COVID-19 will go down as many things in the history books. I watch the case numbers climb and the stock market numbers dive. But for me, it has been a great equalizer. Since my heart failure diagnosis, I have been the one staying home, slowing down, appreciating life. So in some ways, my life doesn’t look much different in the era of coronavirus. Now everyone is behaving more like me for a change.
But in terms of relationships, COVID-19 seems to be leaving its differentiating mark.
Their mother being in the highest co-morbidity group has spooked my young adult children. They are calling and texting, warning me to stay home, preceding the official request for social distancing. We shared a tweet in our family text group and had a good laugh: In an unsettling reversal of my teenage years, I am now yelling at my parents for going out.
I must admit, as a heart patient, the thought of contracting this virus is a bit unsettling. But I am accustomed to being careful. And so is my family. Heart disease forces its way to the top of the pile of concerns early on. Yet, when they get a break from college or jobs, my children are supposed to come home. Now residing in a virus hot spot, they are staying away in fear that they might infect me.
I often feel cheated with my parents and all of my siblings in different states. Even worse, my children are all a distant plane ride away. This pandemic has seemed to amplify the expanse.
Yet, this is another way coronavirus has been an equalizer. We have all been kept apart from those we love. With the talk of social distancing, quarantines, and even lockdowns, it doesn’t matter if your loved ones are across town, across the state, or across the globe. They are apart from our touch. I want to wrap them up in my protective arms and make sure they’re washing their hands twenty times a day, avoiding risky groups, and eating right with what they have in their pantry. (Hasn’t changed much since they were in preschool, I guess.)
So what can we do to maintain relationships with those we love as we remain focused on our own increased chances of getting this virus? We can lean into it. We can embrace the now-slower schedules of family members and call them every day. Better yet, Facetime or video chat. Who had time for that a month ago? I can now see if my children need a haircut or if they look like they are content. (Mommas know). I can send them care packages like I used to when they were at summer camp, with homemade cookies and homemade hand sanitizer.
And the concern should extend far past our own high risk status. We were scheduled to visit my parents this weekend. But my daddy is undergoing chemo for lung cancer, so that personal contact will be postponed for his sake, not mine.
COVID-19 is the great equalizer, especially in terms of relationships. It is incumbent upon us all to work harder to stay closer, to put more fragile people above our own needs and concerns. That’s the novel effect of this pandemic I hope we never develop a vaccine for.