Pandemic Diary 9: Love and Service

When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas.

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Sometimes I wonder about the elderly couple that my friend and ran into a few years ago. If they are still with us, does the quarantine affect them; for those who were already in a form of social isolation, how has the month of April 2020 felt any different, if at all?

Love is love, no matter what. This fact can feel like a new idea in isolation, a revelation in our current world of video chats and the neighborly refusal to sweat the small stuff when the suffering and loss of others are omnipresent. I want to sweat the small stuff, though, to return to my cranky outlook on life, but I have friends on the front line of this global tragedy. I have family whose acquaintance with loss is renewed each decade or so. Thus, the small stuff remains small—Quarantine Land leads one to thoughts about whether any worry is important or not. Priorities are assembled in a more sensible order.
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Pandemic Diary 8: The Flat Curve

I could never hit the curve. Also, as if consistent physical incompetence was to be sole consistency that nature would bestow on me, I could not throw the curve, either.

Never athletic anyway, the absence of athletic ability from the start of my life was not a factor in any life decisions. And now, disabled as I am, almost every physical activity qualifies as athletic. (I walk a couple of miles each day because I can and ought to.) But I wanted to be a baseball player …
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Pandemic Diary 7: Below Par

I golfed for about two decades, and all of that time spent in frustration yielded perhaps a total of two anecdotes. That’s my only low score in relation to that fiendish and addicting game.

(I am no one’s father, but the “dad jokes” are growing stronger as I age. Perhaps they are better thought of as “Jokes When You’re Fifty.”)

Golf is a frustration because it is perhaps the one human endeavor which a person whose expertise consists of watching quite successful professional golfers ply their trade on television plunk a ball on a tee, swing a club, hit the ball any distance, and grow angry when the results are not the same as what he or she has seen on television. And I shared in that frustration.

I do not watch tennis and think I can play like tennis players do. I know that if and when I ever perform at a karaoke night (this happened most recently about twenty-five years ago) that I will sound like what I am: a person who does not sing in a way that makes any one want to hear me sing again. But golf? Anyone can swing a golf club, and I’m anyone, aren’t I?
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Pandemic Diary 7: A Memory of a Friend

Six years ago today, a friend of mine passed. Charles F. Brennan, III—my friend Charlie (November 2, 1960–April 7, 2014)—was my recovery sponsor for a time.

On this date, some of us remember him—not for his departure, but for his presence. What follows are my handful of memories from the brief three or so years that I knew him at the end of his all-too-brief fifty-three years. The departure was difficult enough, but a community grew closer for a moment and thus a beauty came out of it. That was my first experience of beauty within grief, and it was a testament to the lives Charlie had touched and influenced.

At the top is a copy of The Serenity Prayer in Irish, which we found in his apartment:

An Phaidir Suaimhneas
A Dhia,
deonaigh dom an suaimhneas
chun glacadh le rudaí
nach féidir liom a athrú,
misneach chun rudaí a athrú nuair is féidir,
agus gaois
chun an difríocht a aithint.

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Pandemic Diary 6: Don’t Bother Me

The absence of contact in Quarantine Land is its most devious challenge. I do not live alone, so I have more day-to-day contact with a fellow human being than many of us, but the isolation is felt even when one shares a house with a housemate/landlord, as I do.

The isolation from others and isolation with one individual can create an attitude of what can only be referred to as a pathological co-dependency (well, for me, anyway): at different moments, the housemate/landlord (who in my case happens to be a sincere, genial, perpetually direct and honest individual) can take the form of authority figure, warden, and then be returned to his normal, genial self, all in a flash. Perhaps I take on those forms within his mind, as well. At least I am aware of the effect of isolation on me, and I only respond to the genial housemate and not the figment in my isolation imagination.

When I described this phenomenon to a friend and started to complain about it, I forgot that the friend to whom I was complaining lives alone, is new in town, and is in the same sudden isolation but is isolated alone. My description of my complaint sounded to him like a restaurant-goer with a complaint about a free dessert: “I thought you said something about a free cheesecake and this is strawberry cheesecake! Why, this is an outrage!”
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Pandemic Diary 5: Where’s the Candy?

Quarantine life has neither improved nor ruined my food life. I seem to consume the same amount each day in calories (not enough on the best of days) and the quality is pretty much identical to what is was pre-quarantine (not that great, because I am single).

The one big difference I have seen came when I discovered that my most recent favorite seasonal candy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs—which are a peanut butter cup but in a flattened Easter egg shape that somehow changes the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter from what one expects in a peanut butter cup to perfect—is now everyone’s favorite seasonal candy and not my secret favorite thing. They vanished from the local grocery store shelves at least two weeks before Easter. The eggs are usually to be found available in a bulk discount pile of bags of twenty each near the front of the store the day after Easter; last week these precious gems were available for a dollar per egg at my grocery store and the store did not have ten of them to make a “Ten for $10” purchase.
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Pandemic Diary 4: The Streets Where I Lived

A small major detail from my life history has left my brain: the second address in which I lived.

A look at the map of the neighborhood and its suburban collection of descriptive names, which do not correspond to any physical reality—”Meadowview?” If one has sight, everything is a view, but is every front lawn a meadow? “Saddlerock?” Why is every street name in that development composed of three unrelated syllables?—triggers no memory. I remember the home, but I could not find it on the map, so do I remember it? I think I typed its name above, but the great American tradition of picturesque suburban street names concealed it from me in the uniqueness it shares with all the other road names around it. The names are each alike in their uniqueness.
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Pandemic Diary 3: With a Song in Our Heart

Perhaps in a world in which we need our neighbors more than usual, in which a global drama plays out in our local grocery stores and on the streets where we live, the music and creative expression we turn to for rest, relief, entertainment, and even solace—that deepest of words—ought to be local as well.

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When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas. My gosh, even the thought of something ever ending feels something like a novelty at this moment.
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