When Dorothy lands in Oz, she utters the famous words, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The same thing could be said for the strange world we’ve entered in 2020.

As most of us have not lived through a pandemic before, we could be excused for thinking COVID-19 would just be a short blip on the radar screens of our lives. We might have to be careful for a while, but soon we’d be back to normal.

I remember the first time I was in a store that had no toilet paper on the shelves. I felt like I had been transported into a World War II movie set in war-torn Europe. More than once, I left those stores in tears.

Now, when I watch TV and see shows or commercials with people in close contact, sans masks, I feel like I’ve entered an alternate universe. When will that become our reality again?

Nine months later, I still feel like I’m impersonating a burglar when I don a mask before entering a store, or even my sister’s house. And as weird as that is, it is nothing compared to the agony of not being able to see loved ones in care centers outside of brief window or courtyard visits.

In many ways, this year has been a harsh reminder that we take the ordinary pleasures of life for granted. Who among us took time to be thankful that we could meet friends at restaurants or in their homes? At least during most of the summer, we could meet and eat outside. But now that option is gone. Although I like being able to rent movies to view at home, I sure miss the big screen experience. And now we must figure out which streaming service will offer which movies.

As the year dragged on, we all had to adapt and reset our expectations. I ate alone on my birthday, on Easter and on Thanksgiving. I was very sad to miss the Minnesota State Fair and Summer Fete at Lake Normandale. Perhaps the one I dread the most is being alone on Christmas, watching a holiday movie after dropping off presents on my sister’s front step.

For most of this year, I considered myself fortunate to be doing well emotionally and physically while many other friends were struggling.

Then in August, my body started falling apart. I had two bouts of diverticulitis before suddenly developing a crippling pain in my left leg. I’m used to temporary knee pain after kneeling in the garden or climbing a ladder to put up Christmas lights. But this was different.

For more than a month, I’ve had intense pain from my quads down through my left knee and shin. Not only does it hurt when I try to walk, I also get penetrating pain while sitting or lying in bed. After a torturing experience in an MRI tube and x-rays on my hip, the doctors are still unable to determine the source of the pain. Finally, we tried a diagnostic

cortisone shot in my hip.

Before receiving the shot, they injected lidocaine into the area. Almost instantly, my pain started to disappear. When I left the clinic, I felt like skipping for joy all the way to my car, (versus the wheelchair transport I had when I arrived). I scooted around Lund’s for groceries and wanted to exclaim how delightful it was to walk without limping in pain.

But the lidocaine soon wore off and the pain remained.

Never did I consider it a cherished blessing to be able to walk or get out of a car without wincing with pain. When the leg issue is resolved, I will remember what a wonderful gift pain-free mobility is and be thankful for it every day.

And someday, when our world returns to normal, (whatever that will be), I hope we remember to be thankful for the everyday blessings that we take for granted. Forget the wish to win the lottery. I just want to hug people again and see smiles on their faces instead of masks.

Now if only I could remember where I left my ruby slippers.

Pam Pommer, a graduate of Lincoln Senior High School, lives in Bloomington, where she enjoys gardening and spending time with her shelties.

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