Chapter One (March 17)

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Mom and I raced to the front door of the nursing home only to find the doors locked. Traci, one of our favorite nurses, came to the door with a surgical mask covering her face. "I'm so sorry, Stephanie. You can't come in to see your mom. I'll let her know you were here," Traci said, sadness filling her eyes.

"But we're fine," Mom explained. "We don't have a temperature or a cough."

Traci shook her head. "I'm sorry."

"Please," Mom begged, bursting into tears.

Shaking her head again, Traci repeated, "I'm so sorry."

Now, I was crying with Mom and put my arms around her. We stood there crying. Traci had started crying too and eventually walked away. "Come on," I said, taking Mom by the arm and leading her toward the parking lot. "I'll drive."

Mom just nodded numbly and let me lead her to the car. I opened the passenger door for her before I went around the car and got in the driver's seat. Mom handed me her keys and took tissues out of her purse and gave me one. I wiped my face before adjusting the seat and rearview mirror. I'm about two inches taller than Mom, so I always have to change everything when I drive after her.

I started the car and carefully backed out of our spot. Mom wiped her face and sat back so I could look past her to make sure there wasn't any traffic coming from the right. Once I was on the main road, Mom dropped her head and started crying again. When I stopped for a traffic light, I reached over and stroked her shoulder. I would never have thought I'd be the strong one in this situation, but who would have dreamed we would get locked out of the nursing home.

Grandma Tremmel developed signs of Alzheimer's about six years ago. She was only sixty at the time. Mom and Dad worked hard to keep her in her own apartment for as long as they could, but we all knew she would eventually have to come live with us.

Two years ago, I made the sacrifice to give up my room for Grandma. She'd left her apartment one day and went on a walk. It took two days to find her. Fortunately, she'd wandered over to the house she'd shared with Grandpa Tremmel until he'd died suddenly of a heart attack at sixty-one-years old. The couple who bought the house took Grandma in and called the police to let them know where she was. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal, except the house was twenty miles from town, and Grandma had kept walking until she got there because she was certain Grandpa was there waiting for her.

Putting Grandma in the nursing home had not been part of the plan until Grandma crawled out of my bedroom window, fell, and broke her hip. She'd been sneaking off to meet Grandpa, and she came really close to getting to be with him because she hit her head pretty hard on one of the rocks surrounding our house. Grandma's doctor insisted she go to a nursing facility until her hip healed. That was six months ago. Even though her hip has improved, and she is slowly walking better, the bump on her head seems to have accelerated her Alzheimer's.

Grandma doesn't know who either one of us is when we come to visit, which is killing my mother. Fortunately, she does get excited to see us when we visit every day at four o'clock, which we have done like clockwork ever since she had to go into the nursing home. Now, this stupid virus has put an end to our visits for at least the next two weeks.

"I can't believe this is happening," Mom says as she wipes at the tears flowing down her cheeks.

"I know," I agree. Just last week, life was normal. I was going to school every day. Mom was spending her days cleaning and running my brother, Ben, and me around after school to our different school events and the mall. Dad was driving his truck across the country and then coming home on the weekends. Now, Ben and I are basically being homeschooled, the mall is closed, and Dad is staying at a hotel on the weekend so he doesn't bring the virus he might be exposed to in his travels home to us.

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