Our month in Hawaii seems like light years ago! We left Hawaii on March 1 and headed back to Seattle hoping to spend another 10 days supporting my sister, Ruth, who resides in a memory care unit there. As soon as I awoke the morning after we arrived, I realized I had a cold which removed any chance of visiting with Ruth in the near future. Seattle is such a pretty area. The views from Ruth’s home–spectacular. It’s hard to believe we had just arrived in the epicenter of the virus. The rest of the week was pretty much a blur. We remained cautious but our biggest question was whether we would be able to fly out of Seattle on March 9 and head to DC. And then on to Majorca. Maybe we should just stay in Seattle for the rest of the month. We finally decided we’d wait and see how my cold progressed. I obviously couldn’t get on an airplane if I were ill. By the time my cold subsided, homes for the elderly had closed their doors. Definitely a good thing but also frustrating to be so close to Ruth and not be able to visit. Given her current state of dementia, visiting by phone or computer was not an option. Ever the list maker I wrote down everything we needed to do for our own travels and made a separate list of things I needed to do for Ruth. Anything that required leaving the house was on yet a different list and we tried to tackle those things in one outing. Luckily the weather wasn’t as rainy as it had been in January and flowers were beginning to pop up as well.
We finally concluded our flight to Majorca in the middle of April was not going to happen so I went to the Airbnb website and moved our stay back by a month. (Now even that seems really optimistic!) May is obviously a more desirable time to be on an island in the Mediterranean than April so of course, we incurred additional costs. In an attempt to travel as cheaply as possible I often book flights from the US into a major hub in Europe and then take cheap flights from there to our final destination. All well and good until reversing the process. This meant canceling or rescheduling five flights instead of one. United was great! They immediately gave me a voucher for the total amount of our flights. But Ryan Air and Jet Blue were more difficult. Because Majorca is part of Spain and Spain had no travel restrictions at that time they weren’t willing to budge. I finally decided it made no sense to cancel the plane reservation if we weren’t going to get any refund. Tomorrow, two days before our scheduled flight from London to Majorca, I will cancel our flights and see if I can get some compensation. Because our flight into London was to arrive in the evening, I made a reservation with Accor Hotels near Stansted Airport. We have often stayed with them because they are clean, have efficient services and are very reasonable. Well, no more! I got a response from them saying that they were sorry our travel plans had changed but sympathy was all they were ready to offer. No credit or voucher. It was against their policy. “Really?” I responded. “You have a policy for a pandemic?” The cancellation costs were beginning to add up.
On the other hand we’ve had some really great responses. When we cancelled our two month Peugeot Lease, through Auto France, we were told that there was only a $75 cancellation fee and it was likely we could recoup that when we leased again in the future. Because we technically lease through Peugeot and not Auto France, they couldn’t give us a definitive answer but were very helpful.
When I cancelled our walking tour I had scheduled in Milan to see the Duomo and da Vinci’s, Last Supper, I received a coupon for 1.5 times the original amount I paid. Overall people have been very accomodating.
We flew from Seattle to DC last Wednesday where we are staying in an Airbnb not far from our youngest son’s home. Last weekend was my birthday. The kids asked what I wanted to do and usually that’s difficult because there is so much to choose from in DC. This time it was more of a challenge. I finally came upon the idea of driving around the area looking at the cherry blossoms. We’d drive in our own car with our son, Patrick, and our daughter, Cary, acting as our tour guides. While there were cars on the streets it was nothing like the usual DC traffic.
And while there were a few cherry blossoms blooming, there also were many other plants in bloom: jonquils, daffodils, magnolia trees, apple blossoms.
We came upon Clara Barton’s home in Glen Echo where we got out and wandered a bit with few people around.
At the end of the afternoon we went to the Hamilton for my birthday dinner. We had read on line the night before that the Hamilton was taking a lot of precautions to ensure safety of their customers. Tables were spread out; disposable menus were used. Doormen precluded the need to touch handles. All in all it was a great afternoon.
At the end of our month in Hawaii I had responded to a question I had seen posted on the internet by CNN asking about any impact the coronavirus was having on our lives. I briefly responded and didn’t think any more about it. I was flabbergasted when a CNN reporter followed up with a telephone call.
After chatting for a couple of minutes she asked if I could respond with a couple of short videos describing what our experiences had been and what questions we might have. I was even more surprised when she included me in her story. Now less than two weeks after that call, I realize how insignificant the impact has been on us.
Inconvenience best describes the impact the virus has had on Bob and me so far. We are retired. We live on monthly pensions. All of our kids are grown and with the exception of our daughter-in-law who is a physician’s assistant in Michigan, who we do worry about, the rest of our kids can all telework. As a result our young grandchildren in Maryland have mom and dad at home with them. We all worry about what’s in store for the future. How long is this going to last? What’s going to happen to people who are working hourly jobs with no benefits? How will they meet their bills? How will families manage who rely on school food programs to help feed their kids? Who will watch their kids if the parents are doing those jobs that the rest of us need to function? Will the curve flatten or will it peak?
But perhaps there are a few positives. Slowing down life isn’t all bad. I read with amusement the number of daily schedules I see online. Even though I was an educator for 40 years I still believe my own kids learned far more at home than they ever did in school. One of the things I loved best about the summer was the lack of schedule and the opportunities it provided me to really get to know my kids. If mom and dad are fortunate enough to telework, this means there are more free hours in their day. They no longer have to spend their time commuting and getting ready for work. Time gives us the luxury of being spontaneous. I remember how much fun we had. Some slept in. Some got up early. We read books, alone and together. We played games. Sometimes we did puzzles. Sometimes we watched tv. Sometimes we cooked together. We talked about ideas! We laughed…a lot! Kids had time to do what they wanted to do.There was time to be alone; there were times we were together. They had time to be bored! Kids got to make their own choices. It was a 10 week break from the everyday craziness. Were there arguments? Absolutely! Were there times when it wasn’t so rosy? Absolutely. But overall I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend those weeks with my kids. I believe those times, and those choices, were key to my four kids developing into the self-confident independent thinkers they all grew to be as adults.
What’s next for us? Our plan is on Thursday, the day after tomorrow, to leave DC and drive to Amelia Island, Florida. It’ll be a long drive, appears to be about 10 hours, but I’ll make a picnic lunch to eat along the way and once we arrive we plan to stay put for at least six weeks. And after that? Who knows?
In the meantime, I hope all of you stay healthy and find your own little bit of sunshine in these days of isolation and the unknown.