STERNBERG: the silver lining of COVID |

Chronicle of Richard Sternberg

Silver lining of COVID

Sometimes out of the worst experiences, something good happens. At the end of my column on MASH last week, I mentioned that I learned how to create a family right where you found it. Amazingly, due to COVID, I reunited with my family that I hadn’t even known about for 45 years.

At the very beginning of the COVID outbreak in March 2020, a college friend of mine who lived on the same floor of the dorm started groups that met on Zoom. It was for the elders of our time. She knew people a few years before she started and others a few years after she graduated. She put together a group of graduates from 1968 to 1982, then divided them into three groups. My group, the classes from 1974 to 1978, decided to meet monthly. We turned out to be the most active of the three groups. This has continued for the last 30 months. Over time, as we made ourselves aware of what had happened in our lives, more than one of us came to the conclusion that we were indeed a family, sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes at odds. with each other, but isn’t that what a family is anyway? You could actually feel and hear the love between people, many of whom had had no contact with each other for 45-50 years.

My living group was about 30 people who lived on two one-story wings of a building that was converted into suites or apartments. Suites ranged in size from four to eight students. There was a small apartment for a graduate student or young faculty member who acted as an advisor/tutor. Each suite had a full kitchen, large living/dining room, as well as individual bedrooms; singles for the upper class and doubles for the first year, and a shared bathroom. It was like living in an apartment, but with the difference that at least on our floor, the doors were left open for people to walk in and out of each other’s suites, sometimes each other’s rooms.

Six months ago the group of us thought it would be a good idea if we got together physically. COVID seemed to be easing and we decided we really wanted to see each other. Some of us who became close never met in person because one only started when the other graduated. Nevertheless, we supported each other. A member of the group, whom I had never met in person before, even came to visit me when I was hospitalized last year near him.

The person who originally came up with the idea to do this started working on the reunion – not a reunion of people from one class year, but of people from all classes. Finally, it came to fruition last weekend. Forty people spanning 13 years from those who lived on this floor of the dormitory gathered together and returned to the building in which we had lived. We are all very grateful to the current Head of House, who has helped us immensely in setting this up.

Not only have we reconnected with each other, but through the intervention of the current head of house we have created links with the students who currently live there. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that they retained many of the old traditions and were as happy to meet and talk to us as we were to talk to them. Bonds have been made and many of my alumni group members plan to keep in touch and support their life group activities. They are almost like adopted grandchildren.

Sometimes you can go home. This weekend was clearly one of the happiest I’ve had in many years. Something good has come out of this terrible pandemic for me.

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