My wife and I had waited two years for these hugs. When we finally embraced our son and his wife, all seemed right with the world again.
We knew we were not alone. Necessary health restrictions continue to keep millions of global people apart.
So, we felt fortunate to travel from central Virginia to upstate New York finally. The scenery was magnificent. The traffic not so much.
The road to Rochester, New York, was a long and winding one. With the heatwave, it was a hot one, too.
Though the city is due north of our home in the Shenandoah Valley, there is no easy way to get there. We can thank the old, folded Appalachian Mountains for that. The lush, forested mountains contrasted with the ripening grain fields we saw.
One highway closely followed the picturesque Susquehanna River part of the way. We even passed through central Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Hand-painted signs advertising quilts and produce reminded me of our beloved Holmes County, Ohio, home of the world’s largest Amish population, and where we used to live.
Upper left to right; The Sam Patch tour boat on the Erie Canal; Williamsport, PA; 100-acre pond; Male Eastern Bluebird; a hike on a hot and humid day.
For us, the mini-reunion was especially sweet. Unable to travel in June 2020, we had to watch our son’s street wedding on Zoom. It wasn’t what we wanted, but what we had to do.
Since the specifics of each state’s pandemic policies and restrictions were unique, we had to be patient to see our son and his bride in person. According to the guidelines, they couldn’t come to us from New York State, and we couldn’t visit them from Virginia.
That all changed once the vaccines became available. Our son and daughter-in-law got vaccinated just as we did. With both states relaxing restrictions due to declining infection numbers, we finally set a date to trek north.
Our daughter-in-law teaches middle school English, and her academic year didn’t end until the last week of June. That worked out perfectly for us. We may have missed their wedding, but we would be there to help celebrate their first anniversary.
And celebrate we did! With the heatwave in progress, however, we scaled back the planned outdoor activities. Still, we enjoyed a pleasant boat ride on the Erie Canal and took anniversary photos at a quaint lighthouse on Lake Ontario.
Food enthusiasts that they are, Nathan and Jess, arranged meals at some excellent restaurants. We were even able to eat outside in the evening’s shade. We savored the food and conversation and watched people stroll along city sidewalks.
We visited a park and toured a wildlife rehabilitation center. A refreshing breeze cooled us as we sat on benches overlooking a 100-acre pond. Before we left, we hugged some more.
Yes, we were inconvenienced all those months by the pandemic and the health restrictions needed to deter it. But with those embraces, all of the pent-up stress evaporated into the steamy air.
Yet, there was more. With each hug, I had to think about all those who haven’t yet had the same opportunity. I also thought about all those thousands upon thousands of mourning folks who would never be able to hug their lost loved ones taken by the pandemic’s virulence.
My wife and I were more than rewarded by merely being with our son and his wife. We were most grateful.
As I drove home, it hit me that the long and winding road to Rochester served as a metaphor for the horrific pandemic. The approaches and responses to the coronavirus have taken many twists and turns since its emergence in December 2019.
Hopefully, science will straighten those pandemic curves soon. Meanwhile, I’ll cherish every hug I get.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2021
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