Covid-19 Has Me Hearing Voices (In My Headset)
Learning from the bittersweet experience of reconnecting with family under duress
I live in San Francisco, which is under a mandatory shelter-in-place order – together with the San Francisco Bay Area, 6.7 million of us are hanging out at home.
The calls started on Monday.
Family members I haven't heard from since I was a child. Beautiful conversations.
Beautiful conversations for my aging parents, who also are getting calls that are making them very happy.
Why did it take Covid-19 for this to happen?
I ponder the question in my mind, over and over again.
Certainly there has been a lot of love in my family … it is amazing how these phone calls have picked up with comfort and love as if there have not been DECADES since I've talked with some of my cousins.
My father is the oldest man on that side of the family, so it has been interesting to watch him field questions from nieces, nephews, and cousins he hasn't heard from his years – the family history getting filled in for everyone.
Far be it from me to say Covid-19 is a good thing. It is NOT.
But I catch the glimpse of a bright side of this thing.
We are a very busy culture, here in the United States of America. Inequality drives a lot of this: some people have to work two and three jobs in order to just survive with their immediate families, and the situation there cannot always be helped by extended family in the same situation. So: a lot of fracturing comes because the need to have resources to live requires a great deal of time for most people.
Another element is the fact that there is a lot to do, and if we're not doing it, we can watch it being done on social media. My pastor once called San Francisco the city of recreation, and, sure enough, anything that anybody might want to do can probably be done and WAS being done before this week.
But, even if one couldn't keep up with all that, 24 hours a day, social media fills the gap, 24 hours a day. Even under a lockdown, this is STILL true – it is still possible not to look up at what is going on for watching what other people are doing and saying.
I think we were in danger of losing the knowledge of how to spend time with each other, and how to get to know each other, and how to value all of that.
That danger is not removed by Covid-19, because what is needed is also the willingness.
The conversations I am having with relatives and those I am witnessing my parents having are not just the peremptory “Are you alive? Good! Bye!” calls – there was love and concern before that, and the only thing lacking was time. People make time for what – and who – is important to them.
And that leads to the other matter at hand. Many of our families are broken for many reasons, and even the strongest families have some members who feel isolated and alienated.
My family has a few as well.
I have time to reach out to them, and no more excuses.
I think that Covid-19, which has made the whole world sick, also will offer us opportunities to heal as we are forced to spend more time with family and to check on extended family.
But the body has its own mechanisms for sickness and healing.
We have to choose to heal our families.
Covid-19 also proves something else: we don't always have the time and luxury we think we have to do things.
But, we can make use of the time we have.
I'm going to go make some phone calls now.