Very little about the past year plus has been normal (whatever that means). School has been virtual, events have been cancelled, kitchen tables have become offices, and masks are ubiquitous. Slowly, with vaccines becoming more common, restrictions have been lifted and life is taking on a new normal.
Prior to last week, the last time I had seen my parents was well over a year ago. Zoom meetings and phone calls are nice, but not the same. Fully vaccinated (them and us), they are spending the month of May with us. They have stayed healthy through this entire endeavor and for that I am thankful, and therefore we continue to take precautions while they visit. As more and more are vaccinated, an increasing number of families will be able come together and begin to return to normal.
This past weekend I was able to partake in two additional activities that, under more normal conditions, would seem rather common or routine. The first was a trip—a first foray outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia—a feat not undertaken since February of 2020, just before the arrival of COVID. It was a quick trip, just a weekend in Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains National Park. It was wonderful to travel, though the near complete absence of mask-wearing in Tennessee was a bit disconcerting. So nice to ride for hours, taking in the scenery, hiking along streams, and just being someplace different.
The other was attendance at the University of Tennessee’s commencement ceremony—my wife was receiving her second Master’s degree. The event was notable due to its occurrence on the surface of Neyland Stadium, a first in the University’s history. Attendance at the event was limited in number. My parents were able to accompany us and all were masked and physically distanced, not too difficult for 4,000 people in a stadium that commonly holds more than the entire population of Roanoke, cheering on the Volunteers.
Both of these events reminded me just how much of the normal and routine we went without this past year and how important they are in our lives. These near normal experiences add flavor and fun to our lives—memories are made and important accomplishments are noted. These are the things that truly bring life to our days. As more and more get vaccinated and as we work together to put COVID in the rear view mirror, the more common these otherwise normal activities and experiences will become.
We’re nearly there—nearly normal—let’s keep going with vaccines and appropriate mitigation measures.
— Bob Cowell