A year ago, I was really scared.
Not scared like I was when Shawn was sick, or scared like I was after he died. Not like that. But not unlike that, either. My dad had left DC at the beginning of the pandemic and I was in lockdown with my kids. In those early days, I had no idea what the future held, but I knew one thing: I was alone.
I wasn’t truly alone, of course, because I had friends and family who checked in on us, and modern technology that allowed me to continue teaching during the day and see my dad via FaceTime every night as I made dinner. But I was still scared, because I couldn’t plan for whatever was to come.
I also couldn’t go to the grocery store. I know, I could have ordered groceries, but it was all so overwhelming in those days and I couldn’t figure it all out. (This feels silly to say now, but it’s the truth.) I knew people were suffering far worse than me (remember, my sister was working with few breaks as an ER nurse) and I tried to keep it all in perspective. I thought, “we’re all in this together, so I need to just stop whining, leave the kids at home and go to the grocery store.”
So I did, leaving Claire in charge of her brothers. About 15 minutes after I left, she called me. I was in line outside the grocery store (remember that?) She wanted to know when I was coming home, and it was clear that she was worried about being in charge. Of course she was! She was ten years old and there was this scary pandemic and she wasn’t allowed to leave the house and the only adult that was still around wasn’t actually there with her. She called me no less than a half-dozen times during that trip.
A week later, I got an email from a woman at my church. Did I need help with getting groceries? I wrote a whole blog post about this, so I won’t reiterate it all here, but here’s the basics: “Yes!” I admitted, I did need help. I felt super guilty about accepting the help, as I was sure there were seniors or other immunocompromised people who needed the help more than me. She reassured me that there were plenty of people who wanted to help. So I took her up on it.
She helped me a lot. I let other people deliver groceries intermittently to us until the summer, when Chris was a more permanent part of our household. Later, I would see this woman walking in the neighborhood and think, “I should stop and tell her how much it meant to me that she helped me in those early days of the pandemic.” But I never did.
I said “thank you” each time she brought me groceries, or arranged for someone else to do it. I always paid her back. But she also always slipped in an extra container of ice cream or a roll of paper towels that wasn’t on the receipt, and she also made sure to text me just to see how I was holding up. I never did the same to her. I was too focused on my own family to do much more than be cordial, and send a single text of thanks each time she reached out.
But now it’s a year later, and I can look back and really remember what she did. How she supported not just me but likely dozens of other people we knew. How when I mentioned I had a friend who was also a single mom and needed help, she reached out and helped my friend, too. How she did such acts of service, with no need for a thank you in return.
It’s way too late in coming, but I want to say it now: thank you.
Thank you, not just for the groceries, but also for the care and concern. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for letting me focus on my kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Sorry this note is late. But since I’d say this to my kids, I’ll say it to myself, now: it’s never too late to say “thank you.”