Vivian Tipton: Ready for hugs and the grands |

Vivian Tipton: Ready for hugs and the grands

In the past 12 months, so many things have changed for all of us.

How I work is different. I wear a mask. I sanitize. I no longer shake hands. I spend hours daily on Zoom or Zoom-like video meetings. And we no longer hug at work. That is one of the toughest. As health-care workers, we like to hug.

How I interact with my children, grandchildren and friends has changed: distanced hikes, riding bikes with masks on, drive-by holidays, hugging that is restricted, brief, and with shades of guilt.

I remember the first hug of the pandemic clearly: Jan. 6, at my daughter’s birthday and the day our Capitol was breached. I drove by her home intending to leave her gift on the porch and blow kisses from the car, just as we had planned. But I couldn’t. I stayed on her porch, she answered the door with tears in her eyes from watching the news, both of us knowing the risk and knowing the benefits, and we hugged a good long time.

Our everyday small talk has changed: “Vaccinated?” “Both doses?” “Two weeks out?” This exchange has been repeated tens of thousands of times across our nation. Some interpret these as invasive and personal questions, some simply longing for the OK to connect without barriers. In the same ways we took for granted just a short year ago.

In March 2020, my husband and I bought a home that is basically a massive loft with visions of family dinners, sleepovers with grandchildren and parties with friends.

The leaf for the dining room table is yet to be used.

My 40- to 50-hour job became 60 hours, then 70, then just a “stop counting” as we navigated all of the changing guidance and wisdom offered by the experts, who were all just frantically trying to figure it out, before we all realized that no one could possibly be an expert. We were living through a time never before experienced.

How I handle stress and what I consider a high-stress day has radically changed. I remember the good ol’ days when a simple stressor like fire season was enough to get the adrenaline pumping. How about a pandemic (with no PPE to be found), throw in a fire four miles away, a PSPS — oh, and an election fraught with divisiveness.

I felt my values and ethics challenged as we grappled with what felt like a this-or-that dilemma of safety versus connection, realizing the answer lay in a blend of the two.

I thought and reflected often on home in this past year. I always knew it wasn’t a place, rather a feeling when my family and friends were together sharing the joy and the sorrow of our lives. There are indeed places I visit, where the memories of connection, love and loss are so strong they, too, are home. In this past year when my loved ones’ physical presence felt so far away, and all my familiar haunts, habits and routines were cast away, I felt adrift.

And I am one of the lucky ones. Only one friend has died from COVID-19. My family is close, making drive-by visits possible. I have kept my job, and my children kept theirs.

I knuckled down, as I am apt to do, I found the positive, and there is an abundance of newness to be grateful for as we wake from this season of separation. Zoom is kind of awesome to connect with those who cannot be in the same physical space. Many of the technically challenged were helped by the technically gifted to connect with their families and their work environments to include those excluded in the past.

I am now vaccinated. Yep, got them both. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, which for this grandma means planning sleepovers with my grands.

Because of the adaptation to multiple stressors, I feel well as we start to navigate this next phase of the pandemic, I am cool as a cucumber until we hit three or maybe four panic level issues. Then I’ll break a sweat.

Best of all, I am adding back in the things I laid down when we were all in the thick of it. My life balance has started to recalibrate. At work, with friends and with family, we are cautiously beginning to plan those in-person gatherings.

The table leaf is out and polished, as I look to the day we get to come home.

Viv Tipton is the executive director Hospice of the Foothills in Grass Valley.

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