When my daughter Simone called and told us that she was planning to return to Milwaukee, my wife and I became ecstatic. Several years earlier, my daughter, eager for a big city experience, moved to Chicago. We worried about her and would drive down to Chicago monthly to visit with her.
During her phone call, she explained that she thought this was the right time to return to Milwaukee because her parents were aging and were going to need her help. I was amused to hear her logic because, while my wife, Bonnie, and I are in our mid-70s, we are reasonably healthy, active and independent. Although I thought her offer to help was premature, I knew it was going to be wonderful to have her around. I appreciated her desire “to be there for us.” In olden times, I might cite the commandment “Honor Thy Parents.” Either way, I certainly was not going to miss those long Sunday trips to Chicago.
Soon after, my daughter and her fiancée, Max, rented a pleasant residence just north of Brady Street, and a short jaunt up Humboldt Boulevard to the house where we live and where Simone grew up. Those first few months of our reuniting were very pleasant, filled with good meals followed by animated card playing. It was a period of happiness for all four of us
Then the pandemic hit and life as we knew it changed. My daughter, concerned about our vulnerability, had discovered a new mission: to keep her parents alive. She wanted us to remain in our home and she would do all the running around doing our errands. Our only chore was to prepare a weekly shopping list for her so she could order our groceries, have them delivered to her home, would sanitize them and then deliver them to us.
One day, Bonnie and I went to Estabrook Park to pay a visit to a geese family with seven newly born goslings. When Simone visited us, we told her how beautiful the goslings were and what great parents the mom and dad were as they escorted their babies around the pond. Simone was not enchanted by our tale.
Instead, she asked us how many people were there and how close did we stand next to them. She asked if we had worn our masks the entire time we were there. From our answers, she concluded that we had acted irresponsibly, behaving as if there was no pandemic. As she was heading down the steps of our house, she turned back to us and said, “If I find out you went back there, I will come to the house and take away your car keys.”
Bewildered, I said to my wife “Can she really do that?”
Several months later, perhaps in June, I received a phone call from a friend who invited us to his backyard to celebrate his birthday. He assured us that there would only be a few friends there and there would be appropriate social distancing. Being isolated throughout the pandemic, we were eager to meet up socially with our old friends. It turned out to be an enjoyable morning without incident. After the presents were opened, we headed to our car and started the drive home. We agreed it would be best not to mention the party to Simone. It was obvious to us that she would not be able to handle it.
Very shortly after we returned home, the dreaded call came. Simone said she had tried to reach us several times that morning and wanted to know where we had been. I made up a story that her mother and I took a ride to Holy Hill. Simone had told us previously that it was OK for us to go for a long drive, on the condition that we stayed in the car.
As I handed the phone to my wife, I felt I had done well in misrepresenting our whereabouts. Bonnie validated that we took a ride into the country but for some reason felt compelled to add that on the way to the highway we dropped off a birthday gift on a friend’s porch. This was all the opening that Simone needed to discredit our alibi. Like a shrewd prosecutor, she forced us to admit that our story was a pack of lies. Lies meant to deceive her.
At this point, Bonnie and I were feeling very defensive and defeated. We pleaded our case that we had been careful and she had nothing to worry about. Simone raged and called us a pair of “sneaks.” She said we were acting like rebellious teenagers.
Now she had gone too far, and Bonnie and I knew it. We looked at each other in joint recognition. Simone’s teenage years had been spent battling her parents, teachers and school administrators. It was she who had been an irresponsible teenager – not us. Somehow due to this pandemic, as the expression goes, the shoe was now on the other foot.
Simone somehow has morphed into being our parents and Bonnie and I have morphed into her teenage children. As William Bendix used to say comically many years ago on his television series, “What a revolting development!”
Each night before I go to bed, I pray for the end of the pandemic and a speedy return to normal life. Simone assures us that once the virus is contained, she will gladly return to being a lovely daughter.