Where Were You When The World Closed In?
My husband and I were in Las Vegas, where my sister-in-law was dying of lung cancer. We’d responded to an anguished phone call from her daughter, asking for help. Hopefully, my sister-in-law might have a couple of months yet. We booked a one-way ticket to Nevada, planning to be there for the duration.
With that in mind, I’d arranged for my other children to keep an eye on their nonverbal younger brother, in his Westchester County group home. He had a busy life, between Day Hab, volunteer jobs, trips to the gym, regular swimming classes and community events. All they had to do was take him out to dinner in lieu of our regular monthly visit.
“No problem, Mom, we got this,” my children chorused. Joe’s schedule was one thing we could all rely on. New York State had the best services for children with special needs. Joe was in a great placement, no worries there.
Our plans were flexible, depending on my sister-in-law’s health. Unfortunately, our visit was brief. She passed away after two short weeks. Her daughter wanted to wait a few months to hold a memorial service, so we flew back to New York.
Our first clue that this “Wuhan virus” had reached the USA was when our normally-affectionate relatives refused to hug us when they dropped off our car at the airport. What?
We called the children to let them know our plans had changed. My youngest, an EMT with FDNY, responded quickly. “Good thing you’re back. Things are heating up down here, people are panicking.”
She had been in class, studying to be a NYS Paramedic, but the entire class, all FDNY EMTs, were back on the street. Her station was close by Elmhurst Hospital, Queens, right on the front line.
An hour north, her twin brother was now locked in his group home, all day programs, volunteer jobs, community events and family contact forbidden. We bought an iPad for Joe, and staff promised to show him how to FaceTime with us.
We were allowed to drop it off on the front porch and wave at him through the big living room window. He stared at us, confused. It broke my heart to drive away, but we knew he’d want to stay with his buddies.
My older son was considered an essential worker (does anyone else think of Schindler’s List, using that now-familiar phrase?), riding the subway daily, stations eerily empty — but his acting conservatory classes moved online. He chose to focus on a voiceover class, as in-person auditions were on hold. Down in Washington DC, my second-oldest daughter’s contract ended. A cybersecurity expert, her next contract hire would be delayed by lockdowns, so she picked up some online consulting.
My grandsons’ au pair waited anxiously to hear when she might return to her home in Germany. The boys’ school was closed. Now, my oldest daughter and her husband had to get creative, essentially home-schooling three bright, active little boys while producing TV commercials (her job) and directing hospital events (his) from home. Somehow, they made it work, but their multi-tasking skills are exceptional. After a few months, they were signed up for remote schooling with the local district. That helped a little.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” my firstborn explained. That’s a #2020 understatement.
Meanwhile, further upstate, my husband and I decided to raise chickens, fuelled by 1) a desire to do something useful and 2) a real concern when we found our local market had been emptied, reportedly by city folks. They’d headed north en masse at the start of the pandemic, searching for safe refuge. Community matters, and we’ve learned to check up on each other, neighbors and friends, those new to the area, and those who might be forgotten.
Fortunately, our church re-opened a few months in, with all kinds of precautions in place. Our interactions may be “distanced,” but they’re real, heartfelt. Every life matters and life itself is precious. Prayer is something every one can do, regardless of circumstances. Wrap yourself and those you love, in prayer. Send angels everywhere. We use Psalm 91.11 “for God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.” It’s perfect for any emergency, your own personal 911.
That’s one thing we’ve all learned from this pandemic, fourteen months in. We need family, and friends, more than ever. Jobs, money, flowing in, yes, those are essential too. But every person needs both, cash and people who care.
As suicide rates rise, this is not the time to play it tough. Call someone, ask for help, or offer to help someone else. Don’t wait for this to blow over. We’re in this for the duration. Our situations may be different, but basic human needs aren’t. Love those close to you, reach out to those who aren’t.
What been brewing in the back of your mind over this past year? Add your own Pandemic Reflections, with a few simple prompts to get you thinking. Personally, I’m glad we invested in chickens; donating eggs to family and friends helps us feel useful. Feeling a bit silly about the closet full of toilet paper upstairs. And we’ve got enough peanut butter to last through the next pandemic.
After all, you can never have too much peanut butter. There’s a food pantry in town. Maybe they can use some.