Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

My family has been talking behind my back — about me! And they were understandably nervous when it came time to talk to me about what they were discussing. After all, I’ve been known to be a bit prickly, maybe a touch defensive, and sometimes lacking in patience. So when my daughter brought this up on Wednesday, I knew immediately that I needed to pay attention. She’s not given to drama, so when she said that this discussion had taken place and that we needed to talk it through, my ears were open. And so was my heart.

And it all had to do with the pandemic, and the current very frightening spike of new cases in our state and even our own city, and their concerns for my safety. I’d been overseeing online school for two little boys in our family, and it was now apparent that because of the number of people, known and unknown, that these boys were exposed to, it simply wasn’t safe any longer for me to continue having them at my house.

I could readily see the truth of this, and I was touched by everyone’s concern even as I began to battle an onslaught of other feelings. The first was guilt — what was their mom going to do? And it has taken some time for me to understand that there are some things that I can’t and shouldn’t feel obligated to fix. The second was relief. In a flash of clarity, I realized that the whole school/child care thing was not going very well for any of us. I was stressed out about it, I was beginning to be burnt out, and the little ones were not enjoying it very much. A grandparent/grandchild relationship just isn’t meant to have that much discipline and drudgery built into it, and as much as I hated to admit it, my age was a factor too.

I sat in my daughter’s kitchen and cried, and really talked about everything, and she saw to it that new arrangements were made for the boys. Over the next 2 days, we took extra precautions with masks, distancing, and sanitizing, and on Friday afternoon, I packed up all of their school materials and sent everything home with them (along with detailed instructions for how to get to everything online, which was entirely different for each of them).

What I wasn’t fully prepared for was the flood of emotions that kept washing over me. That’s a tired old metaphor, I know, but I can’t think of a better one. I was sad, and I couldn’t escape a sense of failure that I knew was misplaced, but persisted anyway. And at the same time, I found myself looking forward to having my days back to do my things. I realized that I had been missing my solitude. What was wrong with me?

The beauty of a relationship with Jesus is that you can lay all of those feelings and questions before him and ask him what you are supposed to make of them. And after a few rounds of tears and just a hint of self-loathing, that’s what I did. I brought this to Jesus with a spirit of gratitude. Sure, it was something along the lines of “Jesus, thank you for what you have done for me. I’m not sure exactly what it was or why I am so emotional about it, but thank you.”

And in the next moment a wondrous thought formed itself in my mind. I spend a fair amount of time asking God to make me and keep me humble, because my biggest failing and most frequent sin centers on pride and self-interest. And God had just  given me the most amazing opportunity to be humble. Because I wasn’t doing so well with the school business, and I kept clinging to it because it made me special to be doing it, and gosh darn it, I would keep making that sacrifice because only I could make it all work.

Clearly, I had my ego all wrapped up in a cloak and mask that looked like service. And it wasn’t working. So although the overarching issue in stopping it was safety, the lesson behind stopping was much more related to humility. And so once more what looked like a heavy cross turned out to be God’s way of blessing me.

There is more to this story, having to do with the need to hunker down and isolate myself much more than I’ve done since the beginning of this pandemic. Since way back in March, my daughter’s household and mine have pretty much behaved like one household. And with cases on the rise and no end in sight (a vaccine being months from general availability at best), we had to reassess the risks of our expanded bubble. My son-in-law is a doctor who may see as many as 45-50 patients a day. While he takes precautions, there is increased risk around my being exposed to him. My granddaughter attends preschool, and while the preschool itself has had no cases and is maintained separately from the K-8 school, the K-8 school has had a couple of cases. Again, increased risk. Then there was my oldest grandson, who is careful but again, is exposed to other people through classes and roommates.

So, my daughter said, we needed to rethink how we were approaching all this. My family wants me around for a lot more years, she said, and while it might be merely inconvenient for them to get a case of Covid, it could be a disaster for me given my history of pneumonia twice in the past 2 1/2 years, and given my age. So we made the decision: we’ll stay apart as much as possible; when we do see each other, we’ll use masks and we’ll keep the 6-foot social distance. I’ll stay home, have groceries delivered, and at least for now, do without hugs (that hurts).

It’s the right decision, for the right reasons. As I let it sink in, I fetl above all the depth of my family’s love and care. They helped me figure out all the decisions and actions that were needed and they helped me implement them. It is the right thing to do, and above all I feel both relieved and safe.

I still spent much of Thursday and a fair portion of Friday in tears. I’d be sitting here thinking how everything was going to work out and how this is all temporary, and then some part of my brain would holler “Pity party! Right this way!” and on would come the tears again. Someone called from our parish, checking up to see if members needed anything or had prayer intentions, and I burst into tears just over the kindness in that woman’s voice. This morning, I had a wave of sadness at the moment I would usually have noticed my grandson’s car over at my daughter’s house and would have headed over for our traditional Saturday morning breakfast.

But this is one year in my life; one season of missed holidays — and more important, of finding new and different ways to celebrate. We’re finding online games that we can all play together; we’re getting together on Zoom; we’re looking out for each other in different ways. And we’re going to be fine, so that when the pandemic is over and we begin to right the ship, we’ll be better at being a family and at being good humans than we ever were before.

So what I’m going to do in these coming weeks and months is stay home, enjoy the solitude that is my natural state anway, find new opportunities and ways to pray, stay in touch with people in the ways I like to do, and cry when I need to.

I’m going to make sure I exercise daily and eat right, because I’ve already found the Covid 15 everyone talks about. I’m going to find ways to serve my God and my people — family and others around me — that are, I hope, less pride-inducing than trying to take on too much and trying to do everything. I’ll knit, I’ll read, I’ll pray, I’ll write. I’m going to try to stay out of God’s way when he is trying to send grace and mercy my way. And I’m going to be grateful, every single day and night, for the lesson in humility that he has so graciously given me in this time of Covid.

I’m going to trust my Lord and Savior in all things.

I can live with that.

Comments on: "Quarantined Anew, and Faith and Grace (Pandemic)" (1)

  1. Mary R Manuel said:

    Love you, Mama! xo


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