In one day: quarantine, a birthday and unemployment

Pete Franz was working at Brick West Brewing Sunday, March 15, when his sister Stephanie texted him. It was her 41st birthday, and their plans to have a small celebration with his mom that day weren't going to happen as they'd hoped.

"I get a text from my sister saying, 'By the way, Alderwood is now quarantined and they won't let visitors in or out. And [mom] was crying on the phone, you should probably call her when you get off work,'" Franz says.

His mom, Tanya, had a stroke in mid-February, and has been recovering in Alderwood Manor, a nursing home. Usually, she helps care for Stephanie, who was born with spina bifida and requires a wheelchair and round-the-clock assistance. But the two have been separated for weeks.

Tanya had been looking forward to making her daughter's birthday special and had planned to leave for the day, so Franz headed to Alderwood to see what was up.

"I found out it was all locked up, so I called my mom from the parking lot," he says. "She's really hard to understand right now because she's got slurred speech."

He explained he wouldn't be able to get her out, but offered to get the gifts she'd planned for. That included the ice cream cake they enjoy every year, and buying his sister some nice headphones and new sweats to wear in bed, as she had only just recovered from her own bout in the hospital in January. It was really important to his mom that his sister get a comfy outfit.

"At the end of that conversation, she broke down crying," Franz says. "It was just this awkward, half muscle wail. My God, it just sounded horrible." She hung up, she was so upset.

He took pictures that afternoon, but because their mom doesn't have a smartphone he's unsure when she'll be able to see them.

Later that night, Gov. Jay Inslee announced all bars and restaurants would be closed except for to-go orders, meaning Franz's job as a bartender would likely be in jeopardy. But he says he was more worried about his family than his own unemployment (which was cemented Wednesday).

"All I could hear over and over in my head was my mom crying on the phone," he says. "She's always been strong, raising four kids on her own and taking care of my sister, and like the most positive person I know. So that's the hardest part."

In an attempt to get Stephanie into long-term care, he had to admit her to the hospital on Tuesday. So now both women are in isolation and he can't visit either. He'll likely have to clean out their apartment as he's not sure they'll be able to return.

"They've never known anything other than living together," he says. "That's where my emotion comes from is empathizing with how they feel."

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...