So, yeah, y’all: M got COVID.

This was not unexpected. Yes, she masks up everywhere and doesn’t go to parties or even gatherings, but she also rides a bus to a job where she spends a lot of time politely reminding people that they need to wear masks. So. . . we could see this coming.

And yet, when it happened, it felt worse than expected. I mean, I knew in my head that having a child diagnosed with COVID while living Very Far Away would feel bad, but when it actually happened, it felt much worse in my gut than it had when I pondered it in theory.

A while back, M reported to us that her roommate had just found out that someone with whom she’d just completed a 30-hour work training had tested positive. Also, M and her roommate had “suspicious” headaches. So they scheduled tests for the next day. They both felt pretty good on test day, which is fortunate, because they walked two miles each way to the place where they could get their tests. They didn’t want to infect people on a bus or an Uber driver. Because they are good citizens.

When the test results came back, M had tested positive, but her roommate tested negative. Both of them and their third roommate figured that they were likely all positive, but since M was the only confirmed positive, she was required to move into an isolation apartment next door. She felt a little congested, but otherwise fine.

I was not feeling fine. My first coping mechanism was to prepare a care package for her. I’d already planned to send the indoor soccer shoes that she’d requested when she paid for a month’s pass to an indoor gym. Of course, now she was quarantined and unlikely to be allowed to go to the gym, after all. But in any case, I packed them up and asked about what else she needed. She requested food because grocery delivery was a pain in the neck. I thought about other things–a thermometer? a pulse oximeter?–but she was feeling pretty good, and I was afraid that I’d alarm her unnecessarily. Instead, I decided to double down on food. I made these Almond Joy Energy Bites that she likes and bought a lot of ramen noodles as well as other random no-trouble-to-make-it food that she likes in case she started feeling too bad to cook.

Then I fretted about her keeping herself occupied, all alone in her apartment, so I searched through the book shelves to offer up some book choices to throw in. She went with the “SUPER light” option.

I packed it all up into a way-too-heavy, way-too-big box, and then I paid much too much money to send it to Colorado moderately quickly.

And then, there wasn’t much else I could do. I’d check in each morning to make sure that M hadn’t woken up with a raging fever, and we’d try to video chat in the early evening. I didn’t love the situation. One evening, I looked at my Twitter feed and someone was randomly announcing that their 24-year-old son had just died of COVID. I put the phone down for the night.

Now, here are two PSAs, so take note:

If you have a young adult who is leaving your home to live somewhere else: make them pack a thermometer and a pulse oximeter. Because then they’ll have them. You don’t want to wait until they’re sick with COVID, because it’s too alarming if they seem to be fine and too late if they aren’t. So acknowledge that you’re being a scaredy-cat mother and put them in the luggage. Then, since they’ve already got them tucked away somewhere, you can remind your young adult that they’ve got these supplies and request status reports, and chances are good that they will provide these status updates because (1) they realize that their parent is freaking out and also because (2) they’re not allowed to go anywhere or do anything, anyway.

If you happen to chat with someone whose young adult child is somewhere far away with COVID: do not ask if the young adult has a pulse oximeter. Yes, you’re right, it would be a good thing for them to have. If you feel very strongly about this, just say you want to send the kid a card or a package and send the pulse oximeter immediately, and if the kid already has one, they can donate it. But just by bringing it up, you are reminding the parent that it is possible that their child is currently having difficulty breathing. And if the answer is yes, then possibly that very with-it parent can say, “Yes, and their reading this morning was fine,” but it is still not super-fun to discuss.

And if the answer is no, the kid does not have a pulse oximeter, then the parent will not only be reminded that their kid may have trouble breathing sometime soon, but also the parent is likely to rethink many of their Life Choices, like that it was worth it to pack up 16 packages of ramen and a vaguely trashy novel but not a pulse oximeter just because she was trying to stay light-hearted and not like Freaked Out Stress Mom, because that seemed like the best choice at the time. And then that parent might spend a Thursday night combing through Amazon offerings, finding so many pulse oximeters that appeared to be available for delivery by Saturday only to update to a Monday delivery after the shipping address changed from home to Colorado, and who are we kidding, four days from now it was entirely possible that the kid would be fully recovered from their mild symptoms and/or the kid could already be dead. So they will fret about that for a very long time and then decide that they will just call the local county health people if shortness of breath becomes an issue, because this is getting ridiculous.

Here’s the thing: several people asked about the pulse oximeter. So if you did, I promise-promise-promise that you weren’t the only one. It’s okay. But one day I ran into a friend who is a very, very nice person whom I like very much, and she followed up the, “Does she have a pulse oximeter?” question with, “Because it can sneak up on you really fast. . . ” and that, I believe, helped push me into a little bit of a stress spiral.

Later, M sent a random text in the early evening, but we didn’t connect at dinnertime like we had been doing. I sent a series of increasingly frantic texts and attempted calls for about four hours. It was worse because she was in her isolation apartment, and so I thought, if she has a stroke, no one will even notice! I was going crazy. It turns out that she had taken a nap. When we finally reconnected, one piece of advice that I gave her was that if she suddenly felt really unwell she should open her apartment door so that if she passed out, someone would notice and call 911. That’s where my brain was for a while.

But, as it turned out, M never felt too bad at all. A couple of headaches, a little stuffiness, an occasional cough. Her taste and smell were fine. Really, if it weren’t COVID, she wouldn’t have even stayed home sick at all.

On Thursday she was finally allowed to leave her isolation apartment and over the weekend she want back to work, where she reported, “I am irrationally happy to be here.” It was a busy day and she that she was so “aggressively happy” that she got the most tips she’d ever earned in a single day.

Her roommates tested positive later, too, so she had to wait for them to get the all-clear before she was allowed to move back into her apartment again. They’re all back together, everyone’s well, and M spent her day off work today skiing a new peak that just opened.

And it is really, really good to know that she is well and happy.


  1. Aliza

    I’m so glad she’s well and back to her adventure! I’m so sorry you lack my finely honed slacker mom demeanor. You really could have used it.

  2. Kristen

    That must have been so scary but I would have reacted the same way….casual cool mom but freaking out inside. You did well 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *