Producer blog: With US-Canada border closed, family is close, yet so far away

Meaghan and family. (WDIV)

They are the moments you never forget, even when time passes. The seconds in which your life pivots in an unforeseen way.

All of us have had them during this pandemic, however, each of them is different and unique to our personal circumstance.

For me, one of those moments came early last March in the news conference room at Local 4, back when we still all gathered in one room for meetings.

It was the center of our operations for COVID-19 pandemic coverage and ideas, new developments and stories were being gathered and assigned.

As I was sitting there, someone said, “they’re closing the border.”

I stopped in my tracks. The U.S.-Canada border was closing to non-essential travel because of the spread of COVID-19.  That is the line that stands between me, my husband, our son and nearly our entire extended family.

“I need a moment,” I remember saying and walked out of the room to a quiet space to process. I kept walking until I found myself alone in an edit bay fighting back tears.

As journalists, we empathize and relate to the people we interview, the people whose stories we tell, but during the pandemic there have been times when we are experiencing many of the same hardships are our subjects and our viewers are struggling through.   Whether it is loved ones sick with COVID-19, the struggles of kids learning remotely, spouses laid off or out of work completely, being socially distant from our loved ones, our friends.

Grief, trauma, mourning, while the reasons for experiencing this may be different, it unfortunately exists for so many of us during the pandemic.

Like many of our viewers and readers, I deeply miss seeing my family in person.

As we mark one year since COVID-19 officially arrived in Michigan, I was reading a script written by anchor Devin Scillian for our upcoming special on the pandemic.

“Let us be grateful that a year ago, no one could tell us it would be a year.”

Yes, let us be grateful indeed.

In that moment, in the edit bay back in March 2020, reconciling with myself that we would not see our family and friends for what I expected to be a few weeks to a month, I cannot imagine how I would have processed 365 days and counting.

March 8, 2020. That was the last day I saw my Canadian family in person.

My son and I stopped at my parents’ home on a Sunday afternoon on the way home from a weekend with my closest girlfriends and he with his cousins.

It was a couple hours, a cup of coffee and a conversation in the kitchen.

Had I known it would be the last in a while, would I have lingered a little longer? Hugged a little tighter? Said something more?

My parents have watched my son grow over FaceTime and Zoom, we play Yahtzee over the screen and have a drink together.  There are “Family Zooms” as we call them with my parents and siblings, and even more gatherings over screens with aunts, uncles and cousins.  And yes, the girl talk happens over Google Hangout when we can find the time.

My husband, son and I miss the weekends our family would spend in our home.

We have experienced loss, and mourned from afar, watching a funeral live over YouTube from our couch.

Through FaceTime, Facebook and Instagram I see my sister’s children and my friends’ children celebrate birthdays and milestones and I wonder what the time spent physically distant will do to our relationships moving forward.

As my son gets ready to spend a second birthday socially distant from those “closest” to us, yes, I am grateful we didn’t know then what we know now.

Grateful the loss and grief we have experienced has not been worse.

And perhaps a little bit hopeful as we roll through March 2021.  Vaccines with strong efficacy available on both sides of the border, people doing their part wearing masks, staying socially distant, in-person learning returning for many students including my son.

Maybe one of my moments in 2021 will be the news the Canada-US border will reopen. Grateful will not begin to describe how that will feel.

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