Re-evaluating our family priorities and learning to be a family again.
8760 Days. That’s how long I’ve known my husband. 8760 Days.
After that long together, we had a solid routine. We knew how each other woke up, how long we took our showers, and who was going to make the kids’ lunches that day. We knew what to expect from our family routine.
But then the pandemic hit on day 8395, and that routine ceased to exist. We were thrown into survival mode. Our college-aged son moved home, my younger boys started online school, and my husband’s job fortunately shifted to remote. With everyone home, I struggled to find a chunks of time to work on my manuscript and found myself cooking non-stop, cleaning all the time, and crying over the growing death counts.
And yet, this crazy, upside-down, sideways year has been my favorite 365 days with my husband and boys.
Pre-pandemic, we had become so entrenched in our routines that we didn’t know we needed to hit pause until it was forced on us. My husband often left for work at 5:30am and didn’t return home until 7:30pm, and my boys ran from school to sports and jobs to homework and then bed. Family meals were rare, and brief conversations only happened as we passed each other in the kitchen or over text. We were five people sharing a home, but not our lives.
The pandemic forced us to engage with each other, and it made my family assess what mattered.
And what mattered was us.
For 8395 days, my husband and I had raced toward a finish line — death. But now death seemed to be everywhere, and in those first, uncertain days as we waited for my son to fly home from North Dakota where the infection was rampant, my husband and I walked miles each morning to calm my racing thoughts. We discussed wills (which we didn’t have), finances, guardianship of our two minor boys, and any last wishes if Covid stuck our family.
Oddly, during those heavy walks, I began to notice tiny buds on rose bushes, cardinals perched on still-bare branches, and the way the early-morning sun lit the trees — all things I was normally too busy to see — and our conversations turned toward things we wanted to do once the world was safe again.
We wanted to spend more time together and with the boys; we wanted to cut back on our outside commitments and focus only on activities that truly mattered to us; and we wanted to appreciate where we were in life and not be hyper-focused on a future that may never come.
For the next 77 days, despite the fear of the unknown, we laughed more, played games with our boys, ate as a family again, and redefined what made our lives worth traveling together.
And then, in July, I contracted Covid. I felt guilt and shame more than fear for myself. I had done everything right, but somehow, probably from my once-monthly grocery run, I had brought it into my family and specifically to my son with a circulatory illness. I had delivered death to my family’s doorstep, and I was terrified for them.
But my family was lucky and no one else got sick even though I struggled for months with brain fog, fatigue, and breathing normally while simply walking. All of this, while not as horrific as what some families have gone through, made us reassess how we wanted to spend the next 8760 plus days together.
We decided it was connection, love, and time well spent as a family.
So as we slowly move toward post-pandemic life, I’m taking the lessons I learned over the past year with me. These 365 days have reminded me of the importance of family and the little moments, and I’m thankful, despite the scariness, that I received the reminder.