Like most everyone now, I can see the effects of the Covid-19 crisis playing out in different ways for different family members depending on their circumstances. I hear stories of how various people are being affected and I think, yes, I see that in my family. Here are just a few of their representative stories. More will be coming.
Family in Indiana
Susie and Phil are what we call in the midwest “snowbirds.” My sister and her husband leave their home in Evansville, Indiana every year around Thanksgiving time and return at the beginning of April. They live for those months in their large pop-out camper in beautiful Fort Myers Beach, Florida. This year found them at the Florida beaches at the peak of the pandemic shut-down. They sequestered there until the first week of April and headed home through four states before arriving back in Indiana. Any time in April, Susie tells me, I-75 heading north out of Florida is bumper to bumper. This year, she says, they flew right through. And the roads all the way home were almost empty except for big-rigs. At gas stations they masked and gloved up to pump gas. Inside the convenience stores you told the clerk what you wanted and they got it for you. Fortunately, since they were pulling the camper they didn’t have to use the public restrooms and they carried their own food.
David, my 46 year old nephew in Indiana was laid off from his job at in early March due to pandemic cutbacks – a victim of last in, first out. Fortunately, he was able to file fairly quickly for unemployment and is also receiving the $600 a week CARES act supplement. As long as that lasts, he tells me, he’s making more than when he was working. Not very reassuring for the long term, but the government support is helping him make it through. He had to think twice, though, before deciding to replace his 25 year old bed.
David’s sister, Amanda, is working full-time from home while playing teacher for first grade Eleanor and taking care of Graham, who turned one in January and is now walking – wherever he wants. Her husband, Jedd, still goes to work because he works for an “essential” company that makes parts for the U.S. Navy. (That’s all we know about that. If he told us, he’d have to kill us.) Amanda is the stereotype of the going-mad working mother juggling it all while sequestered at home.
Meanwhile in New Mexico
Here in Albuquerque, daughter Rachel and her husband, Bret, are teaching from home. Because Rachel is the educational technologist for her large elementary school, she was slammed when the schools closed in mid-March. Teachers were scrambling to implement online teaching and needed support and training. Students without the equipment to access online learning needed to be supplied with Chromebooks, and a system for cataloging and distributing those had to be set up and implemented. Bret provides counseling and classes for college preparation at his charter high-school, so all of that went online or on video-conferencing.
Meanwhile, at home are two high-school daughters, a son sent home from college and taking his classes online, and a now learning at home kindergartener who celebrated his sixth birthday while sequestered. When Henry is home from college, he usually has a job at a restaurant that keeps him busy and provides funding for his college expenses. That job, of course, is now nonexistent. A pre-med student, he was slated to start his dream job in a lab at the University in May. Fortunately, he will be able to begin that in June.
Lucy, 15 and a high school freshman, is struggling with difficult math concepts in her online class. She at least has a friend to hang out with in her “bubble.” This has also been an excellent art-making time for her. Frances, her very academic twin sister goes to a different high school and is less than challenged now that her courses are online. Sometimes she is the only student participating in her online lectures and discussions. She didn’t have a friend she was comfortable enough with to make her one outside contact, so the isolation has been difficult for her, especially since her volleyball season was brought to a halt by the pandemic.
Precocious six-year old Colin takes long hikes in the mountains with his parents and their dog, Thor. He tries to entertain himself while both parents work from home, and mostly succeeds in not bombing their video conferences. His online learning is sometimes fun, especially when Coach pays a virtual visit to his class. It’s May now so all of them except Bret and Lucy, whose school is on a year-round calendar, are now on summer break. It will be interesting to see how that develops as the reopening gradually plays out.
And I am here in Albuquerque. For two months or so my only family visits were from Rachel, who delivered the groceries that she and Bret purchased for me when they went shopping. She often stayed for a socially-distant happy hour. In the past few weeks, we’ve expanded our family visits to include all of them at an appropriate distance. And in the past week or so some family members have walked to the park with me. All of us are trying to figure out the best way for our family contact to change as the pandemic stays while some of the distancing rules are relaxed and the world opens up a little. My big adventure was shopping at Trader Joe’s during their seniors only hour yesterday. This was my first visit to an indoor public place since mid-March. We’re entering Pandemic: Phase II.