Life Lessons I Have Learned During 2020, Year of Plague

‘I’ ON CULTURE

We are back! I hope all of us are back; that we all made it through one of the most harrowing times we’ve faced. It has been very stressful for most of us. Most have had to hunker down in their homes, seeing almost no one for a couple of months. Some have had to go to work under almost unbearable circumstances. And, of course, some have not been able to work and know their family finances are shattered. But we have learned, or should have learned, a lot from all of this.

For me, one major understanding is that I really do like people. I have occasionally described myself as a sort of hermit crab, with my wife disagreeing. She argues I am merely a crabby hermit. But enforced isolation pushed me to use the phone far more than ever. I generally called friends only occasionally. Now it has turned into a regular habit. My sister, used to hearing from me every few months, now talks with me at least a couple of times a week. Being on Facetime with the grandkids doesn’t allow for some of the hugs I really want. I want people, and I want at least some of them close.

Standing around in the early morning hours with other fellow seniors, most of us wearing masks, so we could get rolls of toilet or paper towels, just is not the same as joking with the young ones. I was impressed, however, by the dedication of the staff at my local Publix and BJ’s, who got in early and made certain that we, considered the most at-risk of Americans, were served.

Kudos also to our mail carriers, who had a whole load of deliveries of numerous boxes every day as we ordered things shipped to the house. Yesterday, I watched my carrier balance four boxes as she staggered to my front door. Picking up the boxes afterward made me realize how heavy they were. Now we can add “or plague” to the famous line about snow and dark of night not deterring these folk from their appointed rounds.

There were other things to get used to. I did more around the house. Calling a repairman in to change the battery in a ringing smoke detector was impossible. Since I am vertically challenged — I might as well use the newspeak of the day to point out that I am not tall — and hate heights, I usually ask Joe, my trusted (and tall) handyman, to change batteries when he is here for other things. But now, I was on my own. After a brief moment of prayer, I brought out the ladder, climbed up three steps and tried not to look down. Then I managed the battery change. I was proud of myself until three days later when the alarm went off again. I went online, found out I had to unplug the whole alarm and push the button on it to release electrical current. I did so, and then replaced the alarm. OK, where do I take the test to become a master electrician?

My very tolerant wife, who just manages to live with me in the best of conditions, now has to put up with me constantly. Isn’t it amazing what we learn about our life partners decades after marriage when we have to be with them pretty much 24/7? Let’s face it, honeymoons are designed for people in the throes of love, lust and passion… and they last maybe a week. Then we start living our regular lives. Now, decades after that first bit of craziness, some of us could feel we might be living a version of the play “No Exit,” stuck in hell. Of course, for most of us, we actually do get to learn more about our partners, even after many years, and enjoy it.

So, I sit around and read like crazy, because there are no new movies to see and television is often lacking. My Kindle has helped save me, along with the many actual books my wife says take up far too much room. While some people dream of going to malls, I think more of an open library. But in a time of plague, it is a small thing. We worry about our friends and family more. I remember calling almost everyone I knew right after 9/11 or getting calls from them. We all wanted to connect. Now we have been in the same boat for weeks. We have learned a lot. But is it enough?

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