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Corona Family Reunion by Kelly Swanson

Well. We just hosted our first ONLINE family reunion thanks to The Corona.

It’s weird. Up until now, we couldn’t get people to commit to a family gathering to save our lives – everybody’s too busy. We got soccer practice. We live too far away. Johnny’s still contagious. Buster’s still on house arrest.  And then tragedy strikes and then suddenly we can’t do one more thing until we make sure great Aunt Bert is okay, despite the fact she’s been sitting in the same nursing home chair by the window for the last ten years and nobody’s thought to visit.

So before the Corona, we’re all arguing over who as to call Aunt Nadine back and after two weeks of quarantine we’ll talk to ANYBODY. Shoot the only reason I put on makeup today is because the UPS guy is supposed to come by.

So we announced that we were having an online family reunion, and nobody could back out, because we knew they were all under quarantine, as not a one of ‘em has an essential job. At least according to the government.

You can argue whether this virus is an act of God, but I will tell you this, it was an ACT OF GOD that we brought every family member over 70 online.

It took my son 3 hours total to walk Nanny and Paw Paw through it, and they’re so scared to touch it, that the thing now just stays on all the time. If it’s true that the government is watching us on our computers, then there’s a bunch of secret spy agents up in the Pentagon really wishing Nanny would not walk around naked in the middle of the night.

I heard my Aunt Beth stayed up all night cleaning her entire house top to bottom before the reunion.  We told her we weren’t even going to see in her basement. But she insisted that we would just KNOW. And what if she died while she was on the call? She wouldn’t want us to see that her freezer hadn’t been defrosted.

And then next think you know, there we all are making our clunky entrance into this virtual living room.  As one by one confused faces started popping in. Some upside down. Others facing the ceiling. Computers jiggling. Staring at our screens and fixing our hair.

It became quickly obvious that we weren’t sure how to handle this whole virtual reunion thing. I mean how in the world do you have a family reunion with no food? What’s left?

I’m amazed at how many of them dressed up for the occasion. Especially since I wasn’t even wearing pants.

We think that Pearl had a fabric backdrop made- no way was that a real bookshelf behind her –  we all know she doesn’t read anything that doesn’t have a Kardashian in it.

We launched into a discussion on what counts as an essential business as each of us could pretty much make the case that what we wanted to do was essential. And what kind of world do we live in where they close church but leave the liquor store open?

We all Had a lot of questions around this social distancing and why we can’t go to the mall but the post man can bring us germs on a daily basis. And what if somebody in Dubuque coughed on this ad for a free mouthwash and this is like Outbreak all over again?

One of my third cousins made each of her kids get on and sing a song  they wrote for home church. Apparently they got extra credit for how many times the song included Jesus. Thank you God for the mute button.

And then Aunt Bert shared that she didn’t see the point in shaving her legs anymore. And her husband said, “Anymore?” and we all got a good laugh over that, until she showed us her legs on the camera.

And Martha’s eyes were all puffy from crying for 8 days straight. She’s homeschooling her three kids and she doesn’t think she can take it. She said she’s been through two rounds of chemo an abusive mother, and a stint in the peace corps, and nothing has come close to teaching these ungrateful children. Which got a couple of the other mothers crying. And one of ‘em said she was gonna take all of them to the school gymnasium and drop them off and they’d better unlock the door and take ‘em. She doesn’t care who coughs on em! Taking care of sick kids has got to be easier than teaching ‘em.

And then everybody tried to out good deed each other talking about who was doing more to help the unfortunate. One aunt was feeding the homeless. Another was taking cupcakes to the nursing home. And then they’re all like what did you do Kelly? And I got nothing. I mean good grief, it had only been a couple of weeks. I was still struggling with my own grief.

And someone sneezed into the computer and one of my aunts started freaking out – saying I caught the carotid I caught the carotid

And my cousin is whining because she can’t get her toes done and we were all rolling our eyes until she showed us her toes. And we agreed. She could hang by a tree and pick up acorns with those nails.

Ethel said she’s leaving Roy. She said it’s only been 10 days and she’s ready to kill him herself. And she would have done it already but she was afraid all the funeral home people were on the quarantine and couldn’t pick his body up.

And all the while my uncle Bob felt it his duty to update us on every article he saw coming in – .kept yelling every two hours – just lost another one in Jersey.  Stocks just plummeted.   Food lion is out of toilet paper again.

The only one who didn’t talk was my cousin in the bottom right corner who never said a word. We later found out he wasn’t my cousin, he was somebody else’s who got on the wrong call, and said that our family was more fun than his so he decided to stay. Shoot. I really liked him.

And then somebody made us all go around and saw what we’re thankful for, and somebody said at least we got the internet – and then somebody else said not if we can’t work and pay the bill. Then you can kiss internet good bye. And then the millennials started to cry.

And that is when all of a sudden great Aunt Maybelle’s screen froze and somebody screamed, she’s having a stroke, she’s having a stroke. And then somebody called 911.  And just as the paramedics showed up she came to life again.  And we all waved at the nice firemen in the masks from our computers.

After all that commotion we felt like that was a good stopping point so we started saying our goodbyes, which in some southern families can last longer than the event itself.

And then in one click. We were all gone. And it was quiet. Really quiet.

That day we learned that we could drive each other just as crazy online as in person

But crazy or not. They’re our family. The people who still want to see us when the going gets tough.

And that is what I call a silver lining.

Gotta go. We’re planning a family game night.

Lord help us all.

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