And here we are, all of us, but not exactly in the same boat. No, it’s a worldwide flotilla of little boats, no two alike, but all coping, to the best of our skills, with the same wild sea.
My mother was eight when the Spanish influenza struck. I listened, wide eyed, as she told me about it, for her memories were grim and stark. On almost every block, someone died of that flu. Two of her playmates were taken, one with the lyrical name of Della Damey. As a child, I thought, “That was a long time ago, when doctors didn’t know so much. Nothing like that could ever happen again.” Yet here we are, with statistics worsening by the hour, and the chilling specter of Italy to contemplate.
I’m neither afraid nor paranoid, not for myself at least. Yes, I’m eighty-three, but I’m blessed with great health. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I’ve had a good run, and the end of me wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m ready – not eager, but ready. If I don’t take chances, it’s because I have others to consider – near and dear with compromised immune systems. I dare not risk carrying contagion to them.
For that reason, I’m suspending visits from my cleaning lady and Greg, the master masseur. I must admit the prospect of an untidy house is less troublesome than the loss of a blissful massage. I plan to keep paying them, if they’ll accept it. They are self employed and depend on their clients. In that respect, what a blow this is shaping up to be for servers, (of whom I’m friends with many), of musicians, actors, and performers of all kinds. Hmmm, I wonder if I’ll have to start cutting my own hair?
I worry about these people, just as people worry about me. Before everything shut down, my cousins told their mother they wished I would stick to posting pictures of clouds and shadows instead of dining out. I was pleased by their concern, but it’s academic now. Last week put an end to such socializing. Tim, Lois and I bade farewell to eating out with a trip to a Korean spot where the owners have recently spent a bundle remodeling. The place was almost empty, and our waitress feared that with their overhead and no customers, they’d soon be forced out of business. Soon indeed, as it turned out.
I dine alone now. My little boat – my house – is as agreeable a place in which to be sequestered as I could wish (if I wished to be sequestered. Who does?). But I learned in my teens (I discuss this in Safe Inside) that, however much good stuff I have in my head, it’s dangerous to go for very long without human contact. So, I call the people I cannot see, and try to make them laugh if I can. What works for you?
A trip to pick up my taxes put things in perspective for me. Making conversation, I said, “It looks like I’m on house arrest for the duration.” My amiable tax guy replied, “Well, some have more freedom than others.” He went on to explain that his mother, recuperating from heart surgery, is confined to her room in a rehab facility, with no outside contact of any kind. Not even her husband or children may visit her. When he brings his mother fresh laundry, he must ring the bell, wait on the steps, and hand it off to one of the staff. I felt ashamed of my flippant comment, for hers is real and bitter incarceration.
So, yes, it could be worse, much worse. The pandemic will not be over quickly. I’ll be happy if we’re free of it by Thanksgiving or Christmas. Meanwhile, if you’re alone and feeling loopy, call me, or e-mail, or text – or something. If you’re not alone, be easy with each other, and patient. The divorce and murder rates will spike fast enough without your help.
I’ll be here in my little house with all its stairs (I go up and down hundreds each day, and am thankful for the exercise), trying to keep calm and carry on. I just wish John, my playmate of so many years, were still around to play house with me. Then it would be a breeze.