May 2020 Rest in Peace
All the Hope of a New Year…
While the most anticipated holiday of the year approaches, I find myself full of grief rather than the expected joy. In an effort to properly walk through the process, I have been running over the events of the past year in my head, and I am paralyzed by the amount of pain, disappointment, and uncertainty caused by 2020, more specifically by COVID-19. This year was no joke.
I can so clearly remember my family and I ringing in 2020, full of optimism, for a tide change from the recent years we had experienced. In the early days of 2020, just on the heels of my oldest having a wonderful first year of football, my youngest found his love for basketball. Nothing makes a mother’s heart swell like the contentment of her children. The world seemed to be alright.
Little did I know that neither football, nor basketball would be in their futures’ in 2020 and, most likely, 2021. I know, sports are just sports and really nothing to lament about when there is so much more happening in the world. Nevertheless, I do feel badly that they were lost in 2020.
Shortly after my youngest’s triumph in basketball, I found myself standing in front of my (first-year traditional college) students’ and daily easing their concerns about rumors of a virus that was creating increasing concerns on the other side of the world.
In February, prior to all the birthday parades, my husband and oldest shared a miserable birthday week stricken by the “flu.” Having heard the flu was worse this year than in the past, we self quarantined and had our groceries delivered. I recall my child telling me that he was scared to fall asleep. Once I fell ill, I could fully comprehend what he meant. Strangely, my youngest, while stuck inside with us for the week too, never came down with the virus… (Months later, when I was finally able to get the antibody test, it showed I was negative for COVID-19 antibodies. Meh.)
Nursing our coughs and moving back into normal life, we made our way into March, my own birthday month. By this point, rumors were becoming realities in the States. We were making plans to “go remote” at my school, and all signs pointed to the same being true for my kiddos schools too.
My heart ached for my students, who were all in different places. Some went home to an entirely bored, but uncertain existence with their parents. While others went home to places without the Internet, with things shutting down all around them, while their loved ones were getting sick.
While I should have been worrying about whether or not they were keeping up with their work, I was worried as to whether or not they were eating, whether they were warm enough, and whether they had someone watching out for them. Many of them were not and did not. Some I never heard from again, after we switched to remote learning. I still think about them and hope they were able to put enough pieces back together so that they will revisit their higher education soon.
Mom Is Everything Now
In between my frets about my students, my own children began needing me in ways I had not imagined. In an instant, I became super mom, teacher, therapist, friend, caretaker, constant cook, as well as all the roles I previously served. Unknowing of what the future held, daily lessons in survival became a topic of discussion. (I know how strange this sounds now, but it’s the truth.) We spent time outside every day classifying plants, learning how to build fires and shelters, and troubleshooting what-if scenarios.
It became apparent rather quickly that it was the children who were suffering the most from the pandemic. Living in the country, we don’t have a neighborhood to rely on. We were able to have a few playdates over the summer, but they were largely outside with a select few people. The normal sounds of summer were muted by COVID-19.
The only solace was that we could all be outside. Luckily, we have some property and are free to use our in-laws outdoor space too. We spent hours exploring the property, chasing the deer around, and searching for wild raspberries and blackberries.
Temporarily transformed into a pioneer woman, I was able to find ways to “find the good” in the situation. The slower timeline allowed for daily mile runs with my bunch. I was also able to concentrate on teaching my children how to be more independent. Reluctantly, my oldest learned to help take care of his younger brother. He’s assumed a role as his mentor and confidant. Through this year, they have developed a bond that will surely be unbreakable. For this, I am grateful.
However, there are consequences of the pandemic. Tragic consequences that will also have long-lasting effects on our family (and yours, no doubt). With the mandate to stay home, it became easy to wholly concentrate on life within our home. While I made attempts to stay connected with people, it is my opinion that the death of interpersonal communication has been one of the worst side effects of COVID-19.
Twenty-twenty has been the loneliest year of my life. While I love my family, and they me, the greatest tragedy has been the loss of general human communication. Aside from social media, which in the throws of COVID-19 nauseated me with it’s lack of true understanding and of human decency, people largely stopped talking in 2020.
No more idle banter while in line at the grocery store, no more co-workers popping their heads in to see you to ask how your kiddos faired in their big game, no more moms gathering to pick up their kids from school and sharing news about the community, no more waiting room conversations, no more elevator banter, no more anything. Silence had taken the place of the conversations that bind us all together. Without it, we lived without a community.
Exacerbated by the dull updates on social media, the “me” mentality entirely took over in 2020, and the mandated silence put a nail in the coffin of interpersonal communication.
Back To School
It seemed like there was some hope, at the close of summer, when my children returned to “school.” They were sentenced to an every other day situation, where only half of their original population would be present. It was said that they’d make do; all the kids had to make sacrifices. It was a good opportunity for the children to make new friends. However, “making” friends is quite challenging, even for the most outgoing, while donning a face mask all day AND having to stay 6 feet apart from each other all day long.
There have been many occasions when I ask myself, if it would just be better for them to stay home, while the world figures itself out. I see how lonely my kiddos are too. It’s just not fair to them, to keep them all apart like this.
You know, before 2020, I had started to notice a change in my college students. They largely seemed less sure of themselves than my previous students. They self-disclosed social anxiety to me at an alarming rate.
Now, as a mother, I try to see into my children’s future. How will their cohorts look someday? How much anxiety will they need to overcome? Will they be able to establish relationships and find full existences?
I’m not sure, but I do know that it matters. Interpersonal communication matters. Idle chitchat matters. Being part of a larger community matters. At the end of September, shortly after my kids returned to school, I found out how much it truly matters in the most trying of ways.
My mother got sick. She lives in Florida, and she had been complaining of an ailing stomach for a few weeks. She went to the ER and found out she had a mass on her pancreas. Back and forth she went over the coming months to be poked and prodded by doctors who were trying to determine her condition. Some days it was cancer, and others it was benign. Week after week, she spent days in the hospitals (yes, there were many hospitals and each doctor had something different to say). Her pain increased; her anxiety went through the roof; she couldn’t eat (it was too painful); and she was not allowed to have visitors. Finally, they agreed. It was pancreatic cancer. (Don’t look it up. It’s terrible reading.)
Each day, I prepared as if I were going to jump on a plane and fly down to see her. However, because of COVID, I was in a tough spot. If I were to have gone down to see her, I would’ve needed to quarantine for two weeks in Florida, before I could personally see her. What sense would that make? I settled on staying put and relying on talking on the phone with her daily. Eventually, she was prescribed to have one of the strongest courses of chemotherapy that exists.
At the start of December, she was admitted to the hospital for her first and last round of chemotherapy. She left the hospital on the Friday of that week, and was admitted to another hospital the following Monday, because the chemicals made her so sick.
This was the one and only time that I flew in 2020. I wished it had been for pleasure, but it was not. The airport was weird. For just a few weeks before Christmas, it was empty. Everyone wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart. Once on the plane, each person had a set of seats for themselves. It was quiet and strange.
It was lonely. Apart from my family, only one friend knew where I was. I couldn’t bare to post something on social media about it and endure a mile-long comment list of prayer hands from people who don’t really care. Also, let’s be real here. They don’t pray either, most of them anyway. (Now you know my true feelings of 🙏🏻 prayer hands, 🙏🏻 and why I do not post them in your comments. If you’d like to pray for my mother, please do. I love a real sentiment, but meaningless emojis, well, they are another story…)
Thankfully, after a few days in Florida, I was able to see my mother, but it took some doing to make it happen. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone in person. It doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it reminds us that we are not alone on this planet and this journey. Upon my departure, my mother was in a far better place than when I arrived. She continues to improve every day.
Christmas Came and Went
Of course, soon after, I made my way home in time to spend Christmas with my husband and kids. It was what it was, not extraordinary, but it was comfortable and nice to have something else to point our attention to.
What it didn’t have was others. There were no holiday gatherings to catch up on how people are. There were no fancy nights out to celebrate another year around the sun. Bland messages on cards and on social media were about all we could hope for. This holiday season left 2020 in very much the same way as it came in: alone.
So, as I prepare to say goodbye to the year, the only thing I can do is to hope. I hope that 2021 challenges me to do better and to be better than I am today. I hope I never forget how lonely this year has been, so I will be a better friend and community member. I hope our children will be stronger because of this year, and that they will learn they can survive adversity.
More selfishly, I hope sports come back in 2021. I miss the laughter; I miss the people; and quite frankly, I miss a bit of FUN!
PEACE OUT, 2020
I hope the future holds something better than what you had to offer.