10/10/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

Seniors Guide writer Terri L. Jones shares a recent family trip that was nearly ruined by coronavirus fears. The experience was an example of the decisions and choices that are a part of life during Covid.

Almost a year ago, my sister started planning a family trip to Cape Charles, Virginia, renting a charming and completely renovated 1940s Airbnb that had plenty of bedrooms for the nine of us, plus games, paddleboards, and a golfcart to get around town.

The main reason for this get-together on the Chesapeake Bay was that my dad, who has dementia, and my niece’s 2-year-old son both find it difficult to make 4½-hour car rides. This family vacation, planned halfway between the two homes, was the perfect way for PawPaw to get to know Beckham and vice versa. Not to mention, the family hadn’t been together since before the pandemic and this trip would allow us to relax and re-connect.

Bump in the road

The morning of the trip, we were all packed and ready to go when we received a text from my sister. Beckham had a fever. (Record scratch.) All the blissful thoughts of eating steamed shrimp (with plenty of Old Bay), collecting shells on the beach, and touring the quaint little town on the bay were replaced by gnawing fears of Covid.

For two and a half years, my stepmother had kept up a steady defense against the dreaded virus – making my father mask and disinfect his hands every time they went out, leaving their house when their unvaccinated cleaning lady visited and declining invitations to group events. She even made her unvaccinated sister test before coming for Thanksgiving dinner. It was unfathomable to put my father at risk now.

But we all knew how every FaceTime interaction with Beckham brought the biggest smiles to my father’s face and raised his spirits like little else. This might be the only chance for the two of them to spend time together anytime soon. And the dementia made the future so unpredictable.

To cancel or not to cancel?

My stepmother and I suggested that my niece do a home Covid test on Beckham to ease our minds. (After all, in the early days of the pandemic, we all tested before visiting my dad and stepmom.) At first my niece was reluctant to stick a swab up her baby’s nose, but she finally relented. When only one line appeared on the test strip, we all breathed a sigh of relief, with our peace of mind bolstered by the fact that Beckham’s molars were coming in, which could also explain the fever. However, we had all heard stories of negative tests turning positive, so we still had to wrestle with our decision.

After tossing around the pros and cons and a lot of handwringing, we decided the reward of having the whole family together was greater than what we perceived as a pretty small risk. We loaded our cars and headed to the bay.

Life during Covid: Precautions for travel

Destination: family time!

A little boy's birthday cake decorated with deer and trees. A recent family trip was nearly ruined by coronavirus fears – an example of the decisions and choices that are a part of life during Covid.

On the first evening in our Cape Charles cottage, we caught up, laughed a lot and polished off piles of steamed shrimp, as we had planned, ending the evening with a decadent, 10-layer Smith Island birthday cake to belatedly celebrate Beckham’s second birthday. My dad, a former deer hunter, had brought a toy buck and doe to top his cake!

But the fun all came to a screeching halt when early the next morning, my father, who is prone to anxiety attacks when he travels, awoke with tightness in his chest. He was convinced he needed to go to the hospital. My sister and I stumbled out of our warm beds before the sun rose to sit with our daddy, hold his hand, and reassure him that he was OK.

When my husband came downstairs, he contributed his tech version of this reassurance, sliding his Apple watch on my dad’s wrist to check his heart rate and rhythm. Thankfully, the numbers were normal, which made my father almost immediately relax. Moving past his anxiety, he focused instead on a shopping trip to a bait and tackle shop and “When’s that boy getting up?!”

The rest of the short vacation was spent watching Beckham play in the sand, shopping (my sister and dad bought matching baseball caps without knowing it!), and lots of eating. We took myriad selfies, told stories on each other, and even filched a few figs off the trees in the median while driving our golf cart through the neighborhood! Beckham learned all our names and how to do an exploding fist bump, which he calls “knucks,” melting our hearts with his impish grin. And our family reforged our old connections and created a brand-new one with our sweet boy. We all headed home feeling relaxed and full of gratitude.

Guidelines from the CDC on dealing with stress arising from life during Covid

Unpacking and testing

Writer Terri L. Jones and her dad on the Cape Charles vacation. A recent family trip was nearly ruined by coronavirus fears – an example of the decisions and choices that are a part of life during Covid.

Then we received the news that my niece had tested positive for Covid. One by one, my sister, my nephew, my husband, and I started having symptoms, too. We all received our own positive tests over the next few days. Thankfully, our cases were mild, and we recovered quickly. Even more thankfully (and we have no idea how!), the virus completely skipped over my dad and stepmom. My brother-in-law also was spared.

Personal reflections on life during Covid

Some people may see this as taking a gamble and losing. But we don’t. My dad didn’t give in to his anxiety about traveling, and the reward was that he enjoyed a few incredible days with his new great-grandson and the rest of his family. And the rest of us decided that we weren’t going to give into our anxiety about Covid either.

We all take calculated risks every day. Living in a world with Covid is just one of them.

While we would never throw caution to the wind when it comes to Covid – we’ve masked where appropriate, stayed home when necessary, and gotten all the recommended vaccines – we also have decided not to sacrifice our lives to it. Covid has stolen so much from us over the past year and a half. We are so grateful that we didn’t let the virus rob us of this memorable family experience, too!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri Jones