How does Covid19 affect me, safely retired in my privileged cocoon? The sharpest, most heartrending pain comes from the physical distance between me and my children and grandchildren who live far away. Travel is off the table. We talk on the phone and see them on our screens, but I miss their hugs. I miss their laughter, the noise and the energy that doesn’t die. A child climbing on my lap. Pushing the baby’s stroller with the dog in tow. I have no idea when this will be normal again.
I start my day lazily and eventually go up to my office and write five to eight hours each day. Day in and day out. Before I know it, it is late afternoon. Rarely do I do anything else during the day. I take care of a few household chores or talk on the phone. Once I finished my writing, I feel my obligation is done.
So, since the coronavirus, what really changed?
As I said, my wife and I cannot visit our children, and that is tough. To some degree, that is our choice. We are not in prison. As restrictions are relaxing, if we absolutely had to go and were willing to take the risk, we could get on a plane. Some say that nowadays flying is pleasant. There is plenty of space. Or we could rent a camper and drive — the entire trip in our own contained little world.
I don’t go shopping. I don’t like shopping anyway. How will I buy my wife a gift for her birthday? I could order some flowers and have them brought home or get a bottle of champagne from a liquor store that does curbside delivery.
We don’t visit with our friends anymore and I miss our dinners and our conversations, loud and frequently interrupted, about books, politics, travel, anything and everything. I miss telling a joke and hearing them laugh. Somehow, that feeling is not the same via FaceTime. Most restaurants are still closed, and the theaters, too. And no, for the foreseeable future we won’t go on a cruise.
I miss the freedom to go out, wherever, whenever. The TV is not a substitute. It’s more of a curtained window for news, movies and shows on Netflix and Prime and Peacock, Hulu and Lulu and Voodoo, and so forth. How do they come up with these names? We were watching TV before the pandemic, but never so much — four, five hours a night, every night. In the era Before Covid — BC, as they call it now — there was Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the days on which one went out. Now my TV has become the place where the day dies, my comfort zone where I allow myself to let go. We now eat dinner in front of the TV. Then we have some dessert. By nine, I bring out the cheeses, the crackers and wine. By ten, we have cashews and fruit tarts. The cordials come at eleven, with the chocolate candy. We love milk chocolate the best.
I could read, but, with the coronavirus roaming the world, I feel demotivated and flat, too anxious for more intellectual effort after writing most of the day. Plus, I want to be current, up to the second, with the news. There could be some good news somewhere, just breaking. How could I possibly miss that? We watch CNN. At seven, it’s Erin Burnett, and Anderson Cooper at eight. He talks about the same things as Erin, but it’s hard to disconnect. What if he has something new? On busy news nights, we switch to MSNBC and watch Rachel. She is good, very good. I like her first twenty minutes without commercials. She’s explaining, lecturing, pontificating. It’s like being in school. I listen — a long, winding road. Eventually she gets to wherever she’s going, connecting the dots, dragging apparently disparate elements into the mix.
Until about twelve days ago, it was all about the coronavirus: how many people infected, how many died, how the curve flattened, here, in Italy, in Brazil. It was all about a possible treatment and then, the circus with Clorox and Hydroxychloroquine. How long until we have a vaccine?
Now it’s all about the protests. The number of dead from Covid-19 is no longer on the screen. If we weren’t in the “high risk” category, we would be in the streets. Instead, we watch the TV stations where smart people say things I mostly agree with. From time to time, for the heck of it, I switch to Fox News. My blood boils. How is it possible that when people march, on some stations they are portrayed as orderly Americans exercising their constitutional right and on Fox they are just thugs, controlled by Antifa, burning down the businesses of poor black folks?
While our daily lives haven’t changed too much, those of younger and poorer people have. For them, the luxury of staying home is not an option. They can’t choose the risks. Either they work — if their businesses and places of work still exist — or they starve. If they work, they will get sick. It’s just how it is. They march, but what will they accomplish? Even if the police were to change and become more humane and less racist, we do not have a social network generous enough and civilized enough to catch everyone.
So what do I miss? Just being out there and chanting with the people.
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