One man’s relationship in the age of the coronavirus

This reflection began as a result of a text from my partner Bill this morning:

“My mom is pressuring me to stay in one place. Here or there.”

“Here” refers to the location from which he was writing: her suburban home about forty minutes from “there,” where I live, in San Francisco.

image from CNN

Our situation is that he spends the week nights with his 90-year-old mother, who lives by herself in her own suburban home, and the weekends with me.

This characterizes what I refer to as Phase 3 of our relationship. Though it’s not ideal, it is by far the best arrangement that we have had since we met almost nine years ago.

At that time, in 2011, he was visiting the Bay Area from Montana, where he was living. He’s from this area and was coming to see his large extended family.

In those days, neither of us thought of ourselves as even being in a relationship. He’d come for a visit, we’d get together, we’d have a great time, and he’d go back to Montana. Thus was Phase 1, which lasted almost six years.

The transition to Phase 2 was sudden and dramatic. On the last of those Phase 1 visits, we got together for a day. After we parted, when he was on his way back to his mom’s, it hit him: it was time to come back. He was done with Montana.

Phase 2 was a grueling sixteen months during which we saw each only four times, for a grand total of nineteen days: two visits to San Francisco and one weekend each in Portland and Las Vegas.

It was a lot of work for Bill to get his home ready for sale, put it on the market, sell it, and finish up his work commitments in Montana.

As difficult as it was for us to see each other for only nineteen days over four visits across sixteen months, now that I’m sitting in the comfort of Phase 3, I realize that our current arrangement consisting of weekends and occasional midweek visits are not that bad. After all, we now rarely spend four or five days without being able to see each other.

I recognize that there is room for misinterpreting Bill’s statement, “My mom is pressuring me to stay in one place. Here or there.”

Anyone who knows Bill knows that he is not a “mama’s boy.” He is kind, loving, and, most of all, an emotionally generous man. Not only is he the youngest of his mother’s seven children, but the only one not married with children. Several of his siblings tease him about his being their mom’s favorite. Considering his bouyant personality, I can totally see that!

Sheltering in place has offered me abundant time to keep abreast of the Coronavirus situation, especially with regard to the huge spectrum of responses from the various jurisdictions around the USA, with states such as California and New York handing down shelter-in-place orders to government officials in Texas and the White House who are more concerned about getting back to business.

Initially, I thought that the shelter-in-place restrictions were unnecessarily severe. Even though I got my worst grades in science classes, I am a person who believes in science. I trust what the epidemiologists and enlightened pro-science government officials are saying.

I can certainly understand Bill’s mother’s rationale for suggesting that he stay in one place, and I believe that it is the most reasonable response to the current crisis, especially considering that she is in an age group that is at high risk.

She’s the one who needs him now. I love and I need him in a very different way, of course. If nothing else, it seems like her 90-year-old brain has a good understanding of the severity of the situation, which I find to be indicative of her mental acuity.

I support his spending every night there, as a means of showing her his seriousness about caring for her.

I can’t imagine that Bill would ever say, “Okay, Mom, if that’s what you want, I will stay there with Jay.” That’s not him. She should be his first priority.

At 72, I can fend for myself. Even though I am staying home most of the time, I continue to exercise by walking for up to two hours each day. I can easily get the food that I need so that I can cook my own meals.

I recognize the need to be patient through this pandemic — not only for our own health, but for the health of everyone around us. I am Bill’s elder by fifteen years. In the natural order of things, my time will come soon enough for him to cater to my daily needs.

Retired teacher (San Francisco, 1969–2003); Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mauritania, 2003–2005); public speaker, artist, writer, world citizen & traveler

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