The COVID-19 pandemic has been excruciatingly difficult for a lot of people for many reasons. One of the those reasons really hit me when 2021 came to a close. It’s hard being away from family. I live in southern California with my spouse and two kids, but my father and siblings are all in New England. Even with that sort of distance, usually I would see them two or three times a year. Since the pandemic began, I haven’t been to my hometown since June of 2019.
The Chance to Go Home
With highly effective vaccines, including ones that have become available to my five year old child, I had hoped to travel home over the winter holidays. I was almost ready to dip into my savings account for some plane tickets. The emergence of the Omicron variant, however, changed my risk vs. benefit measurement. I realized that even if my spouse and I were boosted, we couldn’t expose our younger three-year-old child to the spike in cases. We didn’t want to contribute to the spread of the disease. So, we stayed close to home.
Your Chosen Family
However, the silver lining is that all these experiences have really emphasized to me just how important having a “chosen family” can be, especially for us disabled people. When I use the term, chosen family, I refer to a small group of close friends that you develop strong bonds with. You know you can rely on them during the hard times as well as the fun times. Your chosen family are the people in your life that aren’t blood relatives. Nevertheless, they are there for you when things go sideways.
These are the people that come pick you up off the side of the road if your power wheelchair battery dies. They cancel their plans to drive you to the ER if you spike a fever on a Friday night or they take your kids for a few days while you have critically important surgery.
I had to rely on chosen family first when I left for college. As a disabled person navigating an inaccessible world, I imagine I relied on them more than other people might when first leaving home. Years later, the pandemic has reminded me just how important these relationships are, since I have been forced to stay away from my blood family for so long now. Having chosen family in my life to share the joys and help carry the burdens has made all the difference.
About Joe Stramondo: Joe is an assistant professor at San Diego University and is extremely active in the disability community. Joe uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair to maintain his mobility and independence. In his spare time, Joe strives to be the best father he can to his children. Click here to learn more about Joe.