Normalcy took a sabbatical for about a year. For those of you who think a sabbatical is a battle between two subs like I did, allow me to set you straight.

A sabbatical is any extended period of leave from one’s customary life, especially for rest, or to acquire new skills or training.

In March 2020, life took a sabbatical from normalcy. Twelve months of fear, tragedy, masks and rhetoric made normal living take an extended leave from all of our lives. FaceTime and Zoom were the only interaction most of us had with our loved ones.

Well, this past Easter, twelve months and two coronavirus shots later, the wife and I were extremely excited to plan a return to normalcy with a visit from the daughter and her family.

“I am not sure I will be able to maintain my bodily fluids when I see them for the first time in a year,” the wife said. “I just can’t wait to hug and squeeze them so hard.”

“This sounds like it could get messy,” I said. “I’ll be sure to have a bucket and a mop handy. We should probably meet and greet in the driveway to avoid moistening the carpets.”

“I can’t even imagine how much the granddaughters have grown. The oldest is probably taller than me.”

“I bet they can’t imagine how much I have grown since we last saw each other. My horizontal height is up to 2 inches — hey, I took a sabbatical from dieting. My theory is you can’t eat on a ventilator, so you had better bulk up — just in case.”

Whipping out a long piece of paper the wife said, “Here’s a list of activities I have planned for their visit. It includes parks, bike rides, ice cream stops, favorite restaurants, pepperoni breadsticks, and lots of playing with the dog. You know, they’ve only seen Charlie once when he was eight months old.”

“Oh great!” I said. Another critter that won’t be able to hold his bodily fluids when we meet. I’m going to need a bigger mop…”

The initial reunion with family was just awesome. As predicted, no one could believe how much I’ve grown — the granddaughters too.

The return to normalcy began without fear, without masks at home, and without COVID. It was an amazing feeling.

Most of our stops were centered around a table. When you think about it, the table is the most unifying piece of furniture ever invented. It brings people and families together. It helps them connect with each other in a way that nothing else can. It’s a source of communication, entertainment and creativity.

But mostly, the table hosts delicious home-cooked meals, sharing favorite recipes like city chicken, French toast and apple pie.

For several days we sat at the table, face to face, trying to memorize smiles and facial expressions that we haven’t seen in person for months. And when it was time to say goodbye… there were more hugs and squeezes and tears and lots and lots of moisture. Even Charlie the dog was sad.

I hope we never, ever have to have a sabbatical from normalcy again. I hope we can all get back to normal living. Next month we see our son and daughter-in-law. I better start practicing my hugging and my squeezing, and I’ll need to keep that mop handy.

Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune. He may be contacted at