In the first issue of a2view, I wrote about our family and how we were coping with our new world. A year later I sit writing on my porch listening to the drone of cicadas emerging from the woods around me. It puts a picture frame around my memory of this year; a year has allowed our family to be closer but has also kept us apart from our extended family and friends during times when we needed the most help.
My kids came home from school in March of 2020 for what we thought would be a couple weeks. Those couple weeks extended to a year away from their schools, friends, and much of our family. We’ve spent time outside with nature and with our animals. We spend time training our puppy for Leaderdogs for the Blind. We spend time watching our happy chickens. We spend a lot of time at hockey rinks. Some days we spend way too much time with each other.
On days when we are out playing in the field, I smile thinking we are like a page out of Little House On The Prairie, but then I remember a zoom call or a school online meeting and it brings us back to our over-connected-disconnected world.
Covid gives and it takes away.
This past year will always be heavy with the memory of losing my dad. His cancer diagnosis blindsided us, and scheduling an appointment at the cancer center took weeks. It was like the doctor handed us a grenade and said “here hold this” and then left the room.
If it wasn’t for Covid we may have had more time. There were shutdowns at the cancer center, staffing cutbacks, doctor changes, treatment postponements, and drug substitutions and reactions that probably wouldn’t have happened in a non-Covid world.
But, if it wasn’t for Covid, we wouldn’t have had our schedules cleared for us. Corinne, George, and Henry would have spent the last Spring and Summer we had with my dad at school and hockey practices instead of whittling sticks on the porch, running around my parents’ farm, and learning to make Grandpa’s famous Sloppy Joes. We were blessed to have that extra time.
We lost him early on the morning of September 8, the first day of school. From that day I’ve been putting pieces back together. I don’t know how to heal from this loss. My strategy has been to keep moving forward, take a lot of pictures, and do something good for others. I’m trying to help my kids when the things they need, like hugs from friends and family, aren’t possible. Virtual school hasn’t been perfect, but it has allowed us some freedom. The kids have been able to spend time with my mom on the farm, and we took school with us on trips. I used to dream of homeschooling while we traveled around the country. Virtual school put a damper on that; I taught high school for nearly twenty years but managing my own class of three has made me question my abilities.
My kids each took to virtual learning differently. George, my bright, funny, social third grader, struggled. After losing his beloved grandpa and a year spent without his friends, he stopped working. We were hoping that a partial return to in-person public school would help, but we couldn’t wait any longer and enrolled him at Rudolf Steiner. He’s calmer and more content now that he can be an active, hands-on learner again.
Corinne, my twelve-year-old daughter, complained about virtual learning but did great. She became a master of time management, volunteering with the Peer to Peer program, yearbook, and cooking club, and attended online grief support through Ele’s Place. She is now getting a small taste of in-person middle school.
Henry, my six year old, had fun with virtual Kindergarten, but being in front of the screen after a year was causing him to walk in circles. Since the end of March he has been able to be in what he calls “Real Life School” two days a week. Kindergarten is such an important foundation for developing a love of learning and Henry has been blessed with awesome, talented, and loving teachers. I am so impressed with how his teacher has been able to connect with the kids and foster real relationships through the screen. But now that Henry has had the chance to be in his classroom and with his friends and teachers who love him, it is harder to get him back to his Ipad for the days that he is virtual. Having in-person classes has made all the kids much happier.

We are so thankful that we had sports to keep our kids going when everything was on a screen. All three kids were on hockey teams this year, which was the biggest piece of normal for us. The constant running to practice (sometimes four games or practices in one day) was a great distraction.

My husband and I are coping around our kids’ schedules. Dennis is dealing pretty well with his at-home workspace squished in a corner of our extra bedroom. He’s happy to take the occasional break and play catch with the kids or take a lunchtime bike ride. What a welcome change this has been from his two-hour daily commute.

An unexpected bit of sunshine has been our chickens. The kids have been begging for years, and I finally just said let’s get them. In predictable fashion the chickens were interesting for the kids for a few days and then they essentially became mine. It would be nice to have some help, but I am loving the chickens. Their coop has taken over my parking spot, but that seems a small price to pay for the good they are doing my blood pressure. In the morning I turn on some Patsy Cline, open the garage door, the sun comes in, the chickens talk and dance, and I feel better.

In addition to vaccines, Summer and being outside also bring us some safety. I am looking forward to sunny days, taking long walks, spending time in nature, playing with our dogs and chickens, watching kids play baseball, connecting with family, friends, and neighbors in real life, and maybe just a few moments of pretending everything is perfect.