Far Away From Home

Far Away From Home

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Being a rotational worker is tough at the best of times, but during a pandemic, thoughts of family is often a heartache that brings tears while keeping families apart

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Lori Loveless hasn’t seen her father Howard in quite some time, though she has no doubt that he loves her dearly. “It’s hard. Dad’s often worked away, but it was never anything like this. This feels so scary and terrifying, and it’s really lonely to be honest. When times are toughest, you long for your family,” she opened honestly. 

Kind of choices

Lori feels for her mother, Dora, too. “It’s breaking Mom’s heart, but what can you do? If Mom wants to see Dad while he is home, she has to isolate, which means she can’t go to work which means she doesn’t get paid. There’s families out there making these kind of choices every single day. It’s not just us,” added Lori. 

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Speaking with Howard from his job site in British Columbia is emotional. He’s obviously a dedicated husband and father. He’s also a hard worker. 

Making a sacrifice

As many who call rural Newfoundland home know, jobs are few and far between at the best of times, so hanging on to a good one – even if it requires extensive back-and-forth travel and long periods away from home – are the sacrifice many are willing to make for economic security now and into the future for themselves and their families. Still. It hurts. 

“I’m sorry I’m so emotional. I missed my little girl’s birthday. You miss so much when you work away. I get it. But never being able to hug or kiss one another, and not knowing when you can? I never thought we’d be living in a world like this,” Howard said tearfully.

Lori, part of The Newfoundland Herald family and an enthusiastic member of the sales team, is positive by nature. 

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“All growing up, my dad’s always been away a lot. Seal Cove, Fortune Bay is home, so like many he was a fisherman until that went under. Then he had to go another route. He made us proud. Started taking courses. He became a surveyor. And then he started working away. And while we missed him, there was always a joyful reunion to look forward to when he came home,” she explained.

“We understood why he was gone. The day he’d come home there’d be excitement and the big celebration. We would always make a big deal of it. Even now an adult, my dad coming home is exciting, because we get to see one another. No matter how old you get, there’s that excitement when it comes to seeing your dad after he’s been away.”

Howard says this year has been the most draining mentally. He says being a rotational worker isn’t a life without stress or strain even at the best of times, but “this COVID-19 stuff” has him emotionally exhausted. 

Isolation heartbreak

“I don’t know how much more I can take. I have three days left on this shift before flying home and all I can be is thankful that my wife will isolate with me this time so I don’t feel so alone,” he said. 

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While respectful of health guidelines and the reasons we have them, it doesn’t make things easier, he added truthfully. 

“You follow the rules. You mask up. You wash your hands. You do everything you need to do to stay safe so those you love can stay safe, but unless someone else is willing to give up two weeks of their life to spend it with you – give up income and  giving up being able to see her aging parents in my wife’s case – you wind up alone while off work and alone while working away outside the province. That’s all you do. Work. Isolate. Work, isolate. It’s emotionally and mentally draining.”

It’s heartbreaking, Lori adds. 

“My dad works hard to give his family a good life. He never complains. He’s never told us what he’s saying to you, you know? He knows how hard it is on us that we can’t see him so we never really go there, if you know what I mean. It’s too painful I guess. For him, for one, and he’s afraid it would be too painful for us if we knew how he really felt. He tries as best he knows how to stay upbeat and he’s doing this for our family. He’s a trooper, always trying to make the best of any situation,” Lori shared proudly. 

High spirited optimism

Howard, who admits he wasn’t always technically savvy, has come to rely on FaceTime to stay in contact.

“Thank God for technology. I don’t feel like I’m missing out quite so much. It’s the only way we can all connect, so I’m happy we can do it. It’s important to stay connected,” Howard said.

Lori, a social media enthusiast, laughs. “I love doing little videos that Dad can see, doing little things that I know will make him smile. I’ve recently started playing keyboard and picked up photography, so I post things like that so he keeps up with what’s going on. Anything to help him keep in high spirits and optimistic.”

While she follows all the COVID briefings via NTV, and she always waits to hear rotational worker updates, she says she tries not to become too pandemic obsessed. “I like to focus on the lighter moments. Life is hard on many of us right now. People miss their family. The rules have changed for rotational workers so many times. Many are struggling financially.  And Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is doing all she can to help us and our families to stay safe. The positive news is that this province is doing well again, and soon the vaccinations will be broadened to include rotational workers. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. 

Howard has a message for his daughter, whom he won’t get to see on this turn around home. “I miss you. A lot. I love you so much. I miss you all the time.”

But, mostly because he doesn’t want her to worry or fret, he adds; “We’ll have fun together again. Hopefully soon.”

Lori pauses. “Those who chose to work away make a huge sacrifice. They give up a lot. We need to support them, and their families, as much as we can. Be kind. Offer to help if the family wants to isolate together. And just be there to help.”

As for any message she’d like to pass on to her father? She giggled. “He knows this, but I’ll say it anyway. I loves ya. And thanks for all you do for our family. We’re always proud and I miss you.”

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