Social distancing has a whole new meaning when we have lived ones in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice care. My dad had surgery yesterday, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. Usually I drive for two and a half hours, pull up at my parents’ house, and when I open the door the scene is the same. Mom playing solitaire on her tablet, and Daddy watching the news or a game show. They both have a “big drink” from McDonald’s, and Fiona and Winnie are sitting at their feet. This time it was so different. And this time was the first that I thought, ‘one day, this will be a permanent reality’. I drove straight to the house. It was quiet. My sister had taken off work to be with Daddy, but the hospital wouldn’t let her see him either. She greeted me. She was sitting in the living room with Fiona and Winnie at her feet. No “big drink”, but a Sunkist orange pop–her favorite. This homecoming felt so strange. The smells were different; the air was different. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts that were swirling around in my mind. I needed to find something to keep me busy. I have never been more thankful to have an afternoon meeting to attend. I gathered what I needed to log into Zoom and engage in a conversation about advocating for the resources that students and families need, not just during this pandemic; but every day. I was able to think about the tremendous impact the global pandemic is having on families with financial challenges. I can’t visit my dad, but some folks can’t eat. Every school and university has gone viral, but not every home has internet access. Yet, I have filled my list with new movies to watch on Netflix and planning virtual happy hour and dinner with friends. I am unsettled and admittedly a bit nervous. I know that when the veil is lifted and we are able to carry on with our normal lives, we will be looking at a new normal.
Right now, as I write this, my Daddy (like so many others) is alone in a cold hospital with strangers. I am thankful he is still here and when he comes home in the morning, my “normal” can presume. We will have coffee and a pastry and solve the world’s problems. Mom will be on the phone talking with her sister and posting her memories on Fb. My sister will be at work, and Fiona and Winnie will be beside the table waiting for a morsel of food to be shared or a belly rub. Meanwhile, a friend takes pictures with her mom through a glass window because the risk is too high to be any closer. My best friend is experiencing the loss of loved ones, but can’t be with her family due to health risks and the government mandate regarding large gatherings. Homegoing celebrations, weddings, births, graduations, etc. with 10 people or less. Some difficult decisions are being made. This is true for so many things in our lives right now. I then think about my Uncle who took a fall recently, and because of his limited mobility, he is in a nursing home. He, like my Daddy, is spending the night alone in an unfamiliar room with strangers. Until he goes home; I cant visit him either.
I don’t particularly want to work from home, but when I think about all the other challenges that folks may be having, I think about how blessed I really am. I am inconvenienced not down-an-out. For me, not being able to go to brunch or to the gym is only temporary. For some, extreme challenges and loss have taken up residence in their lives; and some of it will be permanent.
I will brace myself for the permanent changes to reveal themselves when it’s all said and done. We will adapt and learn the new ways of the world. In spite of the sickness, loss, change, stress, and anxiety; joy is found in the “socially distant” love we show one another.