Looking back, looking ahead
Traffic was backed up for miles as the Vermont National Guard helped distribute food boxes at Brattleboro Union High School on May 27.

Looking back, looking ahead

Readers reflect on a year of uncertainty, isolation, stress, and change

Beverly Langeveld, Vernon: Over the past year, I've been both surprised and dismayed - surprised that so many people were willing to abide by the restrictions such as mask wearing, and dismayed that so many did not.

I'm hoping that many of us will realize how precious our daily routines are after seeing them put in upheaval by the pandemic. However, I do think there will be some permanent changes to those routines, especially with working from home.

Because so many people have had to do so over this past year, and everything did not collapse as some might have expected, I'm hoping that businesses will agree to be more flexible for everyone's work routine.

We have been unable to see our new grandchildren for six months, and they did not know who we were. We hope to remedy that by being able to visit more often once we are fully vaccinated. FaceTime just doesn't do it for infants!

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Jorda Daigneault, Brookline: I've been surprised that most Vermonters have stepped up to the plate to protect themselves and their neighbors. It is disappointing to see some people who do not believe the science and seriousness of COVID.

This pandemic has shown me that I was rushing through life and it helped me put the brakes on and enjoy life at home. I thought I would miss traveling, but I am content at home, as long as I can hike, ski, golf, kayak, and see dear friends and family.

The pandemic hasn't really caused turmoil. I did have to cancel a few trips, for which I was disappointed, but I am now a homebody and I have to push myself to go out.

I know how lucky I am to have the family I have. Everyone is supportive. Also, I wouldn't want to isolate with anyone other than my husband. I knew I liked and loved him, but this pandemic showed me what a wonderful man he is.

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Lynn Forrest, South Newfane: I was most surprised by the number of people I was going to meet for lunch, dinner, or cocktails and hadn't gotten around to. Also, the self reliance of community when West River Valley Mutual Aid stepped up to help neighbors.

I hope we don't return to normal. It's great that so many people are growing their own food - we had challenges and rewards with our first garden. The need for working and studying at home has brought home to the state the need for high quality internet.

I hope the people who moved here from down below find their places here and stay.

It has been great to have my daughter living with us. She moved here after leaving a place with high COVID-19 and no mask wearing.

The turmoil in my life from the pandemic was not being able to see friends or travel to see friends and family. I look forward to being in the 251 Club of Vermont and visiting all the towns and every café in the state.

It is going to take a while to get comfortable with groups of people once we don't wear masks.

Our grandson is a very social person, so school at home has been hard for him. Class work has not gone well and he might have to repeat this last year.

Being cooped up during the pandemic has definitely affected us - we are more impatient. But we've bonded over board games, making cookies, and creating a garden.

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Eve Ness, Brattleboro: I was very surprised at how happily I settled into isolation and at how little I missed frequent socializing. I thought I'd be lonely and miserable, but in fact I embraced my inner recluse: I read, meditated, knitted, and binge-watched TV contentedly, and I kept in touch with loved ones via the Internet.

That said, I can't wait to sit in a restaurant again, nursing a cup of coffee or a martini and chatting with - well, anyone, really.

We've lost a lot of businesses, sadly, and it seems unlikely that they'll ever come back. For me, the saddest loss has been Amy's Bakery Arts Café. (The danish! The challah! The tuna melt!) I hope they will be able to reopen one day.

I also expect to see more people in masks hereafter; I know when I have a cold or whatever, I will be far more likely to try to protect others now that I know how easily those droplets can disperse and invade the noses of others.

Thanks to the government stimulus payments, I've been able to afford a number of luxuries: I've bought many gift cards from local businesses and restaurants that I may or may not use, donated to Groundworks and various other causes, bought beautiful artwork from local artists (and had them framed at Zephyr Designs, where I used to work), and even given cash to people I knew needed it.

What an incredible pleasure it was to share my temporary wealth! I won't have this opportunity again, with my income severely reduced, but it was great while it lasted.

I also bought myself a ridiculously-expensive-but-on-sale garment, a great morale booster, even though it was otherwise completely frivolous.

A year ago, I had to scrap my plans for moving to Virginia to be closer to my grown daughter. A year later, I'm ready to take those plans up again, but at my age (72), a year seems like nothing.

Strangely, I don't know anyone who's died or even been very sick from COVID-19. My take on the pandemic would be very different if I had. I am so lucky.

My heart aches for the young people who missed a year-plus of school, social life, important memories like proms and graduations, and getting away from home once in a while.

I hope and expect that this period of strangeness will be to the current generation what the Vietnam War and Summer of Love were to ours: something we all went through, each with unique experiences but all with the same music, movies, and divisive politics. I hope they'll be able to meet for barbecues and laugh and shake their heads over the craziness.

If anything, family ties have grown stronger. I've kept in frequent touch with my daughter and her husband and have grown very close to my machatunim (irreplaceable Yiddish word for my daughter's husband's parents). Family holidays like Thanksgiving and Passover, and a recent death (non-COVID), have been observed over Zoom with my ex-husband's family.

Since all these families are at least a day's drive away, Zoom has eased my attendance at all these gatherings. Also, it's way harder to have “family dynamics” over Zoom, I'll tell ya! And that's better for everyone.

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Mike Mulligan, Hinsdale: Everything about this pandemic is startling and shocking. I am most amazed with how adaptable humans are.

As an old man (68), my life has been nothing but change. As example, when I was a young man, we didn't have cell phones or the internet. Life is about nothing but change.

We have entered a very difficult period of global changes. I think the next five years are going to be very rough for us all. I predict a set of financial and societal breakdowns throughout the globe, a set or a string of cascading events or accidents unlike anything ever seen before on this planet.

You know, as it sit here right now from a year ago, we are all radically changed people. Covid has changed every one of us. We just don't realize how much we changed. We are all so traumatized. It is not just the pandemic; how about the election and the insurrection?

I don't know - something is going on here. I think some force has intervened on our planet. I think we're undergoing training of some sort.

What is coming next after all these tribulations? I think we in the USA have entered the greatest spiritual advancement period our planet has ever seen. We don't advance without great suffering.

You mark my words - I think our Star Trek world is just around the corner. We are at the cusp of breathtaking scientific and technological progress. In five years, we will know for sure there are millions of advanced civilization out in the cosmos and we will be joining the confederation of advanced civilizations. All this suffering will produce a host of scientific advancements.

I think my family is a way lot more closer together because of what we've endured. My daughter once pined at the beginning of this with tears in her eyes, “I don't what I would do if both of you die.” That is called maturity! We got a new president in office and he seems to more responsible than the last. But we are lucky nobody in our family died or gotten sick. We have taken no financial hits yet. We are very lucky.

My wife is a Keene pre-school principal. She has always gone to work during this past year, and she has spent an enormous amount of time doing school work at home. She is a true soldier in the battle to save lives.

The kids soon will be bragging about how they survived the worst pandemic in the history of the USA, and they will be very proud of themselves. They will have great Covid stories for a lifetime.

As a result of this pandemic, our family is a lot more careful with our words and we minimize fighting. We will never get over the terror of Covid and Trumpism for the rest of our lives.

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Robin Scudder, Brattleboro: In some ways, because I have mobility issues, life has become easier with Covid. Curbside services have given me better access.

Even after this has passed, I think we will still have some level of fear, conscious or unconscious, of new strains of Covid or another virus entirely. I will continue to be wary of travel and large gatherings.

The pandemic has brought me better access, greater appreciation for simple things, better communication with family and longtime friends, greater awareness (distanced) of neighbors, and more snail mail!

The greatest stressor has been with some family members and friends about Covid-related politics and misinformation. Some of that might never be remedied. I have family members who don't speak to me. And, given their lack of critical thinking, I have a new (negative) outlook on who they are.

I do miss in-person visits with children and grandchildren, along with large extended family holiday gatherings. In the long term, we are likely to get together in person more often.

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Jean Davis, Brattleboro: I'm surprised by how many of the very reasonable, usually careful, people I know who have not always fully followed the Vermont social distancing regulations. They have had gatherings inside or outside of homes with others not from their household (when that was the guideline) or others who come from out of state without quarantining.

I am pleased that so far there have been only a few cases in Windham County schools, compared to many counties in the state, and most of our schools have been able to partially open for in-person learning, most of the time.

I think that life probably will not permanently return to normal, since COVID-19 and/or its future variants, in some form, will be in existence indefinitely. This is because not everyone is getting vaccinated, because we'll see new variants that vaccines cannot prevent right away, and because it will be hard to extinguish Covid around the whole globe, as international travel will probably keep the virus moving between countries to some degree. For people who are at very high risk of dying from COVID-19, due to serious health conditions, it definitely will continue to be of concern for years to come.

As a school-based occupational therapist, I saw how the students with OT services did not get the same quality of services when we went to all-remote learning last March to June. This affected their ability to access their learning (a goal of OT services in schools). We also could not do much for re-evaluation, or do new evaluations, due to being remote. I worry about the longer-term impact on these students.

The pandemic forced me at age 69, with an underlying health condition, to retire last June. I worked as an occupational therapist in a school in western Massachusetts that went back to partial in-person learning last September. I have to say, I have benefitted from having this time to do other things I have been wanting to do for a long time. And to now wake up in the mornings and have so many options is quite wonderful.

The pandemic has also deepened my appreciation of how much family and close friends mean to me, and we are expressing it to one another in ways we previously did not.

Those relationships have only deepened in these times, even if we cannot see one another in person.

The hardest thing for me is that I cannot travel to see my adult daughter in Portland, Oregon in person, due to Covid.

I had spent seven months with her in 2018 and 2019 when she went through chemo and a blood stem-cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. She has had some very serious complications.

It is also challenging to know she cannot not be around others so as to not get exposed to Covid. I think about these hardships for her almost every day, and feel so powerless we cannot change them.

However, after she and I, and a significant majority, are vaccinated, I am hoping I can travel to see her - maybe by end of 2021 - even if I have to limit our visit to outside.

My relationship with my other adult daughter who lives nearby has remained strong and good. We continue to have each others' back - and we always will.

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Jill Stahl Tyler, Brattleboro: I'm most surprised by how seriously most of us took this pandemic - and how those who did not believe in it stood fast in their doubt.

My international business has really suffered. Not sure I'll be able to fully recover.

My daughter has had one of the best year's academically. She actually likes remote schooling.

But in April of last year, I started searching for one positive thing, every day, that happened only because of the pandemic. I have published it as a book. That was another good thing!

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Viv Woodland, Brattleboro: I was surprised to realize that everything I really need is accessible here in town. If I have to shop elsewhere for an item, having that item can wait.

I do think that we will gradually drop the germ paranoia that was so quickly developed out of necessity last spring, but I also believe that aspects of our culture have been permanently altered. For example, my religious organization is considering the possibility of continuing internet streaming of services, something that was not done by that group pre-pandemic.

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Betsy Thomason, West Townshend: We are all getting much too comfortable with the limitations placed on our humanity. Twenty years ago, we adjusted to 9/11 restrictions. Now, 20 years later, we are realigning our freedoms again.

In 2041, what will our world look and feel like? What will we be required to relinquish? What is normal? We're losing track.

Visual technology has enabled me to see people who are not in my space or even near it. Is this essential? No. Do I value it? No. Simple technology like a telephone keeps me connected.

The turmoil for me is created by the imposition of restrictions, not fear of disease. I personally work daily to maintain my well-being. There is no time frame for self-improvement. It beckons every day.

When I was raising children 40 years ago, it was possible for a family to be comfortable with one full-time bread-winner. Now, it is impossible. So even before the recent restrictions, family life has been stressed to the max.

As a grandparent, I wonder how it is humanly possible for children to grow and mature in this topsy-turvy, two-dimensional world we have created. Virtual life is a hoax.

As an introvert who looks inward for comfort and amusement, my regret is the fear I experience hovering in the community when I venture out. We are told to vaccinate, yet we are also told that vaccines do not prevent disease, so the same rules will continue to apply after vaccination - masks and distancing.

Who is talking about the body's immune function and how to boost it to allow it to protect against “invaders?” This is the mission to which I'm committed.

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