Continuing the topic of playing “Best & Worst” we gave it a shot, as a way to reflect on 2020. Not surprisingly, most themes were related to COVID. Also not surprisingly, a lot of “collateral beauty” has arisen out of the tragedy that has taken so many lives.

For example, phrases like “more relaxed” and “things have slowed down” arose, in the “Best” category. “I’m off the treadmill of life” is another way I have heard it termed.

“Worst” also revealed some common themes, mostly related to personal loss, financial struggle and physical/emotional isolation.

My “Worst” was easy. I haven’t lost a personal relationship to a COVID death and I am grateful for that. But what I have lost is credibility with my son, who at 21, still has no idea why he is stuck in the house, cannot go to school, see his friends, and shop at his favorite haunts (Target, Michaels and Five Below.)

Zach’s medical diagnosis includes chronic neutropenia, meaning he has a compromised immune system. At 85 pounds, on nutritional life support, Zach has enjoyed an energetic and abundant social life, despite his fragility. He depends on his routines and love energy of those around him, to keep him grounded. His personal relationships are his oxygen.

So while Zach has not lost a loved one, and does not have financial woes, he has lost his cadence, and his social life. My “Worst” is that he doesn’t understand why.

While most of us are frustrated and indeed grief stricken by all the ways COVID has impacted our many freedoms, Zach’s true loss is a lack of the “Why” behind it all. My “Worst” is that I have no means of helping him understand what is happening.

Thus, my encouragements to Zach as he graduated his school program in July at 21 such as “You are going to college!” (aka Adult Day Care); “You will love college!” and “You will make many new friends at college!” have fallen flat. All he knows is that he used to roam the halls of his former program (sometimes in his wheelchair) as the “Mayor” of the school. He earned gold medals for Special Olympics, and awards like “making everyone laugh.” He was lovingly supported on a daily basis.

Now there is no school. No bus aides, or bus drivers (whom he adored!) No teachers or caregivers beyond his parents. There are no friends to high five, Special Olympics events, or neighbor friends to help him with his G-tube feeds.

Zach wakes up every day to “make a plan” but the list is short. He sometimes whispers it before his eyes are even open. For a brief moment he has forgotten that our options for the day ahead are few.

Soon he remembers there is no plan. He is still home (albeit safe and healthy), there is no life outside the walls of his protective home and the only plan we have is to keep him protected from a virus that could take his life.

And every once in a while, he utters “Mom… college?”

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