Love in the Time of Corona
In January, my parents left for China to spend Lunar New Year with their respective families. My mom headed home to Beijing; my dad went back to Nanchang. They had no idea at the time that they would be separated for the next 46 days…the last time they’d been apart for this long was back in 2002, when my dad took me to China alone for six weeks.
PART I: SEPARATION
Around February was when the severity of Coronavirus started to take shape and news of the outbreak turned into a global concern. Neither of my parents got to celebrate a real Chinese New Year because they couldn’t even venture outside of their apartment. Visiting friends, eating out, and walking around the neighborhood were all out of the question. Everywhere was a ghost town.
My parents had planned to fly back to the US in a few weeks, but suddenly returning flights were getting cancelled left and right. Since my dad was on sabbatical and had to take care of his elderly parents, he chose to stay. My mother, unable to take more time off work, changed her flight home to February 4th.
At the time, I was on a girls’ trip in Mexico drinking Corona beers and had no idea how fast Corona the virus was spreading. It wasn’t until I returned to LA that I found out Dad was stuck in China indefinitely.
“He’s basically on house arrest and can’t exercise, so we have to do our workouts over FaceTime,” my mom explained. (Haha…priorities, I guess).
Propping her iPhone on a table or chair, Ma showed me how she’d play her aerobics video, while Ba tried to follow along. Sometimes because he was focusing so hard on mirroring her moves, he’d teeter and almost topple over, prompting all of us to start laughing.
PART II: TRANSPORTATION
My father finally hopped on a plane back to Seattle on March 8th. This was after he changed his flight multiple times, including a layover in South Korea, where COVID-19 had been growing exponentially.
Upon arrival at SeaTac airport, Dad was to be greeted by my mom, our family friend, and two cars: The first vehicle was operated by our family friend. The second was swiftly turned over to my father so he could drive home solo. (Poor guy was officially in quarantine mode and couldn’t even ride back home with his wife!).
When my dad finally stepped out of the terminal, Mom kept a safe distance away. Unable to embrace after being separated for two months, they could only snap quick selfies, each one turning to the side so the other could smile and wave eagerly from ten feet behind.
PART III: ISOLATION
Since my father had to self-quarantine for 2 weeks, Mom transformed their master bedroom into a bachelor pad—safely tucked away from the world, but well-stocked with tea, snacks, and even a small work table.
Every day, Dad would receive delicious meals at his door, each one neatly packaged and wrapped, room service style. Sometimes, a piping hot bowl of dumpling soup, other nights a whole steamed fish. Always, a dessert. 🍮
Without fail, I received a photo & recap of these fancy meals each time. However, I’d say my parents viewed their arrangement a little differently:
“I love having a live-in maid!” — Dad
“I’ve been busy cooking for the fugitive in my house.” — Mom
“I feel so pampered. Maybe I should pretend to be sick so I can get this special treatment a little longer.” — Dad
“Dad is like the man from Parasite. Except he lives upstairs.” — Mom
Nevertheless, even though their perspectives may have varied, my parents continued to enthusiastically use FaceTime as their primary method of communication. Every day, they talked, dined, and exercised together through their tiny phone screens.
A normal couple might find this kind of “tele-marriage” inconvenient and frustrating, but in my dad’s words, “it feels almost as if we’re dating again.”
One afternoon, after my mom got off work, she found my dad standing 10 yards from the bus station, patiently waiting for her. Then they walked home together.
He was 6 feet behind her the entire time.
I lost my shit when my mom told me this story. While other couples are divorcing in China due to “forced quarantining,” my parents have somehow managed to reignite their romance.
I’ve been in four relationships, and I’ve NEVER experienced a love like this.
Am I salty? Yes.
Am I worried I’ll be walking home alone forever? Absolutely.
All jokes (and unrealistic expectations about love) aside, I admire my parents for being so mindful and responsible during this trying time. Dad could’ve easily returned to his regular life when he came back to the US, but he chose to practice social distancing to the extreme. By playing it safe, they not only proved it’s possible to avoid human contact, but also it can even be (gasp!) fun to make the most out of an unideal situation.
Congrats Ma and Ba for conquering your 46-day long distance and 14-day short distance relationship.
Now the real question is: What happens after quarantine? ❤