Like many families, when COVID hit our extended family circled the wagons virtually. We hosted a family zoom that met weekly, on Sunday’s. Since Grammy could not attend church – for the longest stretch of time in her 86 years – we met for fellowship, conversation, and information sharing. We learned how to make masks, current travel restrictions across the country, and where to purchase supplies should the toilet paper shortage turn out to be only the beginning of a modern day apocalypse, as one can never be too prepared. More than anything we met to see one another, to be comforted by each other’s presence and to reaffirm our connection and bond.
Every Sunday since March 2020 we have gathered for conversation. In May we celebrated graduations with virtual gatherings and slide shows. For Father’s Day we shared memories of my Grandfather and what stories we hold dear with one another. On birthday’s there are text chains and photos. And now like donut Sunday, we linger sometimes for hours as people leave and rejoin the conversation, share updates, and just feel the comfort and connection of family.
We’re still working on vulnerability and sensitivity. The month of the election and its aftermath were sparsely attended and even then there were arguments and debates. Our solution was that we could debate, but conservatives had to debate the liberal position and liberals the conservative. Mostly, we just chat, celebrate promotions, personal victories, mock one another and egg each other on as only family does. If not not for COVID we never would have found the time or made this activity a priority, now it is a ritual we share and one that has made this year a little bit more bearable.
As we step back into typical life, so too has our family zoom shifted to suit the times. Churches have reopened and Grammy has plans on Sunday once again and so the calls are later. And while we’re vaccinated and ready to return to our regularly scheduled programming this is one ritual I will be sad to see go – fortunately my family agrees as there has been no talk of cancelling.
Yes, being with extended family every week can be a bit much and now that we are not so starved for connection and entertainment the calls can sometimes drag. But I remain truly grateful for everyone who showed up on these calls. I’m grateful for those that didn’t show up because it reaffirmed our freedom to attend and engage at our own comfort level. And it reminded me that there is always a spot at the table for each of us. Even if someone chooses not to attend for weeks on end, we still hold space for their return while still respecting their boundaries. This willingness to embrace one another when times are tough gave me more than I realized I needed. I suspect our new way to connect with one another will last far longer than this pandemic and for that I am truly grateful.