Social Distance Has Brought My Family Closer Together

Ironic, but true

By kncitom on April 27, 2020
pink hair, masks and Karate Kid bandanas. It’s blackjack night on Zoom

Other than the fact that I’m 90% sure my church-volunteering mother-in-law cheats at blackjack, this pandemic has, weirdly, brought my family closer together.

It all started a few weeks back. Our 20 year son, Sam, was quarantined with his grandparents in Washington state. His college, Washington State University, had been shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. At first, he (and we) thought it would be temporary. Surely, school would re-open after a couple weeks or, if it didn’t, he could just drive home to Roseville and be with us.

But as the pandemic heated up and numbers of infected people grew, Sam’s school switched their spring semester to online learning, and we told him to stay put with grandma and grandpa because traveling just seemed too risky.

So, staying in the old bedroom of one of his uncles (decals of Charlie’s Angels still on a closet door…see above), Sam and his laptop settled in for the long term. Vickie’s mom is 79. Her dad is 84. Both are still active and so being quarantined was a bit tough for them. For awhile, Henry was taking Sam down to the shores of Puget Sound (they live across from Seattle) to fly fish for cutthroat trout, but then that closed down. So, when he isn’t studying online, Sam helps out around the house: mowing, cooking dinner with grandma, making runs to the store or pharmacy. Grandpa started teaching him to tie flies. When everyone gets too restless, Sam piles them in his car and takes them on scenic drives. That part of Washington has lots of scenery. They’ve been on quite a few drives.

Henry and Diane have always been an important part of our kids’ lives, but like many grandparents, it’s always been occasional- at holidays or random vacations. Sam has now been quarantined with them for 5 weeks, but rather than going stir crazy, he’s told us he’s enjoyed it. He says he loves the time they’re getting to spend together- even when Hank and Diane are listening to their polka music. And for them, he’s been a big assist in case they need something either around or away from the house. I can’t imagine how fondly he’ll look back on this time when he’s older.

Two weeks ago,  Sam set up a Zoom meeting between them and my wife Vickie and I. He thought it’d be another good way to keep them busy, give them something to look forward to. I will admit I wasn’t eager to join in. I have the attention span of a gnat, and I was thinking this would be a live stream full of sketchy video quality and awkward small talk. 

Welp, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Very wisely, Vickie arranged that we would play blackjack-they’d have their own deck of cards, we’d have ours. No, it wasn’t any sort of blackjack you could get away with in a casino but that Saturday night, on a surprisingly good video connection over 700 miles apart, we played for 40 minutes and we had a blast.  Grandma somehow kept winning, but whatever. We did it again this past weekend too, and this time our daughter in LA joined us. Grandma won again but again, whatever. Our other son Joe hasn’t been able to join yet because he’s been working on weekends in North Dakota as an EMT, but we’re going to find a hole in his schedule so he can be a part of the next one too. Sam’s done with school in a couple weeks and then he will be trekking down this way. Hopefully he’s able to show them how to set up a meeting on their own so our games can continue. I’m not hopeful- they still have a working rotary phone. But you never know. 

I’m not one to much throw around the word “miracle”, but that’s what this has felt like, a little bit, because our time during these online moments has had real weight, and real meaning. It may sound corny, but it’s hydrated my soul.

Who doesn’t want to connect with their loved ones right now, and to catch up, share a smile or a kind word, or to tease that grandma is cheating again?  The laughs chase away the blues and the uncertainty and the emptiness that this pandemic has brought down on us all. If there’s any way you’re able to do something similar with loved ones you can’t see in person right now, do it. Whether it’s Zoom or Skype or Facetime or whatever. Just try it. Even if you’re worried about sketchy video quality and awkward small talk. I’ll bet you’ll find, like I did, that even though you’re apart, it’ll bring you closer together.





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