I haven’t written since New Years. We all started 2020 like we do the beginning of any year- full of plans and aspirations. Little did we realize that 2020 had plans of its own.
January started innocently enough. We rushed back from Colombia to welcome some of my dearest friends to Panama. Over a decade ago, while living in Petaluma, CA, I had a very close group of friends. We cemented our friendship with the ritual of a monthly book club in which (I suspect like most other book clubs) we often never read the book nor found time to discuss it at the meeting. We have all kept in touch despite many of us moving away, but we decided it was time for a book club reunion in Panama. Kyla and I, the resident Panamanians, did our best to be the tour guides. We did a food tour of Panama City, toured the canal, spent days lounging on beaches from Pedasi to Venao, hiked waterfall trails, gave them a taste for the local food, took a tram to the top of the rainforest, and visited a sloth sanctuary. It was a lot to pack into a week, but I think we hit the right balance between relaxation and adventure. Of course, having a trip away from their husbands and kids really made it the time of their lives. Now looking back, I’m so glad that we had that time to connect before the world shut down.
Right after the “Book Club in the Tropics” reunion, I flew with AJC back to Buffalo, NY. Yes, we had just spent time in Buffalo over Christmas. However, during the previous six months or so, AJC had started to display some OCD symptoms. They had escalated to the point where we were no long able to manage it without professional help. Resources like that are nonexistent in our area of rural Panama. Therefore, while we were in Buffalo for Christmas, we had him evaluated at a Pediatric Behavioral Health Center. AJC has undergone evaluations before, but he was much younger, so they never resulted in a firm diagnosis. This evaluation did yield a diagnosis which was not a surprise to us. We worked with the psychologist to develop a treatment plan over the course of six weeks. I returned to Buffalo with AJC in mid- January, and we started therapy twice a week until the end of February. It went remarkably well, and we have been super happy with his progress. Our time together in Buffalo was super unique. It is rare that I can devote all my attention to one child. Plus, that child was not in school leaving me with a lot of hours to fill. We did every child friendly activity within a two hour radius of Buffalo. Highlights were movies every Tuesday, the Dragon exhibit at the Strong, the mummy exhibit at the science museum, Disney on Ice, cooking classes at Wegmans, and playing in the snow. However, the best part was spending almost every day with my grandmother. Usually when we see her, it is around the holidays when the house is filled with family and craziness. It was such a gift to spend long hours with her talking and playing games. I will also always be thankful for the bonding that AJC was able to do with her.
What was PJC doing while we were in Buffalo? Not missing me, that’s for sure. He’s all over me when I’m here, but when I’m gone- out of sight, out of mind. He never wanted to FaceTime because it would interrupt his Land Before Time viewing. He did go to summer camp with his favorite local teacher, and BC taught him to skateboard. His favorite teacher also taught him how to swim. BC was also too busy to miss me. Beyond work, he was managing the construction on our property of our outdoor kitchen and caretaker’s quarters.
In March, AJC and I returned to Panama, and we brought my parents for their annual visit. While in Pedasi, we mostly relaxed by the pool. However, this trip, we really wanted to show them Boquete. As we suspected, they loved the mountains, lush vegetation, and the cooler temperatures. They even got a round of golf in. We hiked the Pipeline Trail all the way to the waterfall. BC also got to take AJC zip-lining for the first time. We also ate all the fresh strawberry products, coffee, and chocolate that we could get.
The kids loved the time with their grandparents, and it was hard to send them on their way. It’s a good thing they left when they did. The world was also starting to change. Since the beginning of the year, we had heard the media start to talk about the Coronavirus. At first it seemed so far way, and we were naive for a long time that it wouldn’t affect us. That soon changed, and 2020 got BANANAS.