By Jerry McCullough
When the special virus first showed up around here, it was just an idea of sorts. We could see it in black and white, or in technicolor, but not in reality. In mid-March we, the teachers, were aware of some changes that might come to us after spring break: hand-sanitizers in every room, rooms disinfected after every class meeting, and a few lessons on-line for a week or so. As a citizen we really didn’t have too many instructions.
Okay, stop hugging and shaking hands in church or around town. No hint, though, of separation from students, brothers and sisters in Christ, community friends and businesses, or even family members. It was out there somewhere lurking and rather a nebulous concept. What a difference one week makes!
Part 1: The first real negative impact came when I could not attend church any more. Madison Baptist fellowship has been extremely important to my wife and me. When I am not in Atlanta on weekends, I am in church with the ones who help me stay grounded in the faith and love that come from our communion together.
I am not alone in the impact this has had on so many. The second negative impact came as we would have to be mindful of the “distancing” from our children and grandchildren. We have been blessed, and spoiled, by having a very close-knit family, both in love and proximity. Unfortunately our youngest, and cutest, grandchildren are not in Madison, so we have really had a hard time not seeing them grow smarter and bigger.
Two months makes a real difference in those things when one is less than 7 years old. Fortunately our oldest, and more mature, grandchildren (who once were really cute, too) do live in Madison, so we have enjoyed being with them. Before you fuss about distancing, even with them, one part of our family basically lives with us next door, and the other is even more careful with avoiding potential viral transmission than we are.
So we feel very safe social distancing in the backyard with all of them. There are really no other significant negative impacts on my life. But I do miss coaching baseball, teaching at the college and being around really good folks in town. The students, however, have been tremendously impacted in academics and athletics. It breaks my heart to see it.
Part 2: The impact on my children has been incredible to watch. Their individual responses to the changes brought about by the stay-at-home policy makes me very proud. Two of our children (which includes an in-law) are essential workers: one manages maintaining water systems in Lake Country area, the other manages the finances for a medical group in Athens (both have remained open the whole time).
They have work to do each day – their routines are basically unchanged. Masks? Yes. Gloves? Yes. Public contact? Yes. And lots of hand-sanitizer. Five of our children (ugh!) are school teachers. Two of them have older children (middle and high school age), two of them have younger children (primary school and a recent Pre-K graduate), and one of them has really younger children (kindergarten graduate and two wild-buck, 4 year old twin boys).
They teach in Paulding, Cobb, Oconee, Greene and Morgan Counties. All of the school systems have different requirements for student, parent and administrative contacts during the time away from school: from very little contact with any of them to several-times-during-the-day contact with all of them.
What they have in common, however, is that they are spending a great deal of time outside with their kids: walking, playing games, working in the garden and yard, and, for one of our children, getting out of mommy’s way while she Zooms with her students, parents and administrators (guess which one that is).
Sharon and our daughter, Ashley, have been making masks for friends, workers and medical personnel. Ashley has been involved with making the shields on 3-D printers at the school. Really good stuff.
Only one of our children has had a work-layoff. He inspects properties for a management company in Atlanta. He travels throughout the southeast region. The company ended all travel for its employees through mid-June. He happens to live next door – that is important in Part 3. Sharon (my wife) and I still do what we have normally done – taking things one day at a time. She has had her “wings clipped,” though, from traveling and visiting with her colleagues in volunteerism and with her Palm Queens. That is huge!
Part 3: I am blessed to have my mother still here, living in Atlanta. She is 96 years old and lives at home. She has a sitter with her during the week. But on the weekends, she belongs to my sister and me.
We share responsibility for helping her with meals and chores, and chores, and chores. She will be reading this, so, “I love you, Mom,” and I truly enjoy doing the chores for you.
There has been very little effect on her with staying at home, because that is what she has done for the past couple of years. But I understand her “isolation” and loneliness a little better now. Sharon visits her mother occasionally, too. She lives alone in Johns Creek. Sharon’s sister and brother are in the area, so she gets some attention from them, too. Which is great. Beyond those visits, however, Sharon and our two houses with yards, barn, pastures and gardens have kept my son-in-law and me very busy during the day.
We usually have a great sense of accomplishment when we finally sit down on the back porch at the end of the day to put our feet up for a while before dinner. I say, “Sharon,” because even though person-to-person contact may have ended, she feels obligated to take advantage of John’s construction skills in completing some rather large projects for her at Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Over the past couple of weeks the two (sometimes three) of us have rebuilt the amphitheater at Camp Rutledge and the foot-bridge on the Brantley trail. There is no end to how useful we are to her in completing so many projects at HLC. She has given our lives meaning again. Thanks, Sharon.
Part 4: As is evident in the remarks, the greatest effects of the pandemic have been outside of my immediate world. The pain, suffering, confusion and chaos created by the changes in our laws, and in our condition of health and well-being (physical and emotional) cannot be completely understood by any one person. What we see right now is an attempt by so many people from all over the US and the world to surround everyone involved with love, hope and strength to work through to the end. Joy fills my soul! “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been, in the ages before us.” In the “ages before us,” struggles of the magnitude we are experiencing today were just as prevalent. Humans are creative, innovative and resourceful. It is only a matter of time before this event in history will end, and we will have survived it. “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you…The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”
Jerry McCullough is a retired teacher (MCHS/GMC) and coach. He is not a retired son, brother, husband, father or grandfather. And, he is blessed with a good church and community to call home.