The Great Escape

It sounded like the checklist for a bank robbery. Masks on. Remember how we practiced this. Get in, get out, go home.

“Are you ready?” I asked Missy.

“Y-yeah!” The cloth hid her grin but her eyes were bright.

And with that, we crossed the street to the comic book store. Our first (extremely brief) foray downtown since the Great Stay-at-Home was underway.

For Missy, it may as well have been a lottery win.

Regular readers may remember that when the world went into lockdown, our developmentally disabled ward went into frustration. Missy doesn’t talk a lot but she loves being around people, the extrovert’s extrovert who’s happiest in the middle of a dance floor, or a crowded restaurant, or a knock-em-down day at the bowling alley. She’s never forgotten a face, so any trip around town tends to produce a “Hey you!” and a wave as she works her way over, while I quickly try to remember if this is an old friend of hers or someone who’s about to become a new one.

So as you can imagine, COVID-19 has been her personal Lex Luthor. Only without the cool gadgets and shiny green rocks.

No restaurants. No crowds. Nothing beyond the walls of home, really, since with her disabilities she’s considered part of the “vulnerable “ population. And with her favorite businesses and weekly activities closed, there wasn’t anywhere to go.

I can hear some of you nodding your heads. Yep, familiar situation. A lot of folks were in the same boat – they just couldn’t share crew space.

That’s not easy. Especially for the most social folks among us who need a visit, a hug, a change of scenery the way that some of us need oxygen or water.

And it’s one reason why we’re finding re-opening the world to be a lot harder than shutting it down.

If you are or have been a parent – Happy Father’s Day, by the way! –  you know what I’m talking it about. Saying “NO” is frustrating, but clear. Saying “Yes, we can, if …” is a lot harder. That usually means conditions and rules and promises. And promises are easy to make but hard to keep in the heat of the moment. Of course I’ll walk the dog if we get one! Sure I’ll clean my room before going out!

We mean well. But we get excited. We want to hurry things along.

And in a situation like this, where careful steps are needed, that over-eagerness can trip things up fast.

The good news is that we’re still in a place where careful steps can work. Where they have been working. Where thinking about what we do before we do it can make a big difference.

With Missy, that meant practicing regularly with her mask, making sure she could keep it on, and using her wheelchair when we finally went out for real to reduce the chance of wandering.

With us as a society, it means continuing to look out for each other. To not just focus on the stuff we want to do, but to learn and practice the things we need to do, in order to make sure that we all get through this.

It’s easy to get impatient. But if we keep it doing right, even the small victories become a big deal. And the big victories come that much closer.

Thank you to everyone who’s been doing it right. Who’s given us this crack in the door. Together, we’re making life just a little more normal.

For Missy, that’s an excitement that nothing can mask.

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