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‘Quite a year’: couples on being separated by the Covid pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has lead to airport closures, cancelled flights, and some countries not allowing citizens to leave.

For couples used to being apart for short periods the restrictions have meant being apart for much longer. For those from different countries, they may have had to choose between visiting or caring for family and being together. Some have been kept apart by illness or essential work.

We asked readers to tell us their stories of separation.

Emma and Giles, West Sussex, UK

Emma and Giles Graddon-Sims.

Emma and Giles Graddon-Sims. Photograph: Supplied

We met at a friend’s wedding in May 2008. Giles is in the Royal Navy and so were the bride and groom. There were uniforms and champagne everywhere! We were asked repeatedly that day how long we had been together and would it be our wedding next. We kept having to shyly explain that we had just met!

We knew Giles would be sent to the Middle East in April this year but we had no idea how much the pandemic would impact this. He was put on 24 hours’ notice to deploy for weeks before the original date. It was tense, both of us jumping if the phone rang, the bags packed in the hallway ready, being told to go to the airport tomorrow only for it be cancelled an hour later.

Finally, after three last-minute cancellations, he was off. He has been away for four months, and we have no idea when he will be back. We hope the end of October, but can’t be sure.

I find the weekends and the evenings absolutely crushingly lonely. When the boys are asleep, and I have time to stop and think – well, I’ve never felt so alone.

[When all of this is over] I think we will laugh – shake our heads – and marvel that we did it. What a time to deploy and be apart! It’s been quite a year. I had a hip replacement on 2nd January and was so worried about how I’d cope without Giles, but I managed it. Maybe there’s a touch of pride that I home-schooled while working from home, recovering from surgery and caring for the boys’ (understandably) mixed emotions during this time.

Bentley and Jilly, rural Brittany, France

Bentley and Jilly.

Bentley and Jilly. Photograph: Handout

We met the first time on Christmas eve 1984 in a village pub near Bridport, Dorset. I was back from sea and Jilly was down from a London Art College. On the inside we both felt the delicious recognition of, ‘Ahh! So there you are,’ but we didn’t acknowledge it at that time.

This year, I joined my ship in Sharjah, on 11 February, expecting my usual six-week trip. I had the plane tickets back to Paris in my grubby hand to fly on the 16th March, and on the 15th the local authority closed the port and all immigration.

I ended up stuck on board for 187 days. The local authority finally opened up on 7 August. Ten days later, once I had all the right paperwork and Covid-19 clearance, I was back in Brittany, where my soulmate, Jilly, my son, his partner, my daughter and my granddaughters, a new jack Russel puppy, and Bosie the cat were all on the front terrace.

Rosemary and Jean-Francois, Brussels, Belgium

Rosemary and Jean-Francois Verstrynge.

Rosemary and Jean-Francois Verstrynge. Photograph: Handout

We met 34 years ago at a Christmas party and fell in love. In January this year, Jean-Francois was diagnosed as having a slipped disc in his lower back and was admitted to hospital for an operation. He was doing fine until he contracted septicaemia and was moved to intensive care.

One morning a doctor called me to say Jean-Francois was in isolation, as Covid-19 microbes had been detected in his throat. I was devastated as it was often reported in the news how people died alone, so I worried this would happen to him. We kept up regular contact with WhatsApp and I often sat outside the ward at the hospital. It sounds ridiculous, but I just had to feel he was close.

One magic day a kind and compassionate doctor allowed me five minutes to go to his room, although this was strictly forbidden. Those five minutes sustained me for the long separation ahead.

Jean-Francois was then moved to an orthopaedic clinic to work on his mobility. His room looked on to the parking lot, where I went every day so we could wave at each other while talking on WhatsApp.

Then restrictions eased. On the 70th day of not seeing each other in the flesh, he was wheeled outside where we did our best to communicate, still not touching and keeping a distance.

The following week we had half an hour together in the hospital canteen. We were separated by long tables, wearing masks, no touching. There were 15 or so other couples. The noise was deafening as everyone was shouting across the tables. I left in tears.

On 10 August he returned home, not the same man who had left in January. He had got ill at the wrong time. Now, after six weeks, he has improved remarkably and we are adjusting to our new lives with his reduced mobility. We are witnesses to the strength of love which sustained us during this long tsunami, and feel gratitude the bond between us is stronger than ever.

Fuyuko and Esther, New Zealand and Australia

Fuyuko and Esther.

Fuyuko and Esther. Photograph: Supplied

We are a spunky, multi-lingual and multi-racial queer couple (that makes us rainbow-like in more than one way) trying to maintain love and romance across the Tasman.

The last time we saw each other was in mid-February in Auckland/ Tāmaki Makaurau. We had a housewarming party to celebrate my new apartment, had a beautiful holiday together, went to Pride; it was a wonderful summer. Esther had tickets to come back in April and I was planning on doing a trip to Sydney in June for Esther’s birthday. All of that was cancelled. We have not seen each other for six months and counting.

Unless Esther moves to New Zealand we don’t think we will see each other for a very very long time, definitely not this year, probably not until the second half of 2021.

Our relationship feels like it’s on pause or on super slow motion. It’s also hard seeing couples out and about, doing mundane things. We miss this the most, doing the things couples do on a daily basis, like going for walks, going grocery shopping or coming home to each other, spending lazy weekends together.

Libby and Harrison, Wellington, New Zealand and New York, US

Libby and Harrison.

Libby and Harrison. Photograph: Supplied

We planned our wedding across three countries with the intention of having a New Zealand wedding with our friends and family and then flying off into the Manhattan sunset together. We got married in New Zealand on 7 March, two weeks before lockdown.

Then Harrison had to get back to NYC for work and our puppy. I stayed in New Zealand waiting for my visa to come through. I also wanted to be with my dad through his cancer treatment.

The weekend after our wedding I decided to do a marathon with my mum and dad in Queenstown and we were slower than anticipated, so saying goodbye to my new husband was literally a quick kiss across the barrier before the finish line, because he had to sprint to the airport to get his flight back to NYC. We still haven’t seen each other since this moment six months ago.

David and Arwen, The Netherlands

David and Arwen Ankers.

David and Arwen Ankers. Photograph: Handout

Arwen was visiting our daughter in Adelaide for a month. The night before she was due to return home Singapore closed its borders to transit passengers. After a three-month delay, and thanks to some extraordinary precautions taken by Singapore Airlines, she is now home.

The pandemic is world-changing, on a general and personal level.

Looking ahead, the prospect of not seeing our children, family, and friends overseas for another year or more is awful. It feels like a game of musical statues: the music has stopped and we all have to freeze.

I grew up around travel as my father worked for British European Airways and then British Airways. My first flight was in 1962, aged one, to Athens, when Mum and I tagged along on a business trip with him.

Over the years I have done more than a thousand flights, lived in five countries and been to over 50 others, most of them repeatedly. I am equally at home in Sydney as The Hague, Singapore as London. It feels like that world has ended.

Read the original article at The Guardian

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