My dad died on October 15th, 2020. I could tell you this was the worst year of my life, and you’d completely understand…but it wasn’t.

My parents came to New Jersey from Nebraska to visit in early February. My dad, being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer the previous September, wasn’t doing great. It was so hard to see him struggle to stay awake and fight off the effects of radiation, but we managed to have a good time. He loved taking my kids to the food store or to Costco and just getting whatever they wanted and buying way too much food for my refrigerator. My dad was so good with those kids…it was all about them.

After a week or so in New Jersey, they flew back to Omaha, the same day I flew to Florida for a work meeting. We said our goodbyes, not knowing that was the last time we’d see him healthy enough to do everyday activities. When I returned from Florida there was chatter about a coronavirus in China getting people very sick, and if it came to the US we’d have big problems. By March that chatter had intensified. Conference basketball tournaments were being cancelled. Sporting events all over the country were being cancelled. Then on March 17th, 2020, the world shut down.

We were stuck in our homes, relying on HelloFresh or BlueApron to deliver meals. I’d grab a list from my neighbor of items to get at the store, then wait in line for an hour to get into Wegman’s. There was a curfew. There were Zoom meetings with family and friends, happy hours on Zoom, frozen pizza reviews on Instagram that would give me inspiration for Tuesday dinners with a friend. It was weird but it was perfect for me. You see, I was so lonely, and I was jealous of everyone else I used to associate with back in Omaha because they had what I wanted: parties, gatherings, Friday and Saturday nights out. But the pandemic changed all that. Now everyone was stuck in their house, and in some twisted way, I felt so much better.

I was drinking more during this time because I knew I didn’t have to go to a 5:45am gym class. I could do the class at my leisure on YouTube. It got to be every night again, more and more. I’d drink to comfort myself about my dad’s cancer. I’d drink because I wouldn’t have to go see customers the next day. And I’d drink because everyone else was drinking.

I had to cancel four trips to Omaha to see my family that year, one Spring Break trip with the kids and three others by myself. It was too much of a risk traveling through airports, not knowing enough about Covid, then spending time with my immunocompromised dad. I did make it back for my mom’s 70th birthday in September, my dad’s last good weekend before he would spend the rest of his time in the hospital.

On October 10th, my parents, brothers and I had a Zoom call with the hospice nurses to discuss end of life care. After that call I went for a drive when my brother called me and said I needed to come home. I left the next morning with my daughters and drove 20 hours straight through, arriving in Omaha at 1:00am.

I was able to spend the next three days in the hospital with my dad and the rest of the family, all the while my dad’s friends were in and out of the hospital telling him goodbye. My dad would later say it was one of the best days of his life, seeing all his friends and being able to comfort them about his passing in a way only he knew how. My brothers and I had a ‘last supper’ on that Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, he was taken off the ventilator, passing away the following morning.

A few days later I made the long drive back to Jersey where I celebrated my birthday eleven days after my dad died. It was my first autumn at the property and it was gorgeous to witness the leaves changing, something my dad would’ve loved to see. But after the leaves fell, I realized that it was going to be a long, cold, dark, depressing winter. One I wasn’t sure I was ready for.