Cape Breton Post
Families excited to reunite, regretting lost time
Laura Brown has been away from her loved ones in Newfoundland and Labrador for the last two years, the longest stretch of her life.
“In the time I've been away, my grandparents sold their home, and my grandmother was diagnosed with bowel cancer about three weeks ago," she said.
Brown was born and raised — and is currently living — in Charlottetown, P.E.I., but has visited her grandparents in Norris Point, N.L., every year since she was born.
The recent news surrounding her grandmother's health has made her rethink the time she has lost with them due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“It was hard enough not seeing them — now you add health complications and it changes everything. My grandfather has had health issues before, and they are both getting older. It really puts things into perspective," she said.
It has been hard to communicate with her grandparents because she was concerned for them, she said.
“It hurts me to talk to them. I get really upset — hearing their voices is hard when you know you can't see them or don't know when you will again," Brown said.
It has been hard for her to imagine what it will be like when she returns with all the changes.
“When they sold the house in the hometown, I didn't know the last time I was there would actually be the last time I was there.”
Newfoundland opened to travellers on Wednesday and Brown will get to see those changes first-hand soon — she plans to drive to Newfoundland in August.
“It's almost intimidating to go back and I'm nervous to face those changes but seeing the family will be worth it.”
And there is lots of family waiting for her, she said.
“I have four cousins over there along with some aunts and uncles that I'm also really excited to see.”
Newfoundland has been the congregation spot for her extended family her entire life, with family members often travelling from Toronto or Alberta for family gatherings.
“It was already tough to find days everybody could get off work and make a trip down,” she said, adding she's unsure when her family from outside Atlantic Canada will be able to come home.
STILL MISSING FAMILY
Brown's family isn't the only one waiting to reunite as the bubble opens — but some families are still stuck waiting.
Eva and Joe Maddison in Amherst are eager to see their grandchildren in Sackville, N.B., whom they haven't seen since October despite only living around 20 kilometres away.
“We are only a 20-minute drive from their house but we may as well be in a whole other world,” said Joe Maddison. “It's like there is an imaginary line across the marsh keeping us out.”
Thanks to COVID-19 travel
restrictions, the Maddisons missed out on many family milestones they would have otherwise hosted celebrations for, said Eva Maddison.
“We always host Easter and Christmas dinner. Missing that was the worst; we've never been away from them on Christmas, ever,” she said.
“We missed our daughter's birthday for the first time in 46 years, one of our grandsons' 18th birthday, his final year of high school football, his graduation and prom activities.”
Many aspects of their family life changed the longer they were kept apart.
“The kids would come over almost every Saturday and just enjoy company, have supper — these things are totally lost.”
They have been trying not to sit around and get angry over something they have no control over but being so close to their family without a means to see them can get frustrating at times.
“We talk on Facebook and the phone, but it's not like talking to them in person, seeing them,” said Eva Maddison.
Nova Scotia originally had plans to open an Atlantic
bubble fully on June 23. However, recent changes now require people entering from New Brunswick to continue to undergo self-isolation, dependent on vaccination status. Nova Scotia is fully open to P.E.I. and Newfoundland, and residents from those provinces do not require isolation.
It's left families like the Maddisons upset.
“It feels uncalled for,” said Joe Maddison. “We walk around the stores touching the same items, touching doorknobs, gas pumps — if I can do that, I should be able to see my family.”
Whenever they finally get the chance to reunite, the Maddisons are planning a barbecue and a full day of catching up with their family.
DREAMING OF ISLAND LIFE
Many Atlantic Canadians were not anticipating travel opening up so early in the summer, including Newfoundlander Dylan Snow, who plans to visit the friends he made during his schooling in P.E.I.
Snow graduated from the plumbing and pipefitting program at Holland College in 2019 and made many special bonds with his friends, he said.
“I moved to P.E.I. by myself," he said. "I didn't know anybody, a lot of my classmates were Islanders and they took me in right like family.”
With many other classmates scattered around, they use a Snapchat group chat to give updates on their lives.
“We like to send videos of the work we are doing, comparing each other, joking around, trying to keep the spirits up.”
Snow is also awaiting the return of a childhood friend who has been in Gagetown, N.B. for military purposes.
“I've known Kendall for a large part of my life and he just had a new son not so long ago,” he said. “It will be so strange to see him as a father.”
Snow last saw his friends in P.E.I. in March 2020, just days before the first COVID-19 lockdown happened across the country.
“When I got back on the plane home, that was when people started wearing the masks,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘No way that'll come to Newfoundland.'”
He touched down and has been in Newfoundland ever since. With P.E.I. opening its borders, Snow is looking forward to planning a trip to the place he met many of his lifelong friends. He is already looking ahead to booking a campground for next summer's Cavendish Beach Music Festival.
“The dream, once everything fully opens, would be to bring up all my Newfoundland buddies and my P.E.I. buddies and get them all in one place.”