Joanne and Phil Farrington take a break from cutting kindling wood in their backyard in Temple in November 2016. Karen Kreworuka/Sun Journal

As I carried shopping bags into my parents’ garage, I heard the door to the kitchen open and I saw my father emerge.

“You aren’t supposed to be out here,” I said.

“Six feet,” he said.

He looked disheveled, tufts of silver hair sticking up, his limp pronounced as he moved down the steps.

I had brought flour, ground cinnamon, bleach, and of course, toilet paper, to the home in Temple where my parents, both almost 84, are sheltering in place to avoid being infected with the COVID-19 respiratory virus.

It’s a big concern because my mother has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which means her lungs are not healthy.

On this chilly afternoon, she was napping. She’d been up all night, my father said.

He had called me a few days before, his voice laced with panic.

“How can this happen? Why isn’t the government .. . ? Does anyone know what to do?”

I knew these were rhetorical questions when he didn’t wait for me to answer.

“And why are people telling Trump not to call it a Chinese virus? Isn’t that where it started?” he said.

“Dad,” I said. “It’s because some people are going out and beating up people they think are Chinese.”

“It’s not their fault,” he said. “Why would people do that?”

I said some people are stupid.

“I’d say so,” he said.

He said he was worried about my brother, a welder at Bath Iron Works, where an employee had tested positive for the virus.

There’s no way my brother could follow the social-distancing recommendation of staying 6 feet from others. He rides to work in a van with seven other shipyard workers.

I tried to reassure my father, but how could I? I was worried, too.

Eventually, my folks settled into a routine of hunkering down. They played dominoes, chose bright pencils to work on their adult coloring books, baked bread and napped.

“We found a couple of ‘Indiana Jones’ movies,” my father said last week with what sounded like relief.

By the end of last week, my father was bored. Anything on TV? I asked.

“Bunch of junk,” he said.

My mother was more upbeat. She’s a homebody, anyway. Not bored at all, she said.

But they both dearly miss Celtics’ games. They miss visitors, for whom they would always have a homemade cake or other baked goods to serve with afternoon tea.

They miss their “kids.” That’s what they call their seven children and 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

We miss them, too.

We worry.

We wait.

In the garage that day after I delivered groceries, my father stretched out his arm to hand me an envelope of cash. I stretched an arm toward him and took the envelope by the very edge. He insisted on paying me too much for the few things I’d bought. We surely were closer than 6 feet apart — I’m 5-foot-2 and he has shrunk a bit from 5-11 — but it felt like an abyss.

I wanted a dad hug.

I wanted to see my mother’s twinkly smile and kiss her cheek.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: