When faced with a challenge, I often think, “Let it be an adventure." Well, as 2020 began, my sister and I faced the adventure of preparing our parents' home for sale. We had lost our Mother in March 2019 to metastatic breast cancer. Then, March 2020 brought in an additional challenge: a pandemic.
So my sister and I worked, masked, in different parts of the house. We practiced social distancing on breaks outdoors in lawn chairs, chatting and snacking. While the pandemic complicated the process of sorting through family heirlooms, it gave my sister and I time to reflect on our parents' lives, and strengthened our bond.
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The pandemic brought new words and phrases into our vocabulary, such as PPE and positivity rate. My husband, son, and I withdrew into our “pod” as the pandemic evolved. Our son finished up his lessons at a local art gallery; creating works of art now gives him solace when confined indoors. We had fun choosing patterns for our fabric masks, and wore them everywhere. We still use fabric masks outdoors, and KN95s indoors. My son has decided to wear his KN95 at school, despite the recent change in the school masking rules, “to be safe,” noting: ”I don't want to be sick.”
As we adjusted to the pandemic lifestyle, we experienced an unexpected loss. Our guinea pig, Frankie, passed away. We grieved, missing her presence, and later adopted a guinea pig mother, Mimi, and daughter, Minnie, in need of a home.
As someone classified as “immunocompromised,” I was eager to be vaccinated. A connection found me a vaccination appointment, and I was fully vaccinated by March 2021. My husband followed suit by April 2021, and our son prior to starting school that fall. As we adjusted to life as a pod, my son enthusiastically observed, “We're like pioneers." The basement, with standing desk and screen, became a workplace for my husband; my desk became part of a 7th grade online classroom. My son and I started school days outdoors, enjoying the exercise, the passing trains, and the chickens in a backyard facing a local park's walking path. I gladly shed the pounds that I had gained during my Mom's illness.
[Related: Reflecting on COVID: Being with my family 24/7 has strengthened us in a way that I never could’ve imagined]
As 8th grade started, I became my son's aide. He detested Zoom learning and required much encouragement and support. “I miss my friends, and seeing them at lunch!” he said often. When some students returned to school for the last quarter of 8th grade, he eagerly joined them. Our house wore
many hats: serving as school, workplace, and our home, simultaneously.
My husband, working in Information Technology, elected to work solely at home as the pandemic continued. His presence has been a blessing in many ways. I was diagnosed with a salivary gland infection in fall 2020, then rediagnosed as a cancerous tumor by summer 2021. Surgery — followed by seven weeks of daily radiation treatments and weekly chemotherapy — wrapped up in early December. My husband has been ”holding down the fort” during my treatment, and has been woven into the fabric of our daily life.
I am thankful for the supportive texts, calls, and prayers across the U.S. which “hold me in the light," and for my doctor's recommendation that I prepare for surgery by exercising. I had been walking a 5K most days and eating well, which gave me the stamina to walk from Randolph and Michigan to the Northwestern hospital campus daily for treatment. My ability to exercise kept my morale up.
Post-treatment, I was told I couldn't be indoors or eat with those outside my pod. How, then, to spend the holiday with my extended family members? The warm weather let us exchange gifts Christmas Day outdoors, and make Christmas memories despite the circumstances.
As we move through 2022, I recuperate and regain energy. Our house still serves as our home base and a workplace, and the study's role alternates as I share the room part-time with my son. I'm realizing that my biggest challenge is finding a private spot in the house for both my daily tasks and quiet reflection. We are pioneers indeed. As my son says when our vacations end, “This has been an excellent family adventure”. The adventure continues…