One year ago this week, my family got together for a surprisingly different night out; we went to a Bingo Hall in Albany.  I'm pretty sure my sister suggested it as a bit of joke, but it was one of those things that we all unanimously agreed would be a fun thing to do.

It was me, my girlfriend Samantha, my sister Sherri, brother-in-law-Frank and my mom, AKA Mama Codes.  Pops didn't want to come.  There was probably a Syracuse basketball game on TV to keep him busy on a Friday night.

Hard to believe it's been a whole year and that Bingo was the last "normal" thing we all did as a family.

I remember trying to play way too many cards like I was some Bingo Betty who went every week.  I routinely fell behind and missed some numbers and even got help from complete strangers.  My family, who warned me that I was biting off more than I could chew playing 15 or so cards,  got to laugh at me as I struggled to keep up.

We ate concession stand food, made small-talk with strangers about our lucky charms, bells, whistles, daubers and trolls and even passed a few around.
One of my favorite moments came when Sherri, Samantha, Frank and I  had a good laugh at the expense of my mom.  Mama Codes claims she can't hear or see very well, but lemme tell you something, I think she was hustling us.  That cute little old lady heard every number being called from the less than stellar Bingo PA announcer and never missed a beat when she needed to find B 8 on her card.   Mom ain't as good as she once was, but she's as good once as she ever was.
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None of us won any money, in fact I don't think we were ever even cased, but man did we have a good time.  Before we left the Bingo hall, we gathered in the lobby as people were filtering out and my sister joked, "See you guys again next week?"
"Next week?" I shot back, "I'm going to Schenectady's Bingo Palace tomorrow night!"
We never went to Bingo again. Not the next night, the next week, or the next year.
The only social activities we do now as a family are the occasional socially distanced birthdays or a quick gathering for the holidays.  We try to spend as much quality time together as a family but it's hard.  My mom is immunocompromised, Sam and I had COVID, my sister is deathly afraid of getting it and my son, who's 5 might be carrier.
So needless to say, we don't do much.
When my son is around my mom, he's wearing a mask and so is mom, so while Mama Codes may have been sandbagging us with her Bingo skills,  she honestly can't hear more than a few words of his soft little voice.  She hasn't even really seen her grandson's face (except in pictures) in almost a year.  When we leave Grammy and Papa's house, I always ask Brody to speak very loudly when saying goodbye, because I want my mom to hear him.  As we drive away, he waves to her.  Both my parents wave back and it breaks my heart because I know, that under the f#$%^&* mask, my mom is crying.
Samantha and I had Covid and we may not be as susceptible for some time, and my sister and brother-in-law got the vaccine as did my parents so I feel like we may not be too far away from a real family gathering.  In fact my sister is already feeling pretty optimistic about a family gathering (no masks) for sometime over the Summer.
I know a lot of families have had it much worse than mine and I didn't write this for anyone to feel sorry for me or my family.  Heck, compared to a lot of families, we have it pretty darn good.  But like most people, I feel robbed.  I want to poke fun at my mom and I want her to be able to hear me.    I want my family to make fun of me.  I want my parents to see Brody's face and not just the tip of his nose and sweet eyes.  Life is short, it's precious, and it's maddingly difficult.  And that's without a pandemic.
 Who knew that one year ago this week, Bingo would literally be one of the last things the 5 of us would all do together socially.   No masks, no sanitizer, no temperature checks, no fist bumps, and no plastic partitions.  Just smiles, hugs, high fives, lousy food, daubers, and lucky charms that never brought us luck.  Bingo never sounded so fun.  Or normal...

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