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Last night it was announced New Zealand will be closing within the next forty-eight hours. My nephew lives there and I haven't seen him in over eighteen months. My sister and I were planning on visiting him, or perhaps meeting him and his girlfriend in the U.K., in June. Obviously that is off, which makes me sad. But somehow knowing he cannot leave NZ and no one is allowed in feels devastating. The adage "distance makes the heart grow fonder" can pound sand.

Family that once were accessible by car or plane might as well live on Mars. Friends and co-workers that we'd see regularly are now literally out of reach. 

I think the news of NZ closing hits me particularly hard because I feel helpless. If my nephew were to need me, or his mother and father, we couldn't get to him. We certainly couldn't get him home. I have to remind myself that he's twenty-six years old. Post-college he has lived in China and Vietnam and is obviously a courageous, industrious and self-supporting man. "I'll be fine", he wrote on iMessage after sharing the news of the country's shut down. I'm not sure if he wrote that because he believes it's true or because he was trying to comfort us. Probably both. He is twenty-six, after all. I felt infallible at that age too.

My sister, brother and I have not lived near each other for thirty years but we've stayed very close and see each other regularly. My other relatives are scattered too. Beloved cousins in New York, New Jersey and Colorado. Family members all over Florida. Golden friends in Montana, others in California and Washington. My close friend's sister, who I affectionately call Mountain Woman, resides in Wyoming. Speaking of my closest friends, two of them live only one mile away. Another lives a few towns away but works very close and is still going to the office. There is comfort in knowing those who love you unconditionally are nearby. 

Yet coronavirus has erased any distinction in distance. My friends who live and work one mile away feel as distant as my nephew. Sure, I can go see my friends if I want, or they can visit me, but at what cost? We are older. My friends are in a high risk group due to age. Could I dare risk spreading the virus to them if I am, in fact, asymptomatic? Mom and I are living together through this pandemic. If I were to become infected, I risk spreading Covid-19 to her. Mom sits in the highest at-risk group. Of course that's a chance I would never take.

We're all in the same situation and trying to make the best of it. In an effort to stave off boredom and mom eating all the cookies and peanut M&Ms in one afternoon, Mom and I ordered two jigsaw puzzles from Amazon. The one we're excited about tackling is a 750-piece puzzle of a cat contently sleeping on a bookshelf, his royal stripedness wrapped around books called "Rat Holes of the World" and "Cat-O Nine Tales", his tail strewn across the binding for "How to Catnap with a SMILE". It's out of stock until April 9th. We ordered that one anyway, knowing we will still be coronavirus-housebound when it arrives. But I wasn't to be deterred. I searched among what I imagined to be the dregs of jigsaws to see what we can get sooner. I had a terrible thought when I saw the puzzles available for quick Prime delivery were mostly Christmas-themed. What if they too became out of stock? Would that mean we are still homebound as the holidays near? I pushed the horrid thought aside and settled on a puzzle that will arrive tomorrow. Festive Feathered Friends, a 300-piece glow in the dark jigsaw. Mom and I liked the birds on the bird feeder. Mom's favorite was the one with the candy cane in its mouth. We both liked the vibrant colors and the Christmas lights. It's pretty, hopeful, and qualified for free Prime shipping.

No one knows what the future holds. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Stay in the moment. Little strokes fell mighty oaks. My favorite adage, the one I have tried to live my life by: slow and steady wins the race. 

It's never too early to think about the holidays, especially when it glows in the dark. I know it's months away but the early bird gets the worm. (If only the early bird could get the toilet paper.) This holiday season, most likely coronavirus will be a memory, a painful one, for sure. We will spend time with family and friends, face-to-face. Perhaps my sister and I will visit NZ. 

My nephew is correct. He will be fine. We all will be fine. Just different, and better. True character is demonstrated during the greatest challenges. I don't know if that last one is an official adage but it's definitely true, as is this one: To everything there is a season.

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Joanne Lewis Blog