Children of doctors and nurses have kept anguished journals, written parents goodbye letters and created detailed plans in case they never see their moms or dads again/
By John Woodrow Cox*/
A month had passed since the first-grader last saw her dad, and her mom hadn’t stopped by in nearly a week, but now, from the kitchen, she heard a tapping on the front window. Tamina Tracy looked over, and when she saw the woman in a blue surgical mask standing outside the Northwest Washington rowhouse, the girl’s hazel eyes widened.
“Mama! My mama is here!” said Tamina, 6, as she hopped into the air and sprinted barefoot toward the door, her pigtails bouncing.
She wasn’t expecting her mother, Leah Lujan, that April Saturday. When her parents, both nurse practitioners, started treating patients with a scary new virus, they’d sent Tamina to live with her cousins. Her dad, Jimmy Tracy, also left their Adams Morgan home, moving into a relative’s empty apartment. Tamina didn’t know he’d developed a fever a few days later or that her parents feared he had the virus until his test came back negative, allowing her mother to visit the day before Easter.
Tamina, an only child, had struggled with the move, at times finding the separation unbearable, so they didn’t tell her Jimmy was sick. She understood it could happen, though. Before schools closed, a classmate explained that everyone who gets infected with the coronavirus dies. Then she overheard her parents talking about how they both expected to catch it, and she thought that meant they would die, too.
No, Leah told her daughter. That wasn’t true. Most people who get sick recover. But Leah didn’t lie, either. Some people, she acknowledged, do not make it.
That terrified Tamina, one of thousands of children across the country who have suddenly confronted the possibility that their parents’ jobs — to care for the ill — could cost them their lives. Already, more than 9,200 health-care workers have tested positive for covid-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness has killed at least 27 of them, the CDC says, but the true number is much higher. National Nurses United found that more than 50 registered nurses, alone, have died.
Some health-care workers have moved away from their families, and many others have isolated in spare bedrooms or basements, trying to explain to their kids that they can no longer hug them because the consequences of even a single touch could be dire.
Most of all, parents have wrestled with how much to divulge, because what their children do and don’t know about the pandemic could consume them. In many cases, it already has: Kids have endured nightmares and recorded their anguish in journals, written parents goodbye letters and created detailed plans of what they’ll do in case they never see their mom or dad again.
Tamina’s anxiety seldom relented. Nearly every time her mother visited, the girl asked the same questions.
“When can I come home?”
“Why can’t daddy be here, too?”
“When is this going to be over?”
This time, though, Tamina was distracted.
“I brought you all kinds of stuff,” Leah said as she opened a shopping bag packed with toys and clothes.(*The Washington Post)