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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Taking Care - Relationships Strengthened During COVID-19

By Lisa Adams Walter

For some of us, it is a bit mind boggling when doing the math. As summertime stretches into August, we have lived with the reality of the COVID-19 Pandemic for more than six months. We have also been surviving the reality of social distancing, masking up and dealing with business shifts and closures for nearly as long.

I continue to miss my prior haunts and habits, seeing family and friends in person, and for me, even business, volunteer and professional interactions have completely moved online.

In an odd way, however, that sense of “we’re all in this together” I have noticed—has also brought people closer while we have had to be apart.

From friendly frontliners at local grocery stores, to the rocking out dude who has been delivering fresh produce to our doorstep, to Facebook and Instagram lives from people such as gym owners, authors, winemakers and chefs, we are all finding new ways to build our relationships and continue to connect. Even our UPS guy has been more cordial than usual—humans need to interact!

In my neighborhood, I now know my neighbors much better than I ever did in the past. I have lived in the same house for more than a decade, and barely interacted with the people on my street. We are now eager to chat from a distance when in front of our homes. One of my neighbors has lovingly hand-sewn hundreds of masks, leaving them on our porches and also donating them across the county to agencies and individuals in need.

I also shop for a dear elderly couple that lives next door, as well as my parents who are nearby, leaving groceries and necessities on their doorsteps. Some neighborly groups on our street hold regular, distanced weekly “happy hours” with their chairs or beach towels circled up, for safe socialization in an open space.

I wondered if it was just me, or if there are others noticing “enriched” relationships because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

For Cyn Langlois, life had been crazy and work demanding pre-pandemic, “I personally was working so much and only saw my family a few hours, if that, a day. I lost valuable time with my teenager. I’ve spent this time soaking up being in my family’s presence. I’ve been able to relax and have less work stress. I love to cook and have been cooking our meals every day, except one day per week, when we support local restaurants with take out.”

“I am fortunate to have awesome friends and neighbors who have been a godsend,” Mary Burgess added, “They have done all my grocery shopping as well as supplying me with fresh fruits and veggies from their gardens and the farmers market, as I have been sheltering in place since March.”

Jenni Leach now sees her family more, even though it is through technology, along with her daughter and husband they FaceTime her mom every evening, “Before COVID, we saw each other about once every one to two months, now we see each other every night!”

Adult and college-aged children have also made unexpected returns to their childhood homes. My daughter returned from college mid-March. In retrospect, I believe that for a period of time we were both in shock. Her bedroom transformed into a satellite dorm room while she continued her classes online.

The gift for me was the unexpected and focused quality time with my child. I was able to get to know her as a young adult, who had been living on her own. We worked on and enjoyed many things together, including exercising, binge watching Netflix shows, gardening, cooking and sorting through family memorabilia, yet gave each other the space adults need. COVID presented a new and unanticipated phase in our relationship that was restorative and beautiful. While I would not yearn for a pandemic, this gift is one that I would never give back.

For Susan Valencia, a mother of three boys, she too enjoyed time with one of her children, an adult son. “Because of all that’s going on, my son came to stay with me for a short time, he had been doing his own thing and so was I. But the time we spent together talking and just being here for each other was priceless. I’ve never enjoyed myself so much! Just having this time with my son.”

This was an especially poignant gift for Valencia, as her older son previously passed away, so the time with this son is meaningful. “We haven’t spent a lot of time together the last couple of years,” she said, explaining that this time has been very special since her son’s older brother is no longer around.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, and where my parents still live, generations are now connecting. My mother Elaine Adams reports that Sandalwood Street now has regular Friday night five o’clock social get-togethers.

“Everyone brings out their lawn chair and their favorite wine or other beverage and distances from each household,” Adams said, explaining that the ages range from young children to 80-year olds. “It is a great mix of new and old-time neighbors. New neighbors with young families are blending in with the older neighbors who have been on the street for more than 40 years!” A recent meet-up featured homemade Blackberry Mojito Cocktails courtesy of one of the new, younger families.

Sheila Gentry, who also grew up in Napa reports that she has reconnected with a few college roommates in Washington DC and New York a few times for cocktails via Zoom. “The game changer has been Zoom for family get-togethers and my son’s classes,” Gentry reports, “Reconnecting with waybacks has been fun!’

On a more serious note, Tammy Carney is grateful for the connectivity of technology. “I just had a video chat with my sister who is in ICU in Georgia. She has been hospitalized for several weeks, so it was an amazing experience.”

Meanwhile, halfway around the world in Japan, Napa native Richard Curtis has interestingly tapped into his spiritual side since COVID hit. “I am ‘going to church’ more than ever before, ‘attending’ evening prayer meetings which are in the mornings in Japan.”

Curtis discovered that an old friend from his Napa school days is now a pastor at a Bay Area church, and that he could reconnect in this way online. “It is mostly due to the online developments that were a result of COVID-19.”

For me, the silver linings are key elements that have been sustaining me from the start of this very unprecedented time. From close personal relationships, to food source and dietary shifts, to realizing that sometimes the smallest gestures and acts of kindness are the “things” that really mean the most, by being brought together we will get through.

“Aside from all of the scariness and depressing numbers this pandemic is presenting,” Langlois added, “I am trying to concentrate on the positive connectedness with my very-missed family and taking care of recharging my personal battery. Take care everyone.”

I couldn’t agree more, take care.


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