“We do not think of it every day, but we never forget it: the beloved shall grow old, or ill, and be taken away finally. No matter how ferociously we fight, how tenderly we love, how bitterly we argue, how pervasively we berate the universe, how cunningly we hide, this is what shall happen.”
― Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

I traveled to see my family during shelter-in-place policies.

On the wings of a growing depression born from distance from those I love most, and with my husband’s blessing, I boarded a plane and flew from Denver to Boston. I didn’t tell many people, only sharing the trip with most trusted family members and friends. The world feels hostile and judgmental right now and I knew my fragile mental health couldn’t deal with negative attention. Not now.

So in May, I did what many people would consider unthinkable, selfish, foolish, or silly. I jumped on a plane.

Before the decision was made, I checked with my children to be sure they were okay with my visit and felt the risk was worth it. Though they encouraged me to come, I continued to agonize about the decision for the days, and endless hours that led up to my departure. “Was I being selfish? Would I be exposing myself or my children to the virus? Would they expose me?”

Was this the right thing to do?

What a horrible, dreadful emotion; the guilt over a deep, driving need to see my children.

I cried. I lost sleep. And then, I got on a plane and went.

One of the biggest pushes to go came from a growing awareness that this virus would most likely be with us for a long time, and though I didn’t want to get sick or make anyone else sick, the bigger fear was not seeing my family, and especially my granddaughter who was changing daily. We FaceTimed almost daily, texted, and my daughters sent videos and pictures, but when most of my days began with shoulder shaking sobs, I knew I was trying to reason my way out of an impossible situation.

I had to give myself permission, like so many other periods in my life, permission to do what was right for me. Waiting for my choice to be all right for others had never served me.

Who knew what the future would hold? All I knew was that hiding for a year or more in my home would not be living. I am not getting any younger. Time is my currency.

My flight was early in the morning. Before I left, I practiced wearing my mask around the house. I  learned that so long as I did not exert, speak or do both, the mask would be manageable for the 6 hours I would wear it. This was important because I have asthma and when I am stressed or anxious it gets worse, and sometimes I struggle to breathe.

The airport was absolutely empty. I was the only one in security and I joked with the agent saying, “You can’t see it, but I’m smiling behind this mask!” The train to my terminal had maybe five people on it. My gate was empty and about 30 minutes before we boarded we were told that our plane would have only eight travelers on it.

Travel is different now. There is no in-cabin service (not even water) so I brought my own food and drink. Further complicating this is that when I traveled in early May, nothing was open. I was glad I had my fill of coffee and had brought lots of snacks for the flight before we left the house.

Still it was surreal. When I landed in Logan, this alternate reality continued. I was met by a sign requesting that I quarantine for two weeks on arrival and then left the terminal, found my daughter waiting in a car outside, and in relief, took off my mask.

Breathing never felt so good.

When I returned to Denver, it was with a lightness of spirit and a strengthened ability to cope. Life had hope again despite this dreadful illness and the uncertainty. As they always do, my granddaughter and daughters provided exactly what I needed.

A life adventure.