Recently I called my dental insurance to ask a question about something on my bill. It was somewhat involved, but eventually I got it straightened out, although the woman who was helping me told me I should check back in a month to be sure that the correction had gone through because, as she said, with a strong Southern accent, "You just never know what's gonna happen!"
That has been the theme of 2020. During the Christmas holiday of 2019, all my family except my youngest daughter and her family were here, which added up to 30 people. And all of us got sick sequentially over the course of the time we were together. It must have been some variant of influenza; we went through cases of tissues and took turns never moving from our beds or sofa beds. We still had a good time overall because family reunions are hard to coordinate since there are so many of us now. In retrospect, we wondered if it had been an advance onslaught of Covid-19, but various family members have been tested since then, and all were negative. Maybe it was just a prediction of what was coming.
I remember starting to hear about the coronavirus in China after that, but it was on the other side of the world, so I didn't give it too much space in my worry compartment. But soon the contagion was spreading like a wildfire in California, with sparks being carried for miles, and slowly the whole world changed.
Masks appeared, hand sanitizer was hard to get, and toilet paper hoarded. Choirs were forbidden, which meant that I no longer had choir practice on Monday nights. It also meant that I no longer had to go to the 9:00 Mass on Sunday to play, because Masses were suspended. My Bible studies were canceled. Soon it seemed as if everything was canceled. The Beginning Experience retreats that had been scheduled for May and October at the Abbey were canceled, along with everything else at the Abbey except for the normal routine of the monks.
I couldn't get together with the daughter who lives the closest and her family, and the daughter in LA and her family couldn't come down for a visit. Life seemed emotionally empty without hugs. For the first time in my life, I spent Easter alone, without being able to go to Mass. Streaming Masses helped, but the Urbi et Orbi blessing from Pope Francis on Good Friday that he delivered from an empty St. Peter's Square, in the rain, was a melancholy reminder of how much had radically changed and that at the beginning of March, we surely didn't know what was gonna happen.
My grandchildren came home from school and we all became adept at Zoom conferences, Skype conversations, and horn lessons over Messenger (with an inevitable lag). When some things began to reopen, it was tentatively and the masks and social distancing made it seem as if we were in a foreign country. Talking with a mask even makes it seem as if we are speaking different languages. We've adapted fairly well, but we are also learning to pivot quickly. Our parish started with Masses in church where you had to get a reservation because of the limited numbers allowed. Then we were able to have outdoor Masses, and most of those were enjoyable until it got hot. Then we were allowed to move indoors with 100 people, and the overflow was accommodated outside. But just as the weather turned colder, the Covid numbers went up, and we're all back outside again. In case we didn't believe it beforehand and thought that we are in control of our lives, we should now have learned that you really never know what's gonna happen, in 2020 or any other year.