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Modern Love: My Unlikely Pandemic Dream Partner

  • January 22, 2021

At first, I balked at her sadness and the collapse of my adult autonomy. My mother had replaced my first caregiver, Abby, a friend and healer from New England, who tended to me like a child before and after surgery.

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My mother wasn’t bright-eyed like Abby — yet. Her eyes were heavy. My father had died suddenly only a few months earlier, and she carried a broken heart from room to room like a backpack. I felt bad for needing her and guilty about all the work she had to do to care for me. She already had so much on her plate.

When I bathed for the first time after surgery, I grew faint at the sight of my stitches and started yelling. I expected my mother to zone out, but she rushed in with a stool for my knee and sat down at the foot of the tub, iced coffee in hand. Seeing her there, sitting with me, naked on a trash-bag covered chair, as if it were normal, I began to notice and appreciate how much she loved me.

I was struck by her simple acts of devotion. I had to trust her to lift my leg and help me from bed to crutches to the bathroom, every single time. I had to depend on her to carry my things from room to room, to find my clothes, to feed me. She made eggs and toast and matzo brei, learned how I liked my tea, made my bed and washed my clothes.

I hadn’t let anyone this close to me in years. She was becoming my dream partner.

A food writer, my mother went in cycles testing recipes. She cooked Dutch baby pancakes for a week, was strangely exuberant about her warm homemade hummus another, and made and remade several versions of Iraqi Jewish mujadara, a dish served to mourners, made with lentils, caramelized onions, and rice or bulgur.

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