A year ago this week, “normal” was ending for most of us, as coronavirus was coming into full swing in the US. I was on an 80’s Cruise in the Caribbean, being entertained, fed, and served up drinks to the beat of my youth, trying to wrap my head around how, back at home, people were storming stores for food and hoarding toilet paper. I started this week saying that I was in mourning for the life that we lost at this time last year. 

As the week went on, however, my point of view changed. All things considered, my life has remained fairly normalized in Tennessee. Normal, for me, anyway. I don’t work outside of the home. Yes, I am one of the most social creatures you will ever meet, but I’m blessed that I can find social outlets online and have adjusted well to the covid “zoom” culture in order to function with other people. In Tennessee, we have been able to go to restaurants since late last Spring, with masking, which, sadly, many here still will not do, and no one seems to enforce. I have met friends in ones or twos on more than a few occasions in the past year. Russ and I have gone out to eat. On Christmas Day, we even went to the movies to see It’s A Wonderful Life, because, compared to so many other possible scenarios, ours has been. Russ’ life has been far different from mine since he has spent several months of the past year working directly with covid patients. I have prayed more in the past year than ever before in my life. But his approach to life and the virus without fear, but with using intelligence and common sense, has made me a braver person, I believe. It has certainly increased my faith in God and raised my awareness that I ultimately have no control in the big things like a pandemic, just in how I respond to it personally. 

We lost a cousin to covid-19 this week. Donnie Little, from Indiana. He was one of Mom’s first cousins. He and his wife were vacationing for the winter in Texas when they both contracted the virus. Donnie didn’t recover. The loss of a family member makes you look at the virus differently, I think. It has just knocked on your own door. You take it more personally. You ask a lot of questions; you wonder a lot of thoughts. The same stuff that you always do when mortality reminds you of its existence. But man, I will miss him. I will miss his smile and his hugs. And everything about his amazing personality.

So, I started the week mourning for a time and place, moving to mourning for a person. And today, I sat on hold for nearly forty minutes impatiently (just barely beating out the anxiety of our new refrigerator being delivered at the same time – I’ve been spazzing about that since the night we bought it four weeks ago), waiting to try to set up an appointment for my covid vaccine this coming week, when my demographic group is first eligible for the shots – in Tennessee, I am 1C – because of several medical conditions (diabetes, obesity, an autoimmune disease, asthma, etc.). I had begun to doubt if I was actually still on hold or just on some random loop, but everyone on Facebook encouraged me to remain on the line. And then an angel’s voice came on the other end and, as we were making the appointment for Tuesday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway, I realized that I was crying. I truly see this as a lifeline. It is a reason for hope in these dark times, and I honestly didn’t think a year ago that we would be here this quickly. 

A year from now, if things continue to go well, I will be on the 80’s Cruise again. I can’t imagine how the experience will be different from the last time, but I know that it will. I’m ready to cruise again. I’m ready to travel, to go out and live and learn other people’s stories again. Next May, I’m slated for a second Caribbean Cruise with my best friend from college. If the rest of the world cooperates and the world continues its return to right-side-up.