Reflections on a Lost Year

When pleasure travel stopped, an inner journey began.

The year 2020 was supposed to be special, as it was the year that I was celebrating my 60th birthday and several events had been planned. I was in Panama in January with my husband and daughter when we first heard about a new virus in China. No big deal, we thought, like SARS and Ebola that had occurred in other far-away countries. It didn’t seem to be a threat as we continued our carefree vacation. Little did we know that it would be our last trip of 2020—and I had three others booked!

By February, the virus had invaded Italy, the site of our next proposed trip. Luckily, we were able to cancel it in time and for a full refund. Soon, several cruise ships at sea were refused entry to all ports of call and many travellers were stranded abroad as the world began to close up. And, many struggled to find a way home.

A world pandemic was declared on March 11 and Canada imposed its first lockdown soon after in an attempt to slow its spread. Much fear and uncertainty resulted. March 20 was my daughter’s 30th birthday, but there would be no celebration for her. It was the first of many disappointments as we began to “social distance” from everyone.

In April, I began to feel some optimism as people started to figure things out. It was early days and we thought that we had it under control in Canada. It was a different story in the U.S.A. where many underestimated the situation and even called it a “hoax.” And, soon the numbers of infected began to rise quickly. The long-term care homes were especially hard hit. And, health care workers began to struggle to cope.

My big day was May 9, at the height of the lockdown. Eight weeks of fear and isolation. I couldn’t celebrate my birthday with family or friends! Several cards, calls and emails could not make up for what I was missing. The only people I could see were my husband (who I lived with) and my 90-year-old mother (who lived alone). We were all ordered to stay home, except to go out for groceries, work or medical appointments.

By June, boredom and despair really began to set in. The death toll was rising quickly. Businesses were closed and many lost their jobs and began to rely on government assistance. Those who still had jobs, worked from home. I cancelled another trip for a credit refund only, and my final one was also in jeopardy. As the weather got better, some hoped sparked that limited interactions would be allowed outside only.

July 1 was still Canada Day, but there would be no parties or fireworks this year. The renters began to flock to our small beach town to escape the city. We entertained small groups of guests outside on our deck. Masks and social distancing were still the norm inside. The border with the U.S.A. was closed to travel.

In August, we were finally able to host our daughter for a short visit. Such a treat for her to escape the confines of Toronto. And, we hosted a few more friends on the deck, too. Luckily, it was a beautiful summer. Otherwise, we stuck to our usual “bubble”.

September was soon upon us and we feared that with the coming of fall, we would need to go inside again. We had taken so much for granted—travel, shopping, restaurants, theatre and every other form of social interaction! Despair abounded and many conspiracy theories about the virus began to emerge: It was “made in China,” the numbers were inflated and even that the end of the world was imminent. Anti-maskers emerged, even in our own family.

In October, we really began to experience “COVID fatigue” and the second wave began to take its toll. My final trip of the year didn’t happen. There would be no Thanksgiving dinner with the family either. More restrictions were imposed as we were in it for the long haul. But we had no idea of just how long!

For the first weekend of November, we had unusually nice weather and risked a weekend escape to a lovely, isolated spot—what a treat! Joe Biden was elected President in the U.S. just as so many Americans were dying of the virus. Perhaps he could turn things around, if given a chance?

December did not bring any relief as the numbers continued to climb. More businesses were shuttered. Christmas shopping was all done online for the first time. And, Christmas gatherings were being discouraged. No family, no friends. The decorations still went up as we tried to fabricate the semblance of normalcy. We decided to risk having our daughter and her boyfriend for Christmas. We had a nice but somewhat guilt-ridden visit. Admittedly, we were lucky to escape the virus, unlike many other “rule-breakers.” It didn’t happen again—New Year’s Eve was “celebrated” with friends via Zoom.

Despite everything, there was still hope. The first vaccines were being given out to healthcare workers and seniors, and we were still enjoying walks and fires outside when the weather permitted. Life went on as we dared to dream of a better future. We’ll see.

Next, check out these heartwarming pandemic pet adoption stories.

Originally Published in Our Canada