Life on hold

Last week I wrote in this space that instead of enjoying the sunshine and warm breezes at Fort Myers Beach, we were sitting in our living room at home.

We’re still sitting here.

Like you, we’ve been driven inside and kept here by the highly contagious novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By now we’re ground down, and appalled, by round-the clock TV reports of the spread of the disease across the world, the nation and our state, and its effects on people’s lives. The only comparison I can make is the fear that gripped the nation during the poliomyelitis pandemic of 1954, when I was 13 years old.

Thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk, a vaccine for that disease was discovered. Today polio is nearly vanquished — only in Pakistan and Afghanistan do its few remnants still continue. The United Nations and Rotary International, with vital help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have relentlessly administered the vaccine throughout the world for a number of years.

Labs across the world are now at work seeking a similar concoction for the coronavirus. At some point someone will come up with it, and also a potion of some kind to bring health back to those who contract the virus. 

How many will die before a vaccine and cure are found is unknown.

Kathy and I pass the time watching TV, reading, perusing the internet, and texting, calling and emailing family and friends. I’m doing some news and column writing. I went through my dresser drawers and pulled out old sweaters and T-shirts that I haven’t worn for years, and they’ll be going to a charitable outlet.

I’m also playing chess by mail with son Matthew, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. We send postcards back and forth with each subsequent move, and each of us maintains a chessboard with the game underway. 

Chess is not a fast game, and we’re apparently doing our best to prove that. 

Matt started the game back in late January of last year, 14 months ago. We’ve each made 26 moves since then. That’s an average of a move every eight days or so. Not very fast reflexes — “reflective” is a more apt description.

Maybe now that he and I are both cooped up we’ll speed things up.

Normally about this time of year our fantasy baseball league (six or seven of us, mostly family) gets together to draft our respective teams for the coming season. We had planned on April 4 for that always-a-hoot event, but since Major League Baseball has postponed its season opening, we probably will wait. We’ll have to do it entirely electronically anyway. Another downer.

Kathy won’t let me go to the grocery store. She says that because I had a lobe of my right lung removed due to cancer 8½ years ago, I’m deeper into the “frail elderly” category than she is. So she does most of the grocery shopping.

(She’s also 1½ years younger than I, which she smugly points out from time to time.)

So in the past four or five days (I’m writing this on Sunday, March 22), I’ve been out only to fill the car with gas, to pick up my weekly copy of the Herald at the newspaper office, to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy drive-up, to pick up a milkshake at another drive-up and to take a drive with Kathy.

The drive was to Spring Lake, which was deserted.

We slowly drove all the roads of the park, enjoying the woods and significant numbers of Canada geese on the lake. Some warm weekend we’ll spend in one of the comfortable cabins on the high ground on the east side of the lake.

We’ll take more such auto outings in the days to come, I’m sure. We haven’t drawn up those plans yet, but we’ll want to do so. We’ll need them to buoy our spirits.

We’re also going to get take-out meals at local restaurants on a regular basis. It’s a tough time for restaurants right now, and we have a number of good ones in Greene County that deserve our support.

The other day a good friend climbed up our front porch steps and knocked on our living room picture window to wave, then went back down the steps. He and his wife were out for a walk, and he just wanted to greet us. Nice thing to do. We may emulate it with him and other good buddies in days to come.

We miss the companionship of our kids, grandkids and friends. Skype and Instagram help, but it’s not the same, as you know.

I’m going to make a suggestion. If you’d like, please email me with how you’re spending your sheltering-in-place time. My email address is (Don’t ask — it’s an email address our kids suggested, from a scene in the movie “Young Frankenstein,” a family favorite.)

I’ll share some of the more interesting diversion activities I receive, without your name, in a future column. They might be helpful to folks, like me, who tend too often to couch potato rather than looking for things to do.

In any event, stay safe. I like my readers.

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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