You Are My Sunshine
Cool gusts of feverish heat rushed up and down my spine as I lay in bed next to my mother. Untouched chicken noodle soup, empty Tylenol bottles, and copious amounts of water and Gatorade lie atop the bedside table next to me. Growing up, it was not the thick, pink liquid medicines that healed me from the inevitable fevers and stomach bugs of childhood; it was my mother. And although she knew she was never any good at singing, there was no illness that her hum to the melody of “You Are My Sunshine” could not heal. It was with this lullaby, the delicate caress of my hair, and the presence of my mother that I overcame countless illnesses and bad days. I am my mother’s sunshine, and she is mine. And, when she tested positive for COVID-19, I longed for nothing less than to be with her and nurse her back to health with my own hum to the melody of the lullaby we once called ours.
The day began bright and sunny, but as rain clouds filled the sky, the storm of the virus soon came between my sunshine and I. With three negative COVID tests belonging to my father, brother, and I, and the fourth positive test, belonging to my mother, bewilderment filled the air of our home. For the first time, there was no amount of “You Are My Sunshine” or icky, pink, metallic medicine that could heal my mother. As my mother was separated from us to fight her illness alone, my father, brother, and I became overwhelmed with feelings of uselessness.
At the time, my mother was only 47 years old and with no underlying health conditions. According to the CDC, she was not at risk for contracting the virus, and vaccines were just approved and beginning administration around the time my mother started to show symptoms. She tested positive on Saturday, March 6th, although the vaccinations became available to her social group the following Monday. My mother’s employment as an early interventionist social worker allowed her to obtain the vaccination earlier in the pandemic due to her role as an essential worker. Nonetheless, it was unfortunate that she contracted the virus only two days before she was able to be vaccinated.
To this day, from whom my mother contracted the virus remains unknown. And although she was an avid mask-wearer, before her experience with Coronavirus, she was stubbornly averse to receiving the vaccine. Not because she ignorantly advocated in favor of anti-mask conspiracies, but because she was conscientious in her ways by patiently awaiting the discovery of long-term side effects to the vaccination. Yet, of course, the severity of her experience with the virus was frightening enough to kindle a change of mind in which she eventually received the vaccine.
A simple sore throat and faint fever caused my mother to turn in early on the night of Friday, March 5th. As she supposed the following morning would bring a sense of refreshment and rejuvenation, her symptoms only seemed to worsen overnight. On the morning of Saturday, March 6th, my mother woke up feeling more feverish and ill than the night before. A lurking intuition then provoked her to get tested for the virus. And as anticipated, my mother’s test results were positive. Following this disclosure, my mother made the selfless decision to immediately leave the comfort of her home to go into isolation at my nana’s house, who happened to be in West Virginia on a 3-month vacation visiting her son. Despite the continual setbacks my family faced throughout this experience, the vacancy of nana’s house acted as the silver lining to our plot. My mother’s selfless choice in isolating herself entirely from her family to eliminate the risk of exposure toward my 50-year-old father, 9-year-old brother, and I, was yet another instance in which my mother proved her selflessness. In times like these, I felt guilty and wished only to nurse my mother back to health by humming to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” and delicately caressing her hair, as she once did for me. Instead, my mother spent that Saturday to the following Monday, March 15th, confined by the walls of one of her childhood homes as her case of COVID-19 worsened.
For my mother, this isolative time spent tainted the bliss of her childhood memories with a bleak and melancholy tone of malady. Happy childhood memories danced around my mother in feverish hallucinations, taunting her with the overbearing thought that the walls were beginning to close in upon her. One painting, in particular, hung above the bed in which my mother battled her virus symptoms in yearning for rest. The artwork pictured an older woman sitting alone in a rocking chair, and for my mother, the art came to symbolize her lonesome and solitary stance. The once freshly painted, blue-gray walls surrounding this photograph furthermore came to portray the complexion of the sky before a storm by embodying the virus which withheld my mother from her sunshine and I from her.
On the evening of Friday, March 12th, my sunshine called me in a breathless whisper and gave life to my worst nightmare. The fever had left my mother in a delirious state draining any lingering energy within her system. She was weak and unable to care for herself. My mother felt as if the storm of the virus had become too belligerent to handle and began to cry as she admitted that she needed to call an ambulance. Immediately, my heart dropped, and along with the EMTs, I rushed over to nana’s house. Until then, that house held copious bright and cheery memories, only to now remind me of the virus. I arrived shortly after the ambulance, only to stand in the driveway and forced to watch as the storm of the virus ambushed my sunshine. After checking her vitals, one EMT returned to the driveway to rescue me from my own perceptualized imagination of hell. It was not until this moment that the harsh realization set in that there was absolutely nothing they, nor I, could do to help my mother recover. I began to feel more helpless and useless than ever before.
As the ambulance pulled out of the driveway, I was quickly overwhelmed with a desolate tone of defeat. Nonetheless, I masked this emotion with strength for my mother. I remained with my feet glued to the driveway and talked to my mother through the phone as she no longer could walk to the front door and shout across the lawn. She told me that she already felt better knowing that the EMTs had examined her, yet, knowing my mother, she only said this to convince me not to worry. In return for my inability to nurse her back to health with my hum to the melody of our lullaby and the gentle caress of her hair, I presented her with NyQuil severe and a chocolate milkshake from Chick-Fil-A with no whip cream – just the way she liked it. These remedies worked to calm the storm temporarily, yet on the evening of Monday, March 15th, only three days later, again, the storm became too much for my sunshine to handle. She called the ambulance once more, claiming that she could not breathe.
Around 7 o’clock on Monday, March 15th, my mother was taken by ambulance and admitted to Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital, where she resided until that Friday. Nurses and doctors discovered that the virus had caused my mother to develop a severe case of pneumonia. In response, admission to the ICU to restore her oxygen levels threatened her recovery. Due to her worsening pneumonia, my mother’s oxygen levels dropped below 60%, more than 35% below the healthy level. Fortunately, my mother displayed promising signs of recovery, which minimized the urge to be admitted into the ICU. To my sunshine, the hospital withheld an even more somber tone. As she was allowed absolutely no visitors, social interaction for my mother came in random spurts of doctors and nurses who would rush in to check her vital signs and rush out to the next patient. My connection with my sunshine now relied solely on brief phone calls in which the dings and beeps of medical equipment masked the voice of my mother. Her time in the hospital was bittersweet in that it allowed her to seize rest, but my sunshine felt more secluded than ever before. Nonetheless, my mother persisted, and in her hallucinations of lingering fever, the doctors dressed in contamination suits came to symbolize astronauts working to clear the storm of the virus from between my sunshine and I. Eventually, with the help of fluids given intravenously, fever reducers, and breathing techniques administered by the hospital staff, my sunshine was deemed healthy enough to return home.
As the storm had now lasted for two weeks, it was finally safe to reunite with my sunshine. My mother returned home on the afternoon of Friday, March 19th, and although her time at the hospital was over, her time in recovery was only beginning. Close to bedridden, my mother slowly but surely regained her strength. In many ways, my sunshine’s return to home symbolized the rainbow at the end of the storm, which in itself condoned the return of normalcy within the Brewer household. My mother returned to her work approximately one month after her contraction of the virus.
To the present day, which coincidentally is approximately one year later, my mother continues to experience the long-term Coronavirus side-effects of no taste, no smell, substantial hair loss, and a weakened respiratory system. Not only did the virus age my mother, but it also robbed us of time spent together that I will forever long to regain. In addition, the hospital bill summed up to a total of $28,000. Though, the care funds provided to my mother through her insurance covered the entirety of the expenses. Without these funds, my mother would have had virtually no way to pay the costs of her care, and the socioeconomic class in which my mother identifies would have stunted the means of her recovery.
Therein, the storm of the virus not only allocated physical illness upon my mother, but it also challenged her psychological stamina through an extended period of isolation. The bittersweetness following my mother’s experience with Coronavirus entails that her story ended rather joyfully in comparison to the experiences of others. Hence the importance of complying with COVID-19 precautions to curtail the virus in its entirety. Because, when my sunshine tested positive for COVID-19, I longed for nothing less than to be with her and nurse her back to health with my own hum to the melody of the lullaby we once called ours.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.