The Good, the bad, the lessons: Looking back over a year of the pandemic

April 2021 Posted in Community

By Melissa Wagoner

One year ago, April Newton and her husband Tom were at a medical conference in Hawaii when he received some sobering news – Oregon had its first confirmed positive case of the new coronavirus disease.

“We spent a blissful week on Kuai… but we were there with a big group of doctors and lots of discussions about what was about to happen took place,” Newton wrote in a Facebook post commemorating the one-year anniversary of that trip. “I clearly remember Tom telling me one night to prepare myself because this was going to be a big deal and last more than a few weeks.”

That warning was one that echoed across the nation and the world during March of 2020 causing disbelief and panic almost in equal numbers. Toilet paper, dried beans and hand sanitizers flew from the shelves, and Personal Protective Equipment became something only found on the black market.

Now, 12 months later, Newton has been joined by people across the globe who are looking back, taking stock of a year that was at once terrifying, heartbreaking and nerve-wracking at its worst and beautiful, questioning and hopeful at its best.

“[T]hinking about everything that happened the past year, we never could have guessed how life would go and that this is where we would be a year later,” Newton surmised. “Not just with COVID, but so many crazy events this year. I have been trying to think about what I have learned or how I have grown, not sure I have the right words yet, but what a year.”

The Good

“My grandson was in daycare but then that wasn’t safe so we got to watch him two days a week,” Casle Portner said. “It’s been a lovely opportunity to full on Grandma.”

“[T]he unanticipated blessing has been working with my fourth-grade grandson, two days per week with his online learning and spending the other three days helping another daughter with my other two grandchildren and their online learning,” Laura Snodgrass said. Noting, “It isn’t so much the school time but it’s watching them learn and watching them become the people they will be. Being a part of that is a priceless gift that I will cherish for my lifetime.”

“[M]y husband and I were able to have an intimate family and close-friends only wedding in June 2020,” Madison Anelli said. “Our original plans of 200-plus guests were canceled in April and we’ve been calling it a blessing in disguise ever since.”

“My daughter’s a ‘firstie’ at Smith College in Massachusetts… 100 percent virtual all year,” Michelle Feller Wade said. But that unconventional experience has had some perks. “She got to live with her best friend in Oregon first semester. For the second semester she’s living in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico where she takes two to three surf lessons every week, in addition to her college classes.”

The Bad

“Technically there are just over a half million Americans for whom life didn’t go on after COVID,” Feller Wade gently pointed out. Adding, “Just illustrating that, for most of us, we have continued to get through each day, maybe differently than before, but also largely the same.”

“I knew before,” Marilyn Shadburne said, “but now I really know that climate change has reached out and touched us. We can’t count on the comfort we have enjoyed up until now. The pandemic, the fires, the storms aren’t once-in-a-lifetime.”

“I learned that I need human interaction to be emotionally healthy,” Dana Smith said. Adding, “And if I’m not emotionally healthy, I don’t take very good care of myself physically.”

“We missed so much this year, our granddaughter’s wedding, having a service for my daughter, seeing friends,” Lynn Schlater-Williams said. Adding, “but we appreciated the little things that we might have been too busy to notice before. And we are so fortunate to be healthy and alive.”

“[N]ot being able to go out to eat with family or even alone,” Carol Sundet said of one of the hardest changes the pandemic wrought in her life. “I’m sure it was worse for the owners that had to lock their doors and lose their business permanently…”

The Lessons

“Since gyms and parks were closed, we would walk around town,” Zava Steed Hanson recalled. “In doing so, we met many wonderful new friends.”

“I learned to appreciate my husband of 43 years,” Poppy Shell said, “So glad we can still think of things to talk about after all that time. He kept me from getting lonely during the long months we were in total lockdown…”

“I’ve learned that I am much happier with less to do,” Dawn Tacker admitted. “Quality time with my people is life-altering, and I never want to go back to the often too-busy life we used to lead.”

“Uncertain of what lay ahead, I jumped in offering to become a learning coach for my daughter, as well as three additional elementary students,” Connie DeYoung recalled. “I am not a teacher. I do not claim to be one… However, as I am consumed in navigating the daily challenges with these innocents, I am reminded of what adulting is really all about… Perseverance and patience folks… Straining to maintain civility amongst them all… We continue to learn about one another and from one another – and that has been amazing.”

“We have enjoyed not having the ‘have to’s’ of life,” Joni Berg said. “Our time was ours, not tied in to other’s schedules… We learned that so many of the things we did, that we thought were necessary, are really just our attention getters.”

“The realization that some of our kids thrive in online learning,” Michele Stone Finicle said when asked what about this year surprised her. “Every day distractions are removed for our learners who struggle to focus. Self-pacing allows students who have mastered concepts to move on and allow for more time for the teacher to tutor students who need extra support. Certainly, this style of education is not for every student and some have suffered, but I hope education can shift and incorporate what has worked well online for students who really found the traditional classroom difficult.”

“I learned the joy of no COVID day,” Candi Williams said. Explaining, “Because my grandchildren remained in daycare any sniffle or fever meant they had to self-quarantine and the entire family had to test negative for COVID. On the day the test result came I could go in the house without a mask and sing and laugh and snuggle and read books. When it came time for that goodbye hug, I could close my eyes and breathe it in and squeeze them tight. Best day ever.”

“For my family this has been a bittersweet year; having a hormonal pubescent seventh/eighth grade boy who had previously exhausted his energy at school and with sports and who was immediately torn from everything he knew and looked forward to,” Kerrie Grassman said. “When it was apparent that school would not be ‘normal school’ he just didn’t even try, he literally just didn’t do anything… His attitude declined…The positives… We were able to focus in on those areas that he really didn’t understand and get him tutoring to help him get to a point he can succeed going forward. It has definitely been a test of patience and a learning experience for all of us… Even though it’s hard to imagine I really do think this year has brought us to a better understanding of each other and I have to believe it brings us closer together.”

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