Pandemic Generations Struggle Through Summer by
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Prompted By Pandemic Summer

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My grandsons, ages 10 and 6, masked and worried

My 14-year-old granddaughter proclaimed the other day, “I will give COVID one year of my life. By March of 2021, I go back to my normal things – school, dance, friends, doing everything I used to do.” Who can blame her? She never got a chance to graduate middle school, perform in the dance recital for which she had been preparing all year, or have any semblance of a normal summer. The high school she is slated to begin in late August will consist of remote learning, not even close to the experience she expected. None of the fun aspects of high school will take place. No orchestra, no plays, no sports, no school dances, nothing but online learning alone at home. Not anything that a typical teen would remotely (pardon the pun) enjoy.

Zoom ballet class, alone in the basement

Zoom prom and middle school graduation

Our country has failed this generation of children whose lives will be forever defined by their experiences during the pandemic.

My heart breaks for my grandkids and their peers, socially distanced from everything that makes life enjoyable. Masked and anxious, they worry about their health and the health of their parents and grandparents. Separated from the hugs of relatives who love them and outings with friends, they lead a lonely existence. Stuck in front of screens, either for remote learning, “summer camp,” or entertainment, they become surly and scared. Yet, they are the lucky kids. They have screens, food security, and adults who are able to be with them. When I think about all of the children who don’t have these things, I cry. Our country has failed this generation of children whose lives will be forever defined by their experiences during the pandemic.

Zoom 10th birthday

And what about the next generation, their parents and my children? I am saddened by the huge burden they bear and the impossible choices they make every day. If they are called in to work, how do they provide care for their children? What can they do to protect themselves and their families from becoming sick? Even if they do everything by the book, wear their masks, wash their hands until they are raw, try to socially distance themselves – even then, they are likely to encounter people who don’t believe they have to do these things. I see it on Facebook: Gatherings of too many unrelated, unmasked people partying. People much too close in bars or indoor restaurants. I see it when I try to venture out for a walk: Groups of unmasked people crowding the sidewalk or walking toward the beaches. People who think wearing a mask means only over the mouth. How can my kids be sure that their work environments are free of people who think the rules are for other people, until they get sick?

Working from home and supervising her kids

If they are lucky enough to be able to work remotely from home for now, how can they balance their job responsibilities with caring for their children and supervising their online lives? They can’t, so everything is always short changed and their stress levels are at the breaking point. The misery and anxiety of their children eventually gets on their nerves. They want to be empathic and patient, but it becomes almost impossible. Tempers flare and tears are shed as everyone tries to make it through the day, only to rinse and repeat the next day.

Mom and daughters dancing at virtual prom

Then there is my generation, those who are officially in the danger zone for this virus. We mostly stay home, visiting only outdoors and distanced from local family and friends. We sleep poorly and worry about the safety of shopping masked in drug or grocery stores with one-way aisles at odd hours when they will be uncrowded. We are anxious when we have to allow workers into our homes to fix something. Increasingly, we shop for essentials online. We find it difficult to concentrate on all of the books we dreamed we would read if we had the time. We have endless time now.

Masked piano lesson

What will happen to us in November when the leaves fall, the weather turns cold, and we can no longer see people outdoors? What will happen when the seasonal flu mixes with COVID? The time we are losing is precious, as we realize there is not an infinite amount of time left to us. Zoom sessions and FaceTime are poor substitutes for not being able to be with our grandkids or hold the newborn grandchild several of my peers have yet to meet in person.

My husband and I try to stay positive as we muddle through endless days that are all the same. It is hard to remember the day of the week. We watch too much Netflix in an effort to distract ourselves from our isolation and fear. It’s getting harder to concentrate enough to get though the Sunday New York Times and increasingly depressing to follow each day’s news. Storm troopers in unmarked vans in Oregon snatching protestors from the streets and tear gassing mothers and the mayor. Continued discrimination and violence against people of color. Not enough help for essential workers’ families. A rogue president who admits he may not leave office if he loses. Schools in a state of chaos. As I write this, coronavirus positive cases have crossed the four million mark, with over 145,000 deaths and counting.  I can’t even.

My look for the unforeseeable future

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Oh Laurie, I can’t even either. You made me cry, but it was overdue. You covered a lot of the same ground I’ve been on…our kids and their kids, and yet ours are the lucky ones, there are so many so much less fortunate. Those of us with hearts are heartbroken. Another beautifully written story, and wonderful photos.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I’m with you, Laurie. As you say, our children (and your grandchildren), as difficult as this is for them, are among the lucky, as they are clothed, fed, have proper internet, know they are loved and cared for. But with each passing day, millions who have lost their jobs await news from the lackluster Congress to see if their unemployment benefits will run out tomorrow and they will be homeless within a few days. How can kids be “homeschooled” when there is no home?

    I like that your granddaughter has decided she will give this virus a year of her life, but no more. Then life must return to normal. I wish it were that simple. Hope you and your loved ones all stay safe.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Wishing you the same, Betsy. Can’t believe evictions will start soon. There are so many homeless kids around here. Having a chrome book for virtual learning won’t be much help without food, shelter, and internet access.

  3. Marian says:

    Yes, Laurie, this brought tears to my eyes. Each workday I see the pressure on my clients who have children. I don’t know how they survive. I, too am hesitant to shop on weekends, which means I go during the week, but often then have to start working, which creates more pressure … And we are the lucky ones with access to resources, both financial, medical, and technological. According to the head of epidemiology at UCSF, here in California it is often the poorest who get sick, like the day workers who hang out at Home Depot and don’t even speak Spanish, having come from Mayan areas of Mexico. Makes your heart break and feel powerless.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Marian, I have to keep reminding myself that however depressed and fearful and bereft of my family IO feel, I am among the fortunate to have food, shelter, and the means to survive this. So many don’t. But we cannot let ourselves feel powerless. We must do what we can to effect change in November.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    I sure can’t say that your story made me feel better, Laurie, but that is a result of our current reality. You have told it beautifully and honestly and, inevitably, sadly. How it has affected us, our children, our children’s children and many others far less fortunately.

    Perhaps most heartbreaking to me was your granddaughter’s declaration that everything will go back to normal by next March. If we could only promise that. For me, I am just hoping that the US returns to being a democracy on January 20, 2021. I trust that is not too much to ask for.

    Incidentally, your pictures are also beautiful. Thank you — and your family — for sharing them with us.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Amen to your hope for a restoration of democracy on January 20, John. This pandemic combined with the social unrest and the worst president of my lifetime has made for challenging times for all. I cry for all who are suffering through these terrible times.

  5. Suzy says:

    Well done, Laurie! I love all the pictures of your beautiful family that illustrate so well the points you are making. And, as others have said, what a wonderful statement by your granddaughter that “I will give COVID one year of my life.” She is more patient than I am, I don’t know if I can bear to wait until next March. And yet, of course, if I have to, I will, because what choice is there? Thank you for your thoughtful discussion of this moment in time.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Suzy. I think when you are 14, giving up a year of normal life seems like the longest thing you can imagine. For me, it feels like I don’t have that many years to spare. Trying to “keep calm and carry on,” but as the days blur together it’s getting harder. Plus, I fear our generation will be the last to re-enter society because we are the most vulnerable to getting sick. I guess we have to hope the vaccine comes sooner than later, and that it works.

  6. Thanx Laurie, like you and your husband, we’re trying to stay positive despite all, but it’s so hard with our double whammy of travesties.

    I too feel sorry for all – families with newborns and school kids, teens, college-bounders, young adults, newly marrieds, mid-lifers hitting their stride, and us Boomers wondering if these are the golden years we were looking forward to?
    And of course all of us worrying about loved one on the front lines.
    Stay safe and get out the vote!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Dana, I try to stay positive but every now and then, I have a pretty down day. All I can focus on now is November 3, but despite positive signs, I am fearful that if Trump prevails (most likely by cheating) I don’t think I could endure another four years of him. I’m not sure our country will survive. I guess you caught me on a down day.

  7. Thanks, Laurie. Heartbreaking, sobering and true. I like your multi-generational perspective. Your grandchildren are lucky to have you in their lives.

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