Tearful reunions mark second Mother's Day under pandemic
Leland Stein, left, takes a photo with his mother Sondra Green in her apartment in New York on April 26, 2018. The two are reuniting in person for Mother’s Day as vaccinations have made families feel more comfortable gathering for the holiday. (Leland Stein via AP)
Cladia Lauer, Michelle Liu And Ed White, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 9, 2021 1:44PM EDT
Last Mother's Day, they celebrated with bacon and eggs over FaceTime. This time, Jean Codianni of Los Angeles flew to New Jersey to surprise her 74-year-old mother, now that both have been vaccinated against the disease that has stolen uncountable hugs and kisses around the world.
“You forget how your mom smells, how she looks. It's like, she never looks as beautiful as the last time you saw her,” Codianni said. “We understand how privileged we are, how lucky we are. Hundreds of thousands of people don't get to celebrate Mother's Day, or are celebrating it under a veil of grief.”
Joyous reunions among vaccinated parents and children across the country marked this year's Mother's Day, the second one celebrated during the coronavirus pandemic. Some families separated by worries of transmitting the virus saw each other for the first time in more than a year, emboldened by their vaccinations, as many others grieved for mothers lost to the virus.
For Pam Grimes, Mother's Day last year remains a fuzzy yet “scary and depressing” memory, blurred together with the rest of the pandemic's early months. In contrast, when her vaccinated adult grandchildren gathered at her Panama City, Florida, home to celebrate this year, they hugged and laughed and teased each other.
“The whole world felt better,” Grimes said.
Historian Andy Verhoff didn't see his mother for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's. But for Mother's Day, he drove from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to spend a day in rural Putnam County, Ohio with her, stopping at the first historical marker they'd worked on together. Both mother and son were vaccinated, giving them the confidence to take their masks off - which made it feel like a normal, pre-pandemic day, Verhoff said.
“We never let the mask get in the way of things,” Verhoff said. “It was just nice to not have my glasses fog up.”
Some long-term care facilities across the country prepared for the special day by facilitating in-person visits, especially as some states have relaxed visitation rules in recent months given rising vaccination rates and dropping case numbers.
In suburban Detroit, residents with dementia at Addington Place lately have been allowed to see visitors in person. But the big change Sunday was their ability to leave for a special meal with family members and return without being quarantined. Moms were also receiving roses from staff.
“Residents can feel the energy now that families are coming in,” said Kelley Fulkerson, business office manager at Addington in Northville. “There is excitement among staff - and tears and excitement among families waiting to see loved ones.”
St. Joseph of Harahan - an assisted living facility in Harahan, Louisiana - held a parking lot parade Friday with dozens of cars honking and family members yelling well wishes for Mother's Day.
Residents in masks sat behind caution tape and waved to loved ones whom they had waited to see for more than a year in some cases. Workers passed out balloons and flowers.
Cathedral Village, a nursing home and rehabilitation centre in Philadelphia, was spacing out weekend visits for Mother's Day, said supervisor Hannah Han. Social workers were helping some families that wanted to take people home to celebrate. Visits in private rooms required masks and gowns.
Mary Daniel, who last year took a job as a dishwasher so she could see her husband at a long-term care facility in Jacksonville, Florida, said holidays are important to maintain traditions with family. She said spouses and others should be recognized as essential caregivers who offer emotional support and be allowed inside.
“We are seeing progress with people being allowed to see loved ones and visit or take them home for holidays, but we are still seeing individual facilities who refuse to follow the federal guidance on allowing visits,” said Daniel, who started a group called Caregivers for Compromise-Because Isolation Kills Too.
Still, the virus limited the holiday this year for Winslow Swan, who served as his 83-year-old mother's primary caretaker in Ellijay, Georgia, until last year, when health troubles forced him to move her into a nursing home in town during the middle of the pandemic.
New COVID-19 cases in the past month has led to the facility to tighten its visitation restrictions, and Swan likely won't see his mother for this year's holiday, though he has considered an impromptu window visit.
“It's sad,” he said. “I know the room that's she's in and there is a possibility that I can find her and see her through the window.”