One morning in early April 2020, Alan Yu woke up congested after a restless night’s sleep. His wife, Janet, prepared him a cup of hap zai cha, a Chinese medicinal tea she’d made for years to help with the family’s flus and colds. Normally, in the early afternoon, Alan would drive from the family’s home in Olney, Md., to their restaurant, Hollywood East Cafe, in Silver Spring. But once Janet noticed her husband’s labored breathing, she told him to stay home. She would cover for both of them.

Janet wasn’t too worried as she pulled into the covered garage that Wednesday morning at the Westfield Wheaton mall, where she was protected from the elements on her short walk to Hollywood East on the first floor. She figured Alan had a cold. Plus, she had a business to run, a Cantonese/Hong Kong restaurant that was a fixture not just of the Maryland suburbs, but of the wider D.C. region, thanks largely to its dim sum service. Every weekend, pre-pandemic, diners would crowd their tables with orders of siu mai and har gow dumplings, steamed roast pork buns, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, and delicate rice-noodle crepes that conceal tiny curls of shrimp. The service attracted large multicultural crowds that would happily wait for a table in a 140-seat dining room whose walls were painted a vibrant shade of red, a color associated with joy and luck in China, but one also thought to make diners hungry.

Alan was usually the first person customers met at Hollywood East. Regulars called him Pops or Dad. If he wasn’t at the host stand, greeting diners, he was at the bar, mixing them a drink, maybe the Pops Special, a signature cocktail that his sons claim was basically an apple martini, heavy on the vodka. Pops earned his nickname, his admirers say, because he took care of customers as if they were kin. He loved to swap stories, but he also dressed the part. He was known for his impressive wardrobe, an ever-changing, ever-fashionable line of suits, blazers, bow ties, vests and the occasional ascot.

Hollywood East supported not just Alan and Janet but also two of their four sons: Corey, 35, and Tim, 29. Both worked at the restaurant and could do just about any job required. Hollywood East was also a part-time gig for their eldest son, Jeff, 38, a personal trainer who handled the restaurant’s social media accounts and sometimes its online ordering system remotely from his home in Irvine, Calif. Only Brian, 31, was not actively involved. In 2019, according to tax documents shared with The Washington Post, Hollywood East earned the family $1.26 million in gross sales.

In March 2020, however, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan shut down indoor dining, forcing restaurateurs throughout the state, including the Yus, to switch to delivery and carryout only. Hollywood East was in a better position than many to make the pivot. Before the shutdown, the restaurant had earned about 30 percent of its sales from carryout. Plus, the Yus weren’t naive about the pandemic’s potential impact.

“I looked at how a lot of the other countries handled covid,” Jeff says. “The government saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and everybody has to listen, versus here, where everyone has their rights to different freedoms and such. I was like, ‘Ah, man, nothing is ever going to get done.’ ”

There was, for example, no mask mandate in Maryland in the early days of the pandemic. Customers could still enter Hollywood East without a face covering and place an order. They could pass the time at Alan’s bar and have a drink while waiting on a carryout order. Many did not mask. Alan didn’t mask. Their elected leaders had told them it wasn’t necessary yet. Maryland wouldn’t have a mask mandate until mid-April.

Later that April evening, Janet returned home to find Alan sweating. He had a slight fever, too. Alan slept downstairs, away from the rest of the family, and arose the next morning feeling no better. He was supposed to have a virtual call with a doctor, but the family was unable to reach the physician. Desperate for advice, Janet phoned her insurance carrier and was told they should get Alan to the hospital. With Janet unable to leave the restaurant, Corey was dispatched to drive his father to a local hospital. The last words Janet said to Alan before he left hung in the air, like a prayer.

“You’ll be okay,” she told him. “Don’t worry.”

At the hospital, Corey wasn’t allowed to stay, so Alan sat for hours, alone, waiting for someone to attend to him. At some point that evening, a nurse swabbed Alan’s nose to check for the coronavirus. After the swab, Alan, who had his phone and iPad, told his family that his nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. Blood was dripping down his throat and into his oxygen mask. The family knew why: Alan was on blood thinners.

At around age 20, Alan was diagnosed with mitral valve disease. He initially had the leaky valve replaced with one harvested from a pig, which had served him well for more than 15 years. When that valve gave out, doctors replaced it with an artificial one, which required Alan to take blood thinners for the rest of his life. He would frequently get nose bleeds, but this one at the hospital was particularly bad.

In the days that followed, Janet and her family found it next to impossible to get reliable updates on Alan. Unable to even learn the result of his swab, the family didn’t know if he had covid or if his heart was acting up. Alan was, after all, scheduled for tests on the valve before the pandemic hit. In the absence of information, the family could only do what it always did: Janet, Corey and Tim went to work at Hollywood East. They still had people to feed.

Like many restaurant families, the Yus had faced crises before — including losing their restaurant once to unforeseen circumstances. Yet nothing in the family’s past could have prepared them for the pandemic, with its unpredictable churn of shutdowns, restrictions, mandates, staff shortages, supply-line disruptions, rising costs and plummeting revenue. In just the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 to April 2021, the National Restaurant Association would estimate that 90,000 establishments around the country had closed, either permanently or temporarily.

Such statistics have become hard to fathom in the abstract. They are divorced from the personal stories and ambitions that give life to family-owned restaurants like Hollywood East and from the distinctive roles they play in the communities they serve. The stats also say nothing about the immigrant experience in America, where restaurants have traditionally been a way for newcomers to gain a foothold in their new country while still holding fast to the food and culture of their homeland. To Janet and Alan, Hollywood East was more than a way to support the family. For 24 years, their restaurant had been a place to gather, to share stories, to create memories. It was the place where they celebrated the Lunar New Year, where Alan and his sons performed traditional Chinese lion dances to ward off evil and bring good luck.

But such good-luck rituals were no match for the pandemic. Over the next 22 months, the family would be tested like never before, both personally and professionally. They would put all their effort and ingenuity into keeping their restaurant, the place where Pops had poured so many drinks and forged so many friendships, alive. Would it be enough?

Alan Yu was born and raised in Hong Kong but moved to the United States in 1975 and settled briefly in Luray, Va., where some cousins ran a restaurant. He worked there as a bartender and also established a martial arts school in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood. Janet met him in early 1976 through mutual friends. Theirs was a quick courtship: Weeks after they met, Alan, then 19, pulled out a ring while he and Janet, 21, sat on a friend’s porch in Silver Spring.

“ ‘What is this for?’ ” she recalls asking Alan. “ ‘You want to marry me?’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ ”

Born in Washington, Janet grew up in a restaurant family. Her parents ran China Royal, a Chinese American restaurant in Silver Spring, where her father, a World War II veteran, was chef. She started working there at age 5, walking orders back to the kitchen for the cooks to prepare. It would be a formative experience: She swore she would never work in a restaurant again. When she met Alan, she was working for National Airlines as a sales agent.

After he had his first valve replacement surgery, Alan had to close his martial arts school. He eventually got into the jewelry business and opened his own store in Silver Spring, where he hatched the idea of starting a restaurant. Janet tried to tell him how hard and time-consuming it would be. In 1996, he opened Hollywood East anyway with a partner in the construction business.

The original Hollywood East (the name was a nod to the Hong Kong singers and actors whom Alan would occasionally bring to Washington to perform) was a small storefront, with only a dozen or so glass-topped tables. To Janet, the daughter of restaurateurs, it quickly became clear that Alan and his partner had no idea how to run the place. The menu was too large, the chefs wasteful, the staff inexperienced. The business was behind on the rent after only a few months.

Janet, who by then had left the airline business, took matters into her own hands. She used her money to pay off the restaurant’s back rent and squeezed out Alan’s partner. She replaced the wasteful chefs, stopped serving breakfast, trimmed back the menu and introduced dishes like whole steamed fish and salted fish, which offered locals a taste of Taishan, China, her and Alan’s ancestral home. Janet’s changes attracted the attention of Phyllis C. Richman, then restaurant critic for The Post. Under the headline “Poised for Stardom,” Richman wrote, “Hollywood East should really be named Guangzhou West. It’s a Chinese restaurant. And even more astonishing: It’s one of the best I’ve tried in years.”

The last words Janet said to Alan before he left hung in the air, like a prayer. “You’ll be okay,” she told him. “Don’t worry.”

The February 1998 review immediately changed Hollywood East’s fortunes. Within a month, Janet and Alan approached their landlord about taking over the space next to theirs, which would nearly double their seating capacity to more than 100. The restaurant also started to attract non-Asian customers, eager to sample the dishes that had delighted Richman.

To Janet and Alan, the review and the public response were validation of their food and culture, but also of their hard work. Alan was still running his jewelry store. When he closed for the day, he would drive straight to Hollywood East and work there till closing. Janet was juggling four sons, ages 4 to 14, while running the restaurant. She would drive the kids to school in the morning, go to work at Hollywood East, pick the boys up in the afternoon, take them to the restaurant and then drive them home in the early evening. But she and Alan didn’t put their kids to work. Perhaps as a result, most of them think differently about the restaurant business than Janet.

“It’s really fun,” says Corey. “If everything’s operating nicely, it’s very enjoyable.”

The family opened a second location, Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard, in the mid-2000s. It was here where the family introduced dim sum to the menu, which only increased the popularity of their business. But starting in late 2008 they faced a series of financial crises: They decided to close the original Hollywood East, but the landlord refused to let the Yus out of the lease and sued them for cash owed. Then, for reasons the family could not understand, they were evicted from their second Silver Spring location, which they had taken out loans to finance and construct. In 2010, they filed for bankruptcy.

Janet and Alan took on odd jobs — Janet started catering, Alan sold jewelry — until April 2010, when they were able to start again with a new Hollywood East, this time at the Westfield Wheaton mall. They had to make countless sacrifices, but the family felt as if they had survived a crisis that would have killed lesser restaurants.

Then came the pandemic — and Alan’s latest illness.

Even as she worked the dim sum service on the Sunday after Alan was hospitalized, Janet couldn’t stop thinking of her husband. In between orders, she would call the hospital for updates. She would get transferred from one line to another, each a dead end. Alan could no longer provide any information, either. He had been put on a ventilator the day before.

On Monday evening, Janet finally received a call from the hospital. A doctor wanted Janet’s permission to start a procedure that might help Alan. “They called back an hour later and said he’s gone,” Janet says, her voice shaking at the memory. Alan Yu died after midnight on Tuesday, April 14.

The family hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye. They also couldn’t give Alan a proper send-off. St. Andrew Apostle Catholic Church wasn’t allowing indoor funerals. But the Rev. Dan Leary, then pastor at St. Andrew, where Janet and her sons have been faithful parishioners, worked out an arrangement to host services in the parking lot. Mourners drove by Alan’s casket, which was surrounded by flowers and other plants under a makeshift tent, to pay their last respects. Those who couldn’t make the service watched via a live feed, including a cousin deployed in Afghanistan.

The nearly two-hour live stream was interspersed with video testimonials and remembrances of Alan’s life. David Smith, a former security guard at the Wheaton mall, shared an anecdote about how Alan had offered to give Smith something to eat when the guard was hungry. Smith had begged off. He said he couldn’t afford it. Pops told him not to worry about it, a gesture that, according to Janet, Alan made regularly.

“I’ve never been given anything like that in my life,” Smith said in his video testimonial. “Pops, Mom, all the boys treated me instantly like family. Which in the world that we are living in today, to transcend race and anything else, it was a feeling that I’ve never felt anywhere else, not even in the military.”

Father Dan, as the Yu family calls Leary, was struck by the mourners’ connection to Pops. “That’s the mark of a loving man,” Leary told Janet and three of her four sons at the service. (Jeff didn’t fly in from California because it was too risky at the time.)

“Guys, I pray that you have that, because the world certainly needs more people that love like your Pop,” the priest added.

The priest’s words seemed to hit home with Alan’s sons. They immediately rallied around their 65-year-old mother, a widow now left to run Hollywood East through a pandemic still in its early stages.

“We already lost one parent. We didn’t want to lose another one,” says Corey. “We had to do whatever we [could] to continue the business and to keep everybody safe.”

After Alan’s death, Hollywood East closed for nearly a month, the longest stretch the restaurant had ever been dormant. The family had to quarantine for two weeks. They also had to clean and disinfect the restaurant. Janet received hundreds of cards, emails, letters and phone calls from friends, family and loyal customers. She also cried a lot, in secret.

“I know the boys feel bad,” she said. “I just want them to think that I’m okay.”

Corey channeled his grief into creating a method to prevent customers from interacting with anyone inside the restaurant for the remainder of the pandemic, especially his mother. He had always been the tech-savvy son, building his own computer at age 12. His creation for Hollywood East would be a toy by comparison.

At first, Corey positioned tables just inside the restaurant’s entrance facing the parking garage, with wooden screens behind them to create a self-contained carryout space within the bar. Then he used painter’s tape to section off each table into numbered slots and attached an iPad to an adjustable arm mounted to one of the tables. The iPad served as the restaurant’s sole form of customer interaction: A family member stationed at the command center, then located in the dormant dining room, could talk to customers via a video function on the iPad. Janet’s head might magically appear on the tablet above the carryout table — sort of like the Wizard of Oz of dim sum — and she’d direct customers to the appropriate slot where they could pick up their orders.

But Corey wanted to pump up the entertainment value, so he replaced the painter’s tape with lights. It was Hollywood East meets the Magic Kingdom.

“I’m a big fan of Disney,” says Corey, “and they’re all about experience.”

Even with Corey’s touchless system in place, when the family finally reopened Hollywood East on May 9, 2020, they still faced a host of problems — some that dated from the start of the pandemic, others that were new. The Westfield Wheaton never officially closed, but by county order, most retailers were forced to shut down for more than three months, from March to June 2020, which affected foot traffic to the mall. Corey doesn’t think semi-closure, or even Westfield Wheaton’s shorter operating hours, hurt restaurant sales all that much. But what did, Corey suspects, is Hollywood East’s lack of an outdoor patio, where diners felt safer during the pandemic. Hollywood East has only a “patio” inside a corridor at the mall.

An even bigger issue for Hollywood East was delivery. Unlike D.C., Montgomery County never put a cap on third-party delivery fees, which meant Uber Eats, the service the Yu family used, was free to charge a 30 percent fee on every order. The family had decided to turn off its Uber Eats account at the start of the pandemic because they couldn’t afford to absorb those fees. Instead, Corey and Tim delivered the food themselves. But this DIY solution hit a snag when the restaurant reopened after Alan’s death. Four of Hollywood East’s eight cooks opted not to return, including three who worked the stir-fry station, a vital part of the kitchen. Corey and Tim needed to step in. The family shut down all deliveries for the foreseeable future.

Corey’s ability to help, however, was limited. In 2019, he had ruptured a disk in his back while weightlifting. He had been managing the problem with weekly massages, but those sessions evaporated during the shutdown. His condition had worsened to the point where he could barely walk, let alone stand for an entire shift. He was scheduled for back surgery, but on May 25, he tested positive for the coronavirus. He’s still not sure how he contracted it, given that he was operating the restaurant’s ordering system, alone, in the back of the dining room. Fortunately, he was asymptomatic, but the positive result delayed his back surgery until late June. In the meantime, Hollywood East had to make do with a patchwork of stir-fry cooks, including Alan’s brother, Pong Yu, who ran a carryout years ago. “He’s a plumber, and the last time he cooked was, maybe, about 12 years ago,” Tim says about his uncle.

Tim had to step up and lead the kitchen, delaying his own career plans. A formally trained chef, Tim had had offers to join other kitchens, where he could pursue other styles of Chinese cooking. He was also working on his own project, Dabao, a modern dumpling/takeout concept that he was hoping to open in a food hall in Riverdale Park, Md. He figured he could shuttle between Hollywood East and his own place. But on reflection, he realized the timing was not right.

“I’m not going to leave my family without anybody to cook,” Tim says. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Without a fully staffed stir-fry team, the restaurant had to come up with creative solutions to relieve the pressures on the wok station. Janet and her sons decided to trim the menu, eliminating at least 20 percent of the dishes. They also started serving dim sum all day, in the hopes that customers would not order as many stir-fry dishes. Customers adapted, remembers Corey. If they couldn’t find a favorite dish, they would order something close to it.

“I’m not going to leave my family without anybody to cook,” Tim says. “I wouldn’t do that.”

But the limitations of Corey’s touchless carryout system were starting to reveal themselves. Customers would occasionally paw through bags, impatient for someone to appear on the iPad screen to tell them which order was theirs. Then there was the change of seasons: When the mercury started to drop, the open door at the carryout station created a chill inside the restaurant, causing once-hot carryout meals to turn stone cold.

Corey tackled the problem anew. He disassembled a free-standing Ikea closet at home and combined the cheap particleboard with solid wood pieces to fashion a half-dozen boxes with hydraulic lids, which someone at the command center could open and close via an iPad. Under the new system, once a takeout order was ready, Janet or Corey (or even Jeff working remotely from California) would tell food runner Eric Ramirez which box to place the bags in. When customers arrived, a family member would appear on the video iPad to tell them where their order was. The family member would then push a button, the lid on the designated box would lift and customers would grab their bags.

It was an ingenious engineering feat that solved the latest set of problems, plus — after Corey repainted the particleboard to resemble candy canes — provided a bit of whimsy. During Christmastime, Corey added lights and fake snow to accessorize the boxes. “It was like a Christmas present, your dim sum order,” says Ben Rich, the chief of staff for Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) and a loyal patron of Hollywood East.

But to Jeff, the carryout system provided something else, too, particularly after the family installed heavy curtain dividers in the bar to try to insulate the dining room/command center from the cold breezes that shot through the open door: It essentially camouflaged the space that was Alan Yu’s second home. The carryout space was, in effect, a business solution and a coping mechanism, a way to limit the pain of walking through Alan’s bar every single day.

“Those physical places where he was would just bring back memories,” Jeff says. “So taking the operations away from there kind of helped out.”

A different kind of help came from the government, both federal and local. In April 2020, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help employers cover payroll during the pandemic, sent Four Kings Enterprises, the company named for Janet and Alan’s sons, $37,199. The following month, Four Kings received about $150,000 through the agency’s covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan. The low-interest loan allowed Janet to cover a wider range of expenses than the PPP money, including rent, utilities and business debt. There were also small grants from Montgomery County that helped defray the costs of safety equipment and takeout containers. All of this money helped a lot, but it also disappeared fast, especially because Hollywood East never cut salaries and continued to pay employees while closed.

“I don’t think we would be able to survive” without the governmental assistance, Janet says.

Survival, however, didn’t mean success. By the end of 2020, Hollywood East’s gross revenue was down 29 percent from 2019, to only $893,932, a decrease of nearly $365,000, according to tax records. Despite the declining revenue, the restaurant’s landlord, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a commercial real estate company based in France, still expected $15,000 every month for rent, taxes, water and community area management fees, Janet says.

It was a grim situation that required radical decisions. Janet made sure to pay her vendors, the small businesses that kept her supplied with ingredients and the other necessities to run a restaurant. But from there, she made painful choices to pay only fractions of what she owed. She paid the landlord about a third of her monthly statement. Same with the utility companies.

For a restaurateur who prided herself on paying her bills, these partial payments weighed on her mind. “Who wouldn’t be worried?” she says.

The second year of the pandemic was no easier than the first for Hollywood East. In fact, it may have been harder. The family had to muddle through the same issues as every other restaurant operator: skyrocketing prices, supply-chain disruptions, labor shortages, to name only a few. Corey and Janet have horror stories about trying to source cooking oil in 2021. Hollywood East goes through about six to seven containers of oil a week. In normal times, they would pay about $20 per 35-pound container, but at the height of the scarcity, their suppliers were charging around $60 per container, Corey recalls.

It got to the point where, instead of working through suppliers, Corey would order oil online at Sam’s Club and then drive 45 minutes to pick up the containers himself. He even figured out the secret to Sam’s Club: The retailer updates its website early in the morning. Corey would stay up till 3:30 a.m. or so just to place an order for cooking oil.

After more than a year without delivery, Hollywood East decided to reactivate its Uber Eats account, but with one major change: The family raised prices 30 percent for delivery orders, to cover the app’s fees. They even added dim sum to the Uber Eats menu, which was a hit, according to Corey. But not enough of one to cover Janet’s expenses, including her monthly payment to the mall. Desperate, Janet hired someone to scout new locations for Hollywood East while she and her broker began negotiating with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. With the clock ticking on her current lease, Janet struggled to make the decision whether to stay or go. In June, she sat around a table inside the restaurant with Corey and Tim, weighing the options.

“There’s so many memories. Do I really want to stay here?” she said. “I kind of don’t want to.”

Whatever happens, Corey interjected, “I think you’ve done a great job.”

“If I move, I think I might feel better, but it costs a lot of money to move,” Janet continued.

“How many years? Twenty-six years,” Corey said, trying to make his mom feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than defeat. “Twenty-six years, it’s very good.”

Janet didn’t seem to be listening to her son. She was lost in her own thoughts and the reality of life without Alan, her partner of 44 years.

“It’s almost like you don’t have that extra person to talk to … that you had to talk to before when you needed to make a decision,” Janet said.

“I can’t talk to him,” she added, nodding toward Corey. “We never agree.”

She started to cry.

In August, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield offered Hollywood East a two-year deal that would cut the rent and fees to less than $10,000 a month. It would also forgive more than $100,000 in back rent and fees. (The company doesn’t discuss confidential lease negotiations.) Janet’s broker thought it was a great deal, but Janet feared it still wouldn’t work for a restaurant with diminishing revenue: Although Four Kings had received a second PPP draw in February 2021 for $52,296, Hollywood East grossed only about $500,000 last year, Corey says, down even more from its 2020 numbers.

The lower sales, Corey says, are partly because the family didn’t reopen its dining room until September, long after others did. They weren’t convinced it was safe to return indoors, either for the staff or the diners.

When Hollywood East did reopen, it was a changed place. The weekend dim sum carts were gone. So were the servers. They were replaced with a new QR-code system that provides contactless interaction, but at the expense of traditional Cantonese and Hong Kong dim sum culture. It was a trade-off that diners like Rich, the Hill staffer and Hollywood East regular, understood, although he had appreciated how the carts sometimes allowed him to try a dish he would never have sampled otherwise. His two sons, however, have found a way to re-create the service at home with a red wagon and toy chest on wheels: They place their takeout orders in each “cart” and act as servers, right in Rich’s dining room.

“Our younger son would have the fried cart and the older son would have the steamed cart,” Rich says.

The new, streamlined Hollywood East didn’t seem like just a temporary fix, either. As the year progressed, Janet and her sons talked more earnestly about permanently changing the model of Hollywood East. Janet was toying with the idea of opening a smaller place, more fusion-oriented, devoted to breakfast and lunch services only. Corey, on the other hand, fantasized about an automated restaurant — he calls it a “robot restaurant” — in which a “high-speed train” delivers an order straight to the table. He saw a video about such a place in Japan.

But, in December, the rise of the coronavirus’s omicron variant made those dreams feel remote. As the case rates rose and diners once again started staying away, Janet found it hard to reimagine Hollywood East’s future.

On a cold afternoon in early January, Janet sits at a makeshift desk, a pair of dining room tables pushed together in what used to be Alan’s bar. She monitors a constellation of iPads, punching in orders to the kitchen from Uber Eats, ChowNow and even the QR-code orders from the increasingly rare diners who venture into Hollywood East during the omicron surge. Her presence in this space is the latest sign of her acceptance of life without her husband.

Janet remembers that, for months, she couldn’t even bring herself to pull out photos of Alan. Then about nine months after his death, she placed a picture of him on the dining room table at home and surrounded it with candles and religious statuary. In the photo, Alan is smiling at the camera, looking dashing in his black peacoat and scarf.

Every morning, before she heads to her command center at Hollywood East, she talks to Alan’s photo. She asks him what she should do about the restaurant. “He says I should not stay where I am. I should go somewhere else,” Janet says. “He doesn’t feel that the mall is safe for me.”

Despite this advice, she still hasn’t decided what to do. She hasn’t signed the two-year deal with the mall. To her mind, the economics don’t work. She says she can’t afford paying $5,000 a month, let alone the higher amount the landlord wants. She doesn’t want to put herself in a hole again. In the meantime, Hollywood East continues operating month by month, though Janet says the landlord is pressing hard for an answer.

Sometimes the stress of the decision is too much. But then Janet remembers a moment some weeks after Alan died. She felt him visit her in her sleep. He always called her Mom. “Mom, don’t worry,” he told her. “You will be okay.” It was the same advice that she had given Alan the morning before he entered the hospital. The words comforted Janet. They made her feel stronger, as if she could defeat anything, including a pandemic.

Tim Carman is a food reporter and Casual Dining columnist for The Washington Post.