I usually consider myself an understanding, patient, and optimistic person but these past 8 months are proving to challenge that characteristic.
Initially, I enjoyed all the extra time with my family that social distancing provided. No schedules, no places to go – the calendar was clear. However, as spring bled into summer I realized that the pandemic had oozed into other areas of our lives. No longer was a trip to the store just a trip to the store but more like a raid on an enemy camp as the pros and cons were carefully weighed. A trek to a park was wrought with the knowledge that there may not be a restroom available. And vacation plans were canceled because it just wasn’t worth the risk. Then fall arrived with no sign of improvement.
Students returned to school with a dark cloud over what is usually an exciting time. What was supposed to have been cleared up during the summer now is effecting another school year. One by one, my kids began their schooling with sometimes hourly updates of how the fall semester was to run. My son, who entered his senior year of high school, opted for virtual learning save for marching band. What was meant to be an emotional, bitter-sweet year has turned into an anti-climatic disappointment.
We are a marching band family, my two girls having already graduated, enjoyed all the rites of passage that an upper-classman is afforded, but this year marching band has been reduced to sitting in the stand in a polo shirt and ball cap; that is, when they are allowed to attend. While the football players get all close and personal in their huddles and pile-ups, the band is forced to sit quietly with only the drums occasionally sounding out. Not even for half-time can they take the field. Supposedly, somebody in an office was afraid that playing instruments would spread the virus, apparently it wont spread through contact sports. The band competitions have been canceled, not even a parade is to be attended, and homecoming is a thing for another time, when Covid-19 wasn’t even a word.
As a parent, the disappointment, frustration, and sadness is great. This was my baby’s senior year, but also the end of what feels like a life-time of public school. We were entering a new chapter of life – empty nesters, parents of adults. For my son, he had watched all the senior excitement and activities that his sisters enjoyed only to start his year alone with nothing to look forward to because hoping for anything good is just setting yourself up for disappointment. One of his favorite activities was jazz band, but after working so hard last year to never play the music in the band concert, he has opted to not even participate this year because “It’s not the same,” and knowing there’s a chance that once again they will not get to perform just made it all seem pointless. Though educators are doing their best to keep things exciting, but the black cloud of the Covid storm hangs low.
We are an optimistic and understanding family, but as the weeks tick slowly along and more cancellations and changes take place, our smiles waiver. My oldest daughter, having worked so hard to get through college, will be rewarded with a virtual ceremony. Thanksgiving runs the risk of spreading germs instead of gratitude. And the best gift this Christmas may be staying away from the family and friends you care so much about.
How much longer can we live in limbo? How much longer do we cease to celebrate? How much longer to we worry about bringing illness to those we care about?
I do not mind the masks, in fact I rather enjoy them as a way of expressing my personality, but what I mind is not having plans. I can’t even visit my friend because a sniffle could be the start of something greater than a cold. Visiting my mom comes with a conscious realization that I could make her deathly ill. And making plans….well….it’s just best not to. It’s not living in fear, it’s living with a consideration of others health as well as my own. A surgeon wears a mask and gloves not for his health, but for that of the patient’s. Is an activity, a trip, a visit really worth risk, the chaos, the upset?
But even as I deal with my own emotional turmoil, I recall those that lived through the great wars and the depression. Mother’s watched children starve. Father’s searched far and wide in order to bring just a few dollars to provide. Children were thankful for a potato to eat and accepted a sack for clothing. Even when our life has been so greatly upset, we have so much more than they ever did. I do not need to fear bombs being dropped on my house, resulting in the need to send children away to strangers in a distant village for safety. I try to focus on the fact that we have it better than those generations but it doesn’t stop me from wishing we could enjoy the things we once did.
I want to be tired from Friday night football and excited about a band competitions. I want to stress over how to be everywhere at once and able to plan graduation parties. I want to take pictures of my son looking smart in a suit for homecoming and cry when he takes the field for the last time in his band uniform. I want to see my girl walk in the room wearing her graduation regalia and beam and cry with pride at what she has accomplished. Those moments, all of those exciting, wonderful, stressful moments, are what life is made up of. Right now, I feel as though we are only partially living.
Though my optimism and smile may at times waiver, I will nonetheless try to find the best in the situation and remember that others have survived far worse. Nothing lasts forever, not even the bad times, and that is something I can plan on. If anything, this pandemic has created an appreciation for even the smallest of things, like toilet paper and Lysol ;p