COVID-19 story by Brendon Panke, 2020

Brendon Panke shares a story about family relationships and his wedding celebration. Brendon shares the impact the social distancing measures in effect in Wisconsin have had on his in-person relationship with his grandmother.

This story was originally recorded and shared as part of an episode of the Madison podcast Inside Stories. Listen to that episode and subscribe to the podcast here:

This recording was created on . You can view the original file and full metadata in our digital repository.

  • Identifier: covid19-002
    Narrator Name: Brendon Panke
    Interviewer Name:
    Date of interview: 4/1/2020

    I, very awkwardly, asked my wife to marry me. And then we set the date for a year after, about a year after, so we were sure to have time to finish school, and time to get everything planned and set. And it turns out we’d also have plenty of time to have conversations with my family members about why we weren’t getting married in the Catholic Church. Why we were going to have it outside. And why we were going to have our friend officiate, our recently divorced friend officiate. We even had to convince him why he was going to do it for us, but we won out in the end.

    But we still had to have a lot of awkward conversations with my mom, which I was surprised about, because we weren’t consistent churchgoers. And also with my grandma, her mom. I think that’s, maybe, the most conversations I’ve ever had with my grandma in a short period of time. And it was painful. It was every event, every holiday, and I just got tired of talking to my grandma. She even learned how to email, and she would email me, and at the end she would say things like “well, and I’ll pray for you two, if that’s ok.” (laughs) And I was like “sure grandma, passive aggressive prayer is fine by me.” (laughs) It’s the only kind really, I think, the only kind.

    So, I found out later though, that maybe this all wasn’t my grandma, see, I didn’t talk to my grandpa about it because he was very difficult to talk to at that time because he had Parkinson’s Disease. He was dying of it, and he couldn’t really talk very loudly at all. And so, I think my grandma was kind of like getting his message out to the world. And she felt this obligation to get that out there, and take care of him however she could, because it was getting hard. He was falling down a lot and she couldn’t pick him up.

    And then, about a week before the wedding, I guess, my grandpa said he wasn’t going to go. It wasn’t right, the way we were getting married. And my grandma said “Howard, you ass! Of course you are going to go.” (laughs) And then my grandpa died. And my grandma didn’t have to take care of him anymore. And I got to know my grandma all over again. And I got to have a lot of fun with my grandma. And I’m really glad I got to have that time with her, and get to know her again. And I think she got to know herself again. Her life was very different. And now she’s ninety-six. And she’s in hospice, and all she wants to do all day is drink chocolate wine and watch the Hallmark Channel. I don’t know what chocolate wine is, but I’m pretty sure it’s the wine equivalent of the Hallmark Channel.

    And I got to see her a couple weeks ago, and we talked with her a little bit. My son played her the violin. And she just was cute and snuggled down in her blankets, where she is most of the time. She doesn’t really get out of bed. She has to get lifted up by two people. But that’s ok, she’s ninety-six, and gets to pick how she spends her time. She is an adult, at this point. I’m pretty sure once you’re ninety-six you’re an adult.

    But now her nursing home is on lockdown. And, even though she’s in hospice, she’s not sick enough for us to visit her. So no one can visit her. My mom, and her sisters, and her brothers had been visiting her pretty much everyday, somebody had been hanging out with her. And now she’s just, just lonely, I think. I don’t know. I don’t really talk to her. There’s no way to connect to her.

    So I’m glad I got the time to know my grandma when I did, and I hope I’ll see her again.