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One Michigan family’s story of COVID, Canadian borders, and coming back together

Amy Miller and her family at their cottage
Courtesy of Amy Miller
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Since 1929, Amy Miller’s family has spent every summer on Lake Erie at property in Ontario until the pandemic disrupted that tradition. On a typical summer, the Millers would be sailing or sharing a meal. But, due to the non-essential travel ban at the Canadian border, they haven’t been to their second home in more than a year. 

But that should change in August, as Canada and the U.S. plan to lift travel restrictions.

"We will be there the day it opens,” Miller said. “I will be in a parking lot as close to the tunnel as I can get at 10 p.m. [before the border opens], just waiting to get in line to get across."

Her eagerness to get back to their Lake Erie home stems from the immense importance the place holds among their family. 

Amy Miller and her family sit down at a long table with fairy lights strung overhead
Credit Courtesy of Amy Miller
Miller said she's grateful her parents, who are both in their 90s, will be able to see the place that's meant so much to them again.

“That is where we bond, where we have our sailing regatta and our barbecues, and we're teaching all the next generation the importance of family and love and being together and respecting one another. It is the most important part of the year for every person in our family and all of the current three living generations.”

The return to Ontario will also be a mark of just how much the family has made it through during the pandemic. Last December, both of Miller's parents contracted the virus.

“Somebody brought in COVID and both of my parents ended up at 90 and 96 with COVID, which was absolutely terrifying. They gave it to me. They gave it to another family member. Thank God we all survived it. It's truly a miracle that we all survived it. But yeah, there was a lot of anxiety-filled days and nights.”

Check out some more excerpts from our conversation with Miller below.

On Canada’s approach to COVID-19 at the border

“I think that they've looked at what happened during the pandemic in the U.S., and there were a lot of mixed signals coming from the U.S., and frankly, there still are. And I think that the officials in Canada said, ‘Hold on a minute, you know, we got to make sure our people are safe.’ I totally get it. But again, I'm so glad that they've taken it seriously, that they're as highly vaccinated as they are, and they finally feel safe enough to allow vaccinated Americans back in.”

On contracting the virus

“For me, it was like a really bad chest cold for about 10 days, fever. One of the weird symptoms for me was ringing in the ears, which I still periodically get. I did lose my sense of taste and smell, but only for about three days, which is totally bizarre. And you don't realize how much you depend on your taste and smell until you lose both.”

“My dad, my 96-year-old dad, probably had the least severe case of all of us, which was really bizarre because he's so susceptible to pneumonia. But he did spend two days in the hospital. He did get Remdesivir and another treatment. My mom spent three or four days in the hospital as well, so they got hospitalized for specialized treatment, which significantly helped.”

On returning to their Windsor home

“We are so happy to know that at 90 and 96, they have a chance to see their places again, because we don't know how much time they have. And so, knowing that they will be in this place that is so, so special to our family is just so heartwarming. We can't wait to get there. It can't come soon enough. Twenty sleeps, as we say, and then we're there.”

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lucas Polack. 

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