-breaks every couple of hours. Was especially delighted to do the leg between Baltimore and Northern Virginia, which I’d done a zillion times between my homes in Baltimore and Philly and my parents’ house in McLean. I was disappointed, though, there was no Surrender Dorothy bridge graffiti at the Mormon Temple.
Just south of the beltway, it started pouring rain and that kept up, on and off, until about 20 minutes outside of Durham. Oh well. I got to my dad’s condo a little after 6:00 and Dad made us dinner (coconut shrimp!). Very nice.
Since then, it’s been a routine of going for walks every morning, usually with Sibling Sam joining us. This is from Father’s Day:
Dad’s walking three miles a day, he’s really in great shape. Meals have been very easy – I made a frittata, which we’ve been eating over several breakfasts, or bagels or toast. Sandwiches for lunch. Takeout or very simple meals for dinner. They have early senior hours for food shopping, so we’ve been taking advantage of that. I spent Thursday and Friday, in between Dad projects, doing job search and had two interviews, yay!
Dad is really doing great, and the apartment looks great too. No one is happy that Mom is gone, or that Dad’s girl cat Bianca also passed away a couple of months ago, but the logistics of taking care of a home and just one remaining cat (the one who doesn’t pee inappropriately everywhere) have gotten a lot easier. Dad has a cleaning service come once a week, his food preparation is helped by how much easy or prepared meals are available from the grocery store, and everything seems to be humming along very nicely.
He also has a lady friend. (!!!) She lives in a retirement community that they’ve very much put on lockdown because of COVID, so they don’t actually get to see each other much, but they talk a lot on the phone and she did get to escape and come over for a visit once – she’s very sweet and a great conversationalist. I know that my dad missed having someone to really converse with (that person was not my Mom, for the last few years of her life).
The neighbors in this particular condo building are also nice and everyone knows each other and we had a socially-distanced cocktail party/picnic out in the parking lot on Sunday night, with folding chairs and food and champagne to celebrate the recent wedding of the longtime couple that has the other apartment on Dad’s floor. That was a lot of fun. So between them and my brother and the lady friend, Dad is Interacting with People, which is excellent. And once things open up not just from a rules standpoint, but from a commonsense standpoint, he can go back to going to classes and meeting with interest groups and stuff, all of which was just starting to get going when COVID shut everything down.
I also helped Dad set up Mom’s old laptop so he could do zoom calls. Once home, I’ll probably schedule a teleconference (if people want to) with Dad and Sam and Dad’s sister and our cousins in Pennsylvania, that would be nice.
Oh, yeah, Dad also volunteered to rip apart my rental car to find my license, but with no success. So i went online, ordered a replacement from the DMV, and as part of that, they sent me a PDF of a temporary license! So I am no longer driving illegally, phew.
After our walk today, and breakfast, I’ll get cleaned up and packed and head out the door. Durham is only 3 hours away from Williamsburg, VA, where I went to college, so I thought I’d do an overnight there, just to walk around campus and Colonial Williamsburg. Then I’ll spend a couple of days in South Jersey with my friend Susan before heading home. And i have a followup (serious!) interview on Friday for one of the two jobs I interviewed with last week.
This post is part of a larger project, #MOC19. Read more about the Mass Observation COVID-19 project here.