I wrote mindfully, or so I thought about how Anna’s COVID diagnosis, the day before she was to travel stateside for the holidays, upended the plans in place; and how we made the decision for me to travel to be with her.  But, haters gonna hate.

I wrote with humor and thoughtfulness about how within 24 hours I was heading to Ireland in order that our daughter not have to spend the holiday alone, so that I could cook and clean and do all the things Moms do when a child is ill. I wrote about the surgical strike I made the day after I arrived at the Marks & Spencer Food Hall so that we might have something to eat over the long holiday weekend that included Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day.

I wrote about making one stop, in one store on that day where I was the sole customer, to purchase two Irish wool sweaters; one for each of us, so there would at least be presents beneath the table-top Christmas tree I had tucked into my luggage.

Christmas came and went; we Zoom-ed with family across the three time zones, Jack and Fran taking turns opening the presents for Anna that had been sent to California. We took evening walks along the Liffey to balance the dullness of quarantine. No writings of Christmas in California with Jack and Fran; no post-holiday beach trip for the three of us (and CTF, of course), either. Some other time.

Once Anna was cleared “to resume activities” by her GP we decided to return stateside so that she could study for term exams at home, where the refrigerator is always full and meals magically appeared on the dining table. Strict COVID restrictions in Ireland were imminent; and with her flatmate in the U.S. until late January, tottering around an empty flat for a month didn’t seem like fun. I took a COVID test that returned negative, and we left Ireland.

I wrote about having to bunk for the night at an O’Hare airport hotel, as Mother Nature decided to grace Chicago with its first winter storm and so our connection to Knoxville had been canceled. We made it to Knoxville the next day, despite a broken plane and other departure delays, happy that at least all of the Irish whiskey samplers I had purchased at Duty Free for Tony survived multiple luggage tosses.

And for sharing my story here on the blog as well as on a travel forum where I have  had been a contributing member for almost 20 years, I was canceled. The vitriolic responses received from complete strangers for my words floored me. I was accused of being a privileged elitist (and more); and, though I had followed all CDC and HSE protocols for caring for someone with COVID, including quarantining; testing before travel; two days after travel and then again five days post-travel (all negative) I was somehow deemed a selfish superspreader.

I removed my writings. It was time to leave the Internet for a while.

By the by 2020 turned into 2021, and Anna Grace completed her term exams. With Ireland now requiring a negative PCR COVID test for all arriving travelers, taken not longer than 72 hours prior to arrival before boarding one’s flight, our newest mission was to get her back to Ireland before travel might be completely banned.  Worried that with Anna being so early post-COVID that she would test positive, she took both a Rapid COVID and the antibody test on two Saturdays ago at a pharmacy as a precaution. Both returned NEGATIVE.

DID SHE NOT HAVE COVID? Let us save this discussion for some other time.

The following day she was administered the (travel approved) PCR COVID test. So long as the results returned (negative) before the upcoming Tuesday morning, she could depart for Ireland as scheduled. Alas, the results arrived Tuesday afternoon. NEGATIVE again, but outside of the travel window. Damn.

With delays in test results; and the possibility of travel bans by the incoming administration and/or the EU, getting Anna to Ireland became a race against the clock.

On Wednesday last she departed for JFK, where on-site travel approved Rapid PCR COVID tests (results within 2 hours) were offered. And…COVID NEGATIVE 🎉  Out of an abundance of caution we arranged for Anna Grace to spend that night at the airport Marriott, departing for Dublin on the Thursday overnight.

One hurdle remained: Irish Border Control.

In the wee hours of Friday morning my phone buzzed. “At my flat. Going to bed.” We could exhale.