I’ve been looking forward to 2020 for a long while. It’s a year with great branding—what could be better than perfect vision? This is also the year my only kid graduated from high school. Big changes were coming—the end of an era, surely, but also the start of an exciting new adventure for our family. Well, 2020 has certainly been the end of an era in many ways. Three generations comprise our family: Mom was born in 1944, I was born in 1974, and The Kid was born in 2003. We don’t agree on much, but we can all agree that the combination of COVID and the current president has resulted in the end of the future as we expected it.
Remember my son, who was set to head off to college this fall? When COVID hit in April, he was in the midst of deciding between U of O in Eugene and the U of A in Tucson and aiming to pursue interdisciplinary studies in business and psychology. We were weighing pros and cons of cost, opportunity, and distance from family when it became clear that school might not even exist in the fall. Best case, it would be primarily online. Would it be worth the money and the risk to attend university in the first year of an untried and unproved approach to education? In the end, we decided no. So he is spending this next year at home self-educating and looking for ways to work.
My mom has had her own challenges. In early April, she suffered a mild stroke and spent a week over at Providence Portland stabilizing and undergoing an endarterectomy. She could only have one visitor during her stay, but we were grateful to have that! Over the week, as I entered and exited the hospital each day, I watched the staff scramble to provide good care and good information with the protocols changing daily. In a chaotic and uncertain situation, they were amazing. In the months since, she has experienced ongoing health challenges made all the more so by the uncertainty around seeking care in a medical environment that could itself be life-threatening. While her recovery has taken much longer than anyone anticipated, recovering slowly is much better than the alternative.
And me, personally, I have ups and downs—over the weeks and during each day. I used to take the #14 bus or my bike downtown each morning and return with the flow of commuters in the evening. The commute time that used to be dedicated to enjoying the rising sun and a podcast is now dedicated once per week to The Trip to The Grocery Store. This major production begins with suiting up in personal protective gear and ends with a decontaminating shower. I’m no longer so sure that all of my commitment to not letting anything touch anything else until it’s been washed is rational, but I do know it calms my anxiety. And I’m finally able to laugh at that anxiety when I’m watching a movie and see a crowd scene or two characters standing too close together.