Children of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley lay on couch together
Things That Suck

My Babies Are Here With Me

“Thank God my Dad is almost home,” I texted a friend late Wednesday night. A part of me had been worried that we overreacted when we decided he should leave DC and return to rural Oregon.

But then Wednesday night happened, and I was sure that I’d made the right call. No travel to Europe. The NBA suspends its season. Tom Hanks has coronavirus. My phone lit up so many times in the hour after I put my boys to bed, I almost couldn’t process it.

I knew I had to remain calm, but nothing about the past 48 hours had felt calm. My school was closed for cleaning and I was supposed to come up with a distance learning plan “just in case.” We made the decision for my dad to leave and then had to get him ready to go. I cancelled my spring break trip and took another inventory of the pantry.

On Tuesday, I went out to the cemetery. I’m not sure why I did it, but I just felt compelled to be there. I told my dad I was going on a final Costco run, and that was true, but really, I just wanted to be somewhere that felt close to Shawn.

It was rainy, and I went to Shawn’s grave. There was no one around, and I sat there for a long time, thinking about what Shawn would say about the world today. Eventually, I got up and walked around for a bit, but then for some reason, I came back to his grave. I put both my hands on the headstone and sobbed. I thought about everything that was weighing on me.

“What am I supposed to do?” I actually said out loud. There was silence. I could hear only the faint rustling of the leaves on the trees.

I waited until the tears subsided, and then I got back in my car. I went to Costco, though I wore gloves when I was there. It was overly cautious to do so, and a few people looked at me like I was crazy. But my dad was still in the house, and I wasn’t taking chances.

That night, my boys went over to play with their friend Grant at his house. When I came to get them, I told Grant’s parents Mark and Chris that my dad was leaving early. They wanted to know how they could help. What was my plan for the next few weeks?

“I’m just worried about if I get sick,” I said. “The kids are likely to be okay. But how would I care for them if I was sick?”

“You send them here,” Mark said. “We never get sick. And if we do, there are two of us.”

I nodded. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he said. “We’ll take care of you too. Chris can take the boys. I’ve got you.”

I smiled – one of the first genuine smiles I’d had that day. A bit of relief can do that to you, I suppose.

Wednesday was just as wild as Tuesday, filled with a thousand emails and potential distance-learning planning and prepping for my dad to leave that afternoon. Really, I was proud at how well I held it together. Claire picked up her brothers from school, and when I got home, she was in the kitchen loading the dishwasher and listening to her grandfather’s favorite singer, Gordon Lightfoot.

“I made Austin do his homework and now he is reading to Tommy upstairs,” she said. “Grandpa Tom left us cookies that he made, so we ate those, and now I’m cleaning up. Did I do a good job, mama?”

I almost burst into tears right there. I went over and hugged her. “You are my little helper!” I said. “I appreciate everything you did this afternoon. We are really working as a team!” She smiled at me. I’m sure she was glad to see me genuinely happy.

My friends Becky and Michelle came over for dinner and I went through the laundry list of things that I was trying to wrap my head around. “At least there are so many stressful things going on that I can’t focus on a single one!” I laughed. They spent a lot of time reassuring me that we’d all work together. It felt good to know I had them.

Eventually, everyone left and the boys went upstairs to change and watch a bit of TV. Claire laid on the couch, reading a book. I came over, and sat with her. “Baby,” I said, “I am going to try really hard not to get the coronavirus, but I want you to know the plan if I get sick.”

Her eyes were wide. I told her that she and her brothers would go to Chris and Mark’s house if I couldn’t care for them. She scrunched up her face as I was talking, and then said, “the boys can go, but I want to stay here with you. I’ll take care of you!”

I laughed, and partially relented. I figured we could decide on this sticking point later, if we needed to.

Then her eyes got really wide. “What if you die? What do we do then?”

“I’m not going to die,” I said. “I’m young and healthy and I’m being very careful.”

Her voice was small. “But dad was young and healthy and he died. What if that happens to you?”

“Dad had cancer,” I said. “And the type of cancer he had was a lot worse than the coronavirus. So you don’t need to worry.”

I mean, what else could I say?

I rubbed her back, and she went back to reading, somehow soothed by my response. I went upstairs and got everyone in bed. Austin read Tommy a story, and we turned out the lights. Downstairs, I let Claire keep reading for a few more minutes. The house was really still, and I could feel the anxiety coursing through my body. The future had so many unknowns.

But I have a plan in place, I thought. My dad is home. My friends are going to help me when I need it. My pantry is full, at least for the time being.

And my babies are here with me. Really, who cares about anything other than that?

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Paddy Murray

    Hi I’m Robyn Murray’s mom. I just visited Robyn in Victoria for a few days. I just flew back today to Ontario. There was no panic at the airports or on the planes, even when Trumps announcement showed up on the big tv.
    I didn’t even hear the usual occasional cough on planes. As a mother and grandmother, I say, dont panic, stay calm and take a big breath. You can and will do this. Take care.

      • Bastiaan

        I will never feel “completely” alone because of my kids. But the burden of making sure you provide comfort, stability and consistent love with all you have been through makes you extraordinary.