MATTHEWS: 15 months after the pandemic started, getting back to normal feels good

A discarded face mask lies in the street in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A year ago at this time, people were making sacrifices, such as forgoing visits to their senior family members and participating in virtual church services instead of in-person services as precautionary measures while the coronavirus pandemic raged on.

Many people still are making sacrifices, but life is at long last slowly getting back to normal for millions of people; and it is a welcome sight to see.

I was like a lot of people when the pandemic started. Panicked, scared and at times confused, but trying to do my part and make adjustments. I was more terrified than anything that my mom and dad, who were both in the extremely high-risk category, would come down with it. We were all still learning about the coronavirus at the time, but one thing we knew for sure was that for seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, coming down with the virus could be a death sentence.

Sadly, it was just that for all too many.

In August 2020, after several months of only visiting my parents to drop off groceries on the porch, we agreed that I’d start coming over again for a few days at a time to help them out with things. I had done this for years, way before the pandemic. Though we still masked up around the house, it wasn’t long before we all got sick and were diagnosed with the coronavirus. We don’t know for sure who got it first, but we assumed it likely came from the care facility my dad has to visit three times a week, where there are a lot of medical professionals and other senior citizens.

I was devastated, worried more about mom and dad and how they would fare, considering what had been said about those in the highest-risk groups. But fortunately, the three of us recovered, although we’re all still dealing with some of the lingering side effects from it, like occasionally losing our sense of taste and sometimes getting extremely fatigued.

My dad has been in the hospital twice and to two skilled nursing home physical rehab facilities for long periods of time since then. While he went for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, the visiting rules hit mom and me particularly hard, but affected him as well. We believe strict visitation requirements hampered my dad’s recovery at the first facility he went to earlier this year, as we heard the loneliness in his voice every time he called.

Fortunately for the long-term residents of those facilities, rules severely limiting who can visit and how they can visit are starting to be relaxed, as more people get vaccinated and case numbers steadily decline. Seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities were the hardest hit both by the virus and the rules cutting off visitors for months at a time. For this reason, it was heartwarming to see the residents be allowed face-to-face visitation with their loved ones when I visited my dad’s facility a couple of weeks ago.

Though each city, state, and individual business varies, most stores I’ve visited are now making masks optional, while asking that those who aren’t vaccinated continue to wear them. It had become such a habit to put one on before going into a store that when I went into the local CVS and saw their updated guidelines for mask-wearing, I ripped mine off and threw it in the trash.

We’re resuming family gatherings again, having celebrated Mother’s Day last month and Father’s Day this past weekend like we used to in the days before the pandemic.

None of us wore masks. We all hugged and sat in close proximity to one another.

It felt good, freeing. Like at long last things were slowly getting back to normal.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.