A Covid Christmas
Let me tell you the story of why I hate my aunt, my only living close family member, and how I got Covid 19.
I got priced and bad roommate-d out of Los Angeles. I was forced, after being pushed out of my home, by my psycho ex-boyfriend, the replacement place that I found in Silverlake, by a gently deteriorating massage therapist with a giant old house who kept raising my rent, and by a PR agent for PETA and her bartender boyfriend who decided that they wanted me out so they could move one of their friends in after they got turned down for a house, to move back home and into my Aunt Sandra’s house. That is the only time I’ll call her that, she’s just Sandra to me now and if I found her on fire on the street, I’d put her out with gasoline.
Her attitude was the classic “My house, my rules”. I didn’t feel particularly welcome, but I tried to do what I could while trying to recover from nearly committing passive suicide through aspirin due to my ex-boyfriend being a psycho piece of shit. I found out, as usual, that she didn’t care a thing about me, but wanted a maid and a cook and baker (just like my psycho ex-boyfriend) and that that was the only way that I could keep her happy. Had I spent all my time cleaning the house and baking and cooking classic French food for her, she might not have done what she did. Oh, who am I kidding, she’s always hated me, because she hated my father (can’t really blame her for that), but I’m the one she could be mean to because he’s dead. Being mean to the dead is the one line her Catholicism won’t allow her to cross.
Being around her triggered me in every way possible and being in my hometown did the same thing. I had to keep cool and try to raise enough money to GTFO, but every time I nearly was there, I’d get socked by some expense. I didn’t want to be there and I suspected that she was going to try and throw me out on pretense when the pandemic happened.
I had been running myself ragged working brand ambassador jobs and driving all over Southern California. The catch with Brand Ambassador work is that it frequently paid well, but the hours were short. You have to do a shitload of gigs all over the area to ever break even. Then you have to do reporting and look for more gigs constantly. You’re never not working. One thing about that job that kept Sandra happy with me is the sample products that I brought home. As long as she could snarf whatever crap I brought home, it bought me some more time to try and bank some cash.
With the pandemic, everything I had scheduled was canceled. I decided to isolate since I had been doing audience work that had me in a crowd of people, some of whom were from Australia. I had been keeping an eye on the Covid situation in China and I didn’t like the look of it. Australia is a lot closer to Mainland China and I got word from my employer that I had been exposed by someone who was, you guessed it, from Australia. It felt that a disaster that was coming our way. I knew we were fucked, but I didn’t know exactly to what extent we were fucked and as it turned out my fears were both less than my wildest imaginings and worse than I had expected. We weren’t dumped into the world of The Stand with Captain Trips, but it was an entirely different nightmare that has not ended. I’m used to nightmares, so I’ve been able to coast through it relatively well. I was already practicing hand discipline, keeping myself from touching my face — a big no no during flu season that people haven’t really clued into for Covid protection, I made myself a mask and then started buying cloth masks in March, and I washed my hands constantly. I told my aunt that I would go out for supplies since I didn’t think it was safe for her and she agreed. She was scared then and listened to me.
Cut to November of 2020. All I hear from her is about how bored she is and why can’t she just go out to a couple of stores. I argued with her, telling her there was a surge going on but she didn’t listen. She had some cloth masks someone made her, but I’m fairly certain she didn’t bother to wear them. She told me a story about how she was out at a store and she felt like she couldn’t breathe so she wanted to rip her mask off because she couldn’t take it a minute longer. I think that was her way to admit that she wasn’t really bothering to wear a mask. So dramatic, but that was her tell, she gave me this drama filled story as an excuse to not feel bad about not wearing a mask outside. She also had people coming over to the house to bring her things who weren’t wearing masks either. Then she dropped the boom, she decided, without asking me what I wanted, that we were going over to my cousin Debbie’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving together and then Christmas the next month. Inwardly, I chuckled and thought, fuck no, that’s never going to happen and luckily, my back went out, so I had an excuse.
A day or two after Thanksgiving, I ended up having to talk to her, I had been avoiding her as much as possible after she started going out. She yelled at me to come into the living room and I had to go. I hadn’t started wearing masks yet because she hadn’t started showing symptoms, and I still curse myself out for it. A couple of days later, in early December, the symptoms started to show. She got worse and worse and predictably, she refused to get any treatment. So I stayed away from her and started masking inside the house. I made a Covid test appointment for a week later because there was a surge and that was the first appointment I could get. On December 14th, I think, she was in severe respiratory distress and demanded that I make her some eggs. I made them and did everything but use a stick to push them to her. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was in the grip of hypoxia. I did everything I could to convince her to see a doctor because it looked like she was about to croak. She finally got through to the doctor and listened. I knew it was Covid, but she was pretending that it wasn’t. Bad news, she demanded that I drive her to the fucking hospital in Fontana. That was 16.3 miles that I would have to sit in close quarters with someone who had a raging case of Covid. I double masked and told her to roll the windows down. Selfish as always, she insisted on rolling her windows up and yelled at me to roll my window up. Nothing doing. It was at that moment that I realized that she was entirely incapable of every thinking of me or my safety. She really didn’t give a shit and was willing to risk my life. It didn’t even matter to her, she never even considered calling an ambulance. I could do it and if I got it, who gives a shit? It was that moment when I realized she never loved me and was incapable of loving me. It’s not just that she hated me, to her, I didn’t matter. I really regret pushing her to call her doctor.
I waited for hours and I went home and got her a warm coat and blanket that she resented. A nurse made me push her into the tent to get her vitals and when I accidentally hit her with the wheelchair because I was trying to push a woman who weighs over three hundred pounds in a small space on grass, she got angry with me and Sandra yelled at me. Typical.
I decided I needed to leave.
I figured there was no point in waiting in the parking lot and I needed to eat. I knew she was probably getting admitted and on the off chance she wasn’t, she could wait for me to come and pick her up, but I doubted that would happen.
I went home and got the word. She was admitted and just waiting for a bed to open up. She had Covid and Covid pneumonia and was very sick. It would be a while before she got out. The only thing I felt was relief.
Since it was highly likely that I was infected, I went into isolation. I couldn’t leave the house for 14 days or until I got a negative result, which I thought was a slim possibility. The last time I went to the store, a week before, a couple kept getting closer and closer to me in line until I informed them that my aunt was sick, it might be Covid, and if they didn’t want it too that they should back off. They backed off. I wasn’t sick myself, but I knew even back then that just because you weren’t showing symptoms didn’t mean you were infectious. I only went to the store because Sandra insisted.
Once my family found out, I was answering calls all day. People were insisting that I sterilize the house, as if someone with an active Covid infection was somehow going to get re-infected if they came back to their own house. I’m sure they weren’t that concerned about me getting it. Then I got a call from the police. It seems one of her friends hadn’t gotten a call back and decided to call the police to do a welfare check. It had been a few days, I didn’t know who they were and I wasn’t answering her goddamn phone. But now, I had to field those calls too.
The nicest thing was that since she was at the hospital, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t constantly worrying about her yelling at me or her accusations. I wasn’t constantly worried about doing something that annoyed her like breathing. I knew at some point she was coming back, but the prospect of a Christmas without her felt great. She had recently thrown a can at my head and during the summer, she slapped me over the head. Normally, I don’t react well to people hitting me — it’s a great way to end up with my fist in your face, but she was my elderly relative and my last living close family, so I didn’t respond. But did I think that her death might not be a bad thing? Yes, I did. I still do by the way.
I got my test results on Christmas Eve and, of course, she gave it to me. She was already trying to pin the blame on me by insisting that I got it when I was doing errands, despite the fact that she developed symptoms well before I did.
At that point, I was pretty sure how this was going to play out. I ordered a Christmas dinner because I didn’t have the energy to cook and I couldn’t go into a store or get takeout. Then the calls started. She was calling me demanding to be picked up even though the hospital told me she hadn’t been released yet. I didn’t go to get her until I was ready and the doctor said she was released no matter how she screamed. I had already received her oxygenator and had started to set it up for her, but she needed to come home NOW. I had done some cleanup, but not in her bedroom or the areas she spent her time in. I had to watch her dogs as well and I left them in the family room and fed and watered them. They didn’t like it, but I’m not their mother. I brought her home and there was nothing but complaints. She could barely get a breath even with the oxygen tank they sent her home with and I was asked by the doctor to monitor her oxygen levels and temperature. They kicked her out of the hospital as quickly as they could because they needed the bed for the next person. Pre-pandemic, they never would have let her out. I had to support her so she could walk into the house.
I did my best, but she was resentful of me when I tried to make sure she ate breakfast and when I tried to get her vitals. She was angry and finally she screamed “Leave me the fuck alone! Get away from me!” with a level of anger that I actually hadn’t heard before. So I did. From that moment on, I stayed away from her and didn’t do anything for her unless directly asked. Remember that I was recovering from Covid myself and I was exhausted daily. She noticed that I had been eating soups that she had, since I couldn’t go out, and demanded that I replace them. She didn’t notice the roasts that I had made that came from her freezer. There I was, I had driven her to the hospital, picked her up, put up with her abuse, tried to take care of her, and she was nickel and diming me about soup. At the time, I hadn’t gotten my stimulus check and I was a little short on funds. I made the mistake for asking her for help.
She had been charging me rent starting two weeks after I had moved in. Even though I did whatever she asked, I had to pay her three hundred dollars a month when she knew I was working as much as possible to save up to leave. If she really wanted me out so badly, it would have been smarter to not charge me because then I could get out sooner. But that’s not really what she wanted. She wanted me to do everything for her, with a smile.
I asked her if it would be possible for her to forgive that month’s rent seeing as how I had done her a solid that saved her miserable life. That was a mistake. She started screaming at me, even more violently, which wasn’t a great idea because she still couldn’t breathe. Her eyes were bulging out of her head. She looked at me and in that second, I knew she wanted to hurl her portable phone in my face. There’s more viciousness that I could tell you, but I’ll spare you from it. She then informed me that she was throwing me out and that she was going to call the police to have them do it.
What she never understood was the rental code of California. The minute she started charging me rent, I had rights. In her delusional fantasies, she could throw me out whenever she liked and get the police to haul me out. At that point, I remembered a story that she had told me, about how one of her nieces had “stolen her car” and she had to call the police on her. Now, I understood what really happened. Sandra lent the car to Hannah all the time. It occurred to me that Hannah had done something to make her angry and she called the police and told them that she had stolen the car or decided that that was the official story. She had done this before.
She then proceeded to call police dispatch and admitted that she nearly threw the phone in my face, which is assault, to the police dispatcher. She’s that smart. I had to go outside and talk to the cops who genuinely had no interest in me or even being there. They asked a few questions, like if anyone was drinking, and left.
I looked it up later and found that Covid can sometimes cause people to erupt with anger, it’s called Covid psychosis, and I think that’s what happened. Her mental health and mind have been deteriorating for a while and I’ve noticed that Covid tends to exacerbate conditions you already have. I suspect that this was the case.
After that, she got nothing from me. I didn’t speak to her. When I did, I told her I was leaving and told her to leave me alone so I could do just that. I proceeded to find a job and a new place and that was it. When I was moving my things, I managed to move most of my stuff without her noticing, she started plaintively asking me if I needed any supplies. Just to get her off my back, I told her a few things and I figured I could just throw the junk that she was likely to give me in the garbage. I considered taking the $200 Nespresso coffee maker that I bought her as a gift with me out of spite, but I left it there. She could keep it and be too stingy to ever buy the pods for it, lose the parts, break it. Have fun trying to work a machine you barely understand.
I moved back to LA and my life, while not perfect, has been so much better. This Christmas is one of the best I’ve had in years. Other than a couple of emails and a 3:42 a.m. call that woke me after a shift at Knotts Scary Farm, which I ignored, I haven’t spoken to her since. I had to go pick up a package and I walked in, loudly demanded the package and walked out. No greeting, no conversation, nothing. She gets nothing from me ever again. I startled her when I did it and that suits me just fine.
The call was in October and apparently her Long Covid has been giving her breathing and heart problems. She already had a heart murmur, who knew she had a heart, and as I have said before, I think Covid exacerbates the problems you already have. I got another call, that I ignored, from the same hospital and found out that she needed a heart valve replacement and that she had “begged the doctors to do it immediately” which probably meant she screamed at them until they said yes. It was a TAVR procedure, so it wasn’t open heart surgery and I’m told that she could get out the next day. They’re trying to get her to go into program where someone would care for her afterwards, but she’s resisting it. No one wants to be her nursemaid, so that’s why I think that was the suggestion. My poor cousin who’s friends with her is finally starting to understand that she’s not in her right mind and doesn’t really have the strength to take care of another long term patient. She nursed her mother through Alzheimer’s. I think she shouldn’t have to do that ever again. Sandra drove the one person who might have done that for her away.
Since I don’t have my car, I have the excuse that I can’t drive over and I’m glad of it. But even then, I told my cousin, she told me to leave her the fuck alone and I am honoring her request. She asked for it and these are the consequences. Sandra went on and on about how horrible I was and mocked me with her friends loudly on the phone after she got back from the hospital. She meant me to hear it. What she didn’t realize is that I stopped caring. I know that this really isn’t that big in the big scheme of things, but I just had to get it out. Yes, my life is this dramatic.
This is what you want, this is what you get.
This is my second Covid Christmas and while it still sucks, it’s much better than any Christmas I’ve had in recent memory. It’s kind of sad that I can say that, but at least it doesn’t suck like last year. I don’t know why I am writing this except as a way to spit the poison out. If you’re still reading, thank you.
Merry Christmas to all, except my aunt, and to all a good night.