On February 16th, 2020, I hopped off the plane at LAX (What up, Miley Cyrus?!) with the anticipation of throwing my sister her bachelorette party and being the Maid of Honor in her upcoming wedding. Let's also note that I got to live February 16th twice...Tokyo to Los Angeles means gaining a whole day!
The day before my flight from Tokyo to LA, I went to the 100 Yen store (Japanese 99 cents store) and bought a pack of six disposable black masks to wear while traveling. After all, traveling with a mask has always been en vogue in Asia, long before Covid. While I had no idea that the pandemic was looming, my dad urged me to wear a mask because he knew that Covid had surfaced in China at this point. Flash forward 2 weeks and those masks suddenly became a hot commodity that sold out everywhere.
Obviously my first stop (and one of the last restaurants I actually ate at IN PERSON) was the iconic Mexican joint, Tito's Tacos.
Six days before my sister and her fiancé's special day, they were forced to cancel the celebration due to the unveiling pandemic. Additionally, my plan to fly back to Japan to be with my wife, Kayla, who was stationed overseas with the US Navy, was about to be completely derailed. What started as a visit with my family in Los Angeles, quickly became a 5 month stay in my childhood bedroom. Japan implemented strict entry regulations and I was not able to book a return flight.
Kayla and I were newlyweds ourselves, and at that point, had only been married for three months. Honeymoon? No chance. That was put on the back burner. FaceTime and WhatsApp Video for the win...the 16 hour time difference got nothin' on us! Our wedding hashtag, #KRgothedistance, was really put to the test.
Kayla would eat her breakfast, while I would eat my dinner. And vice versa. We had the most romantic virtual dates from across the Pacific Ocean! We would fall asleep on the phone and be each other's vocal alarm clock.
The silver lining to getting stuck in LA was that I navigated the first few months of the pandemic and social lockdown with the two people who raised me, my loving and supportive parents. I never thought that, at 31 years old and happily married, I would find myself living at home with my mom and dad. But then again, I also never thought I would live through a pandemic like this!
Looking back, buying masks ahead of time feels like the ONLY thing I did to prepare myself for what was about to change our world forever. I had taken the flight between LA and Tokyo many times over the past 18 months, but had no idea that this would be my last flight for a long while. I left Japan thinking “cya later”...little did I know, it was more like “sayonara” ✌🏼
What I wasn’t prepared for was physical separation from the love of my life for 5 months. It was an extremely difficult time filled with so much uncertainty and sadness. My dad would always say, “I feel bad for you girls. I miss Kayla. When is she coming home?”. Kayla was slated to move back to California on June 1st, but that date was delayed indefinitely due to military travel restrictions surrounding Covid. No longer having a concrete date for her return was unsettling, nerve-wracking, and stressful, to say the least. My parents kept me sane and hopeful, during a time when I felt like I had so little control over my life. I cooked with my mom and went on neighborhood walks with my dad. We developed new routines that helped us cope together.
To keep myself from sulking in my emotions, I proceeded as if Kayla were still coming home in June and went house-hunting in the area of her new duty station in Ventura County, California. My mom took on the role that Kayla would normally fill and came with me to look at several apartments in that area. Despite not knowing when Kayla would return, I took a leap of faith, signed a lease, and moved into what would be our first home together as a married couple in June 2020. I lived there alone for the first 3 weeks but my parents stood by to support me and to help me settle in to the new place.
Covid reminded me that the bond we have with our parents never fades. I have always loved and appreciated them, but they were really there for me during one of the most challenging times of my life thus far. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being two people I can always count on, no matter the circumstances. I am blessed to have parents who show up when it matters most. ♥️