What is normal?

A tiny, little virus has changed our lives. “Covid” is not a word that I knew before this year, much less that it must have had 18 brothers that lived before it.

“It’s called Covid-19, Grandma,” my six-year-old grandson corrects me when I use the term coronavirus. We chat on FaceTime, the only way we’ve been able to communicate and actually see one another since December during my last visit to Arizona where the Missoula native now lives. “Maybe you can visit us when Covid-19 goes away,” he suggests.

His words hang in the air like an autumn leaf floating to the ground on a crisp October morning. Summer has officially ended and nine months have disappeared since I last hugged my grandson for real, not just some emoji squeeze or thin words on a greeting card promising ‘hugs.’ Covid-19 condemns hugs. Will they ever return?

The virus sparks new markets — decorative facial masks, tee-shirts that promote social distancing, and how-to books on Zoom for Dummies. Our Rotary club hands out People of Action facial masks to its members. I lead Rotary board meetings from my computer at home. I attend social functions and trainings online. I search my photo collection periodically to add new virtual backgrounds to my Zoom account. I grow accustomed to the Hollywood Squares-type faces gathering online, from my memoir class colleagues to family reunions to sessions on history from famous authors. I start to accept this new way of life.

But I don’t want to accept it as normal.

Last week, I joined five friends and one big, lop-eared dog named Ranger who all braved a rather cold evening outdoors for fellowship at Missoula’s Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery. Being with friends live in a social setting, cold weather or not, is refreshing. Great conversation. Wine tasting. Yummy pizza. And even some comedians performing to boot. Laughs at no charge.

Take that, Covid-19.

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