OPINION

Looking back at this past year of COVID, I can still give thanks

Ceason Ranson
Ranson Ritings

I remember March 13 of last year pretty clearly. The build-up to the shutdown had everyone in a panic, a real “will they or won’t they” anxiety permeating the workday and bleeding into everyone’s home life. And then noon came, and the governor shut the state down, and everything changed.

For me, and I’m certainly in the minority, this year mostly boiled down to remembering to carry a mask and making a concerted effort not to go out more than usual. But if my generation is good at anything, it's looking for reasons to cancel plans, so COVID just basically gave us all a free pass to say no to doing stuff. But I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people that helped me, and probably most of you, survive this year of COVID in as much comfort as we could ask for, given this was the first time most of us had lived through a pandemic.

Firstly, I’d like to thank myself for not having school-age children, and choosing not to teach school-age children. When the Friday shutdown order came through, parents and teachers had two days, TWO DAYS, to figure out extended childcare arrangements and figure out how to continue giving a kid an education in a state where internet is still treated as a luxury. Two days to cull together plans that would upend your whole family routine, and create education plans that affected thousands of growing minds. Parents, my hat is off to you for making it through, and whether you got through it with a gold star or a participation trophy, all that matters is that you made it, and you should be really, really proud of yourselves.

And kids, I know you don’t read this column, but your Auntie Ceazy is giving you permission to ask for a top-shelf toy for Easter, because you all have put up with more this year than kids should ever have to. You’ve missed out on big events, you’ve had to adapt to learning in a way you weren’t prepared for, and you’ve done your best. Also, thank you for not calling me for help with your schoolwork, because I was not mentally prepared to find out I couldn’t pass fourth-grade science if my life depended on it.

I’d also like to thank the inventors of video chat services for recognizing that we do not actually want to be seen or heard while we chat, except where absolutely necessary. Now, it has taken them a year to make “no video” the default on most of these services, but hey, progress. I do have nothing but respect for people who are happy to appear in all their pixelated glory in my Zoom grid, because you’re also the people doing most of the facilitating, and let's face it: the only thing harder than getting adults to speak up during a group meeting would be trying to get them to speak up when they have to make the effort to unmute themselves and pretend they weren’t doing something else during the meeting.

So hats off to all the people who did all they could to make video-conferencing at least tolerable, and who were cool enough not to complain that all they've seen of me for a year was a black screen.

I’d also like to thank the JCO Health Department for not only having a disaster plan in place (thanks Wendy!), but for implementing it like the bosses they are. If they hadn’t worked themselves silly this year, we might have actually gotten to the “Use Cedar Lakes as a field hospital” part of the plan. But thanks to their efforts, we were all availed of multiple opportunities to get tested in order to stop COVID as soon as possible and quarantine where needed. And anyone who actually got tested will tell you, those testing sites would have put a Chic-Fil-A drive-thru to shame. The hardest part of the whole thing was the anticipation of getting that swab up the nose, and even that wasn’t as horrible as I’d been told it would be.

So maybe let's all agree as a community that after we’re all vaccinated, we’ll cross our hearts and promise to lay low and behave for a couple weeks so the health department staff can take some much-deserved extended vacations.

I’d also like to thank our local grocery store employees for really tolerating all of us customers this year. Putting aside the completely asinine run on toilet paper (I’d like to know who is still using their original stock from March of 2020), we asked our grocery story workers to continue to be pleasant, helpful people while dealing with a population that became increasing unpleasant the longer COVID and the shutdown wore on.

You found out that we were not good at following arrows on the floor, that we get hostile because we think you’re hiding the cleaning wipes, and you had the totally unenviable task of reminding us that masks were required. In return, some of us regressed into 3-year-olds having a breakdown in the check-out lane because Mom wouldn’t get us the candy we wanted, which must have been super fun for the people working the doors to deal with.

But deal with the public, in all our annoying glory, you did, and while I still mourn the loss of Broughton this year (they couldn’t have held out another year?!?), there wasn’t much that I couldn’t still find on the shelves, and I appreciate the extra hours you put in unloading trucks and stocking shelves to make that happen, including the huge uptick in ClickList-type users. But you’ll be happy to know that I will never participate in that, because I do not want to have to clean my vehicle every week just so y’all won’t talk about me and my dirty interior in the breakroom, lol.

There, that’s one less person calling in to complain that the bananas you picked for them were “just a little too yellow,” and it's the least I can do for you, besides returning my cart to the cart catcher. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t return their cart to the catcher for any reason besides medical-related, you are not cool and I hope you never get to taste chip dip again.

And speaking of people that put up with a lot: Any person who had to deliver the insane amount of online orders that we all put in this year deserves raises (or in the case of our UPS/FedEx guys, AC in their trucks!). While I appreciate all the things you delivered TO me, what I most am thankful for is all the things you delivered FOR me. My love language is often “gives gifts,” so when I couldn’t see the people I cared about in person, being able to send them things helped make being apart a little easier, and I hoped, brighten their day when “two weeks” turned into two and four and six and 12 months. And I couldn’t do that without the people in our delivery industry making it happen, and neither could have all our small businesses, who had to pivot to online sales.

I also want to thank all the people who made me laugh this year. While my COVID year hasn’t been nearly as traumatic as other people's, like everyone, I still felt the stress of living through a pandemic, and so every opportunity where I could find a little joy, I was glad to take it, and a little chuckle now and then helped break through those really tough moments. A funny meme, a hilarious picture sent via text, and the in-person stories told with six feet between us and through a mask: they all helped, for a little while, make everything feel ... not normal, but okay. Like as long as we could all keep our senses of humor, if we could find the funny side of this completely unreal situation we all found ourselves in, then we just might make it.

On a final note: I think a lot about the 50 people we lost in our county to COVID this year, 50 JCO residents who are no longer with us because of a virus none of us could have predicted. While I am thankful that I didn’t experience the loss of someone I loved to the virus, I know there are 50 families for whom COVID wasn’t just an annoyance — it irrevocably changed their lives. And they may feel like their losses were forgotten because we so often couldn’t grieve with them the way we normally would, or because people were just so exhausted by everything happening that they couldn’t bear to let one more sadness enter their lives.

But your loved ones, and your loss, hasn’t been forgotten. As we move forward, with almost 3,000 Jackson Countians vaccinated, we still think of you, and mourn for you. Matthew 5:4 reads “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

May this next year be the year we are all comforted.