For our family, yesterday was one of the brightest days in this COVID era, as our oldest daughter and her family returned from her family’s long stay in the South. Originally, they were going to be away for one year, but once COVID crisis flipped from North to South, they decided to come back home to the North, and we are so grateful for that!
Their face-to-face reunion with the rest of the family was heart melting- no more weekly Zoom calls! As cousins and siblings greeted each other after five and a half months, we were in awe of the immense love and glad for the end of the lonely longing we all had to be together again. The four-year-olds were dancing and shrieking with joy, and inseparable for the rest of the day. And the youngest cousin was so happy to see everyone, she was allowed to skip her nap! The seven-year-old cousins started planning sleepovers, and kept asking me when I would resume them. Unfortunately, I had to delegate that complex decision to their parents. In my heart, I didn’t dare tell them that it might be a long time before Grandma could host those fun sleepovers again. The sweetest moment was when a whole bunch of them started playing badminton- it was as if our backyard smiled with relief that good old days were back again! And even now, one of our daughters has yet to reunite with us to complete the whole gang, and thank God that is happening soon too.
As with all social gatherings – even small ones and even the outdoors ones- everyone was confused about masks, wiping down, distance kept, and after an hour or two, it seemed we all decided to hell with all that jazz. We still kept wiping down surfaces and my husband even wore a mask while barbecuing and cooking dinner later on in the evening. But it was a constant searching for “what is the right thing to do or not to do” process.
I realized, as I had realized before, that there is a new form of anxiety- call it COVID anxiety- that is going to be with us for a long time. It will hang like a dark cloud before, during and after every social gathering, small or large. The larger the gathering the larger the cloud! And we might as well learn to manage this anxiety – I certainly have to stop getting up a night at the slightest hint of a sore throat and panicking! At the same time, we do have to be careful and observe community rules, especially in larger gatherings beyond family. It is really hard to remember as we easily fall back on our habits of the good old days- yes, that’s how it was in the old days: we could talk, sit close even hug each other. What a lesson Nature and God are teaching us! The simple, invisible things we took for granted can be done no more.
I used to keenly watch daily COVID updates, but have since stopped it as it confused me. Recently, I was drawn to TED talk with Bill Gates titled “How the Pandemic will shape our Near Future”, and as I heard terms like pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic, never symptomatic, I just threw my hands up in the air! What a complex challenge for humanity- may our scientists be up to the task and be allowed to heal the planet, while we humans learn appreciation in a whole new way. As Shaikh Yurdaer of Jerrahi Mosque said at last night’s sohbet (dialogue), would we be sitting under the stars contemplating and praying together if it was not for COVID? What we are learning is truly precious.