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Voices of the pandemic
caption: The Gregory family. Judge Willie Gregory, Alice Gregory, and Thaddaeus Gregory
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The Gregory family. Judge Willie Gregory, Alice Gregory, and Thaddaeus Gregory
Credit: Thaddaeus Gregory

What I learned working from home alongside my dad

During the pandemic, a lot of people have moved in with family so they can be near other people during this isolating time.

One young man shares how working remotely while living with his father helped him through a crisis of confidence this summer.

Voices of the Pandemic is a series of first-person stories documenting this unique period in history.

Thaddaeus Gregory is a young land use attorney in Seattle.

He moved in with his parents during the pandemic to save on rent and to have people to talk to.

His dad is the Honorable Willie Gregory, presiding judge at the Seattle Municipal Court.

This summer, during the protests for racial equality, Thaddaeus started to question the career he'd chosen for himself.

He began studying his father, who was working from home just downstairs.

I

t’s something that I haven't been able to do before, because I can't just go into court every day and watch him; I have a job of my own. But this summer, I've been able to sneak downstairs a few times and take a peek.

And what really struck me is his incredible work ethic. He sets a routine and he just never breaks from it. He wakes up at 6:20 every single day. He goes and he makes his breakfast, and then he gets right to work. And then he works essentially all day, until seven o'clock at night, day after day after day. He also works out every day.

What's intimidating about it is realizing where I'm at now and where I need to be to get to his level and saying, “Wow.”

Watching my dad really brought to light how hard it was for me during this pandemic and especially so during this summer's civil rights movement and renewed protests. I found myself being more and more distracted at work. I found myself drifting off of work that normally would excite me, that would capture all my attention.

I was hurt and I was angry at everything that was going on at the time. A lot of my days were spent between client calls and research and then getting a notification that something terrible had happened at a protest, you know, protests that my friends were at, my family was at, that people were being injured.

I felt like this part of me that had always been there, this underlying hope about improving the system and improving my community, improving Seattle, this place I've called home my entire life, was somehow taken from me.

But then there are silver linings to this pandemic, to this quarantine. And one of the silver linings for me was living at home with my parents, people I can talk to, and especially living at home with my father, a Black male, born in 1960, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, who I could talk to and say, “Hey, you've been through this.”

'Be compassionate to yourself and others'

Thaddaeus Gregory interviews his father, the Honorable Willie Gregory, at their kitchen table

THADDAEUS: Hey. I wanted to ask you to maybe go over the advice that you had for me when I came to you this summer and I was in a little bit of a rut.

WILLIE: I told you to be compassionate to yourself and others, and you’d get through this rut. And I definitely told you to keep working, and work hard. That's the only way to get through this life and to get through what you're going through.

THADDAEUS: Can you say a little bit more about that?

WILLIE: Well, this summer was hard for a lot of African Americans, male and female, going through what we saw, with the different killings of African Americans. For me, it really weighed heavily on my soul.

So a lot of times, if you just work hard, you can put that behind you. I know, it's not always the best thing to do. But just getting back to work sometimes just makes things feel as much as they can [feel] normal for you. For me, that helped me to go to work every day and just do what I could do, and what I had to do.

And about the compassionate part: You’ve got to be nice to yourself. Because during all that time period ... for me, I know I was just suffering a lot about what was going on. And feeling just really sad about what was happening in society. But getting through that, I really tried to give myself a little leeway just to grieve and to hope for a better world.

THADDAEUS: And you'd been through situations like this before, when you were a younger attorney. And since then, there have been several civil rights movements and moments of civil rights throughout the years.

WILLIE: Mm-hmm.

THADDAEUS: How has that experience affected you? And how did that affect you this summer?

WILLIE: Well, I think it affects you again each time another thing like that happens — I'm thinking about Rodney King, and when the OJ Simpson verdict came in. I’m thinking about the ways in which I was treated by clients who thought that I was a white guy, and I show up to court, they realize it was an African American male representing them. And by the way you would just be treated differently in court by judges and being treated differently even by my colleagues.

It would just remind you of all that history that just builds up, and builds up, and builds up.

THADDAEUS: How did that history affect your reaction this summer?

WILLIE: Well, a lot of it just made me sad this summer — not just about what was going on, but it just piled on from just living the life of an African American male.

THADDAEUS: What words of advice do you have for me now, as I move into the future and as I continue to grow as both a young Black attorney and as a human, in this society?

WILLIE: Well I say have hope. I know I always have hope — hope that things will get better, and that your life would be better.

The best way to do that really is just [to] talk to people, and have discussions. Let people know how you feel about what happened this summer. And people hopefully will listen to you. And that's the important thing too. If people listen to ... what you went through this summer, and what I've gone through in my life, people just learn. And I think it's the best thing that gives hope.

I had hope this summer seeing people talking to other people out there, protesting for what was right, and just having discussions. And I think that's the best thing we can do: Just talk to each other and listen to one another.

Thaddaeus on his father's words of encouragement

You know, so much of my dad's work ethic, I think comes because he loves what he does. And so much of what I was missing this summer, was not … loving what I did, but questioning whether what I was doing should be something that I loved.

And he reminded me, “Yeah, it's OK. You might have a moment of doubt... This is the first year of your career! But I know you, Thaddaeus — you love this, you really do like what you do. You like the political aspect, you like understanding neighborhoods, how they're put together.

"You like being able to shape the community around you. And you're lucky to be in a role where you can. I can do it in my role. Your mom can do it in her role. And this is a role that you've chosen, and a role that you can do, if again, you trust yourself, you work hard, and you're compassionate."

This story features music by House of Hum, Zachary David, and Beleaf, licensed via MusicBed. Our Voices of the Pandemic Theme Song is by Alec Cowan. This story was produced and sound-designed by Joshua McNichols.