brave new world

My mother must have thought her ears were playing tricks on her one Saturday afternoon. As a high school teenager I enjoyed completely zoning out in a swath of contemporary rock music. But instead of the usual chaotic sounds of Hendrix, J. Geils or James Gang, Dvorák’s symphony no. 9, “From the New World” wafted from the stereo in the den. I was reading the album cover (long before cds and liner notes) and glanced up to see her peering around the doorway, quizzical expression. I gave a slight smile and her face vanished.
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During this pandemic many grocery and other stores here have a “senior shopper hour”, usually 6-7 am. Like lots of others I believe age is just a number and never considered myself a senior but my drivers license indicates that I am. Having to buy for only one (human) means, for me, shopping trips are infrequent. So this week I availed myself of the early opportunity.

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I was unprepared. There weren’t many others, at first, but they all (except for me, most of the store employees and one other lady that I noticed) wore gloves of some kind, and a face mask. Their eyes darted furtively over the scarf or bandana or medical mask gauging the distance between the nearest person and where they wanted to push their cart. I realized we have had to adapt to a completely new sort of analysis in this social distancing requirement and juxtaposition is a whole new factor.

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I gathered the few items and Easter preparations on my list, avoided the paper products aisle and made my way to the cashiers. My personal shopping bags were not permitted, they said. What if I bagged my own stuff, I asked. That is ok. So the very polite young man and I chatted while he scanned and I bagged, how cheery and helpful the store associates are, how nice to have the hour offered. As I toted my purchases to my car the sky was a brightening translucent blue and a dappled pattern of small pink-white clouds. Turning the key in the ignition, the radio station played the New World symphony. Right there, a combination of my own memories, this weird virus and our paralyzed country I felt sorrow well up inside. Before the tears fell I told myself, no. This is not the way the world will always be. We will not always push ourselves apart or wear masks and gloves or have ‘special’ shopping hours or be remanded to our homes.

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We will overcome this. It will not last forever. This is not the new ‘normal’.

Happy Easter. Blessings of Passover. God is sovereign.

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Not long before I (temporarily) returned to my parents’ home after divorce my father was on a 5-foot ladder changing a burned out bulb in the lamp on the front walk to their house. My mother said she happened to pass by the dining room window and glanced outside in time to see him begin to lose balance, topple and fall onto the hard sidewalk. My mother said it was a terrible, helpless feeling. There was nothing she could do to stop the fall, so she watched as he fell, “just like a tree falling,” she said.

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One broken shoulder later Dad nursed his arm (in a sling, they could not actually cast a shoulder break) and happily welcomed me back into the fold because the entire production staff  of his small newspaper business had walked out a week before. It must be said that progeny in a small family business are not always treated well. Be that as it may I learned valuable lessons from my father, intentionally or not, about teamwork, managing stress, learning to maximize potential, manage time, and humility.

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However short-lived my tenure was with Dad’s company, I have been able to apply what I learned in many ways since, though for a long time I tried not to, feeling it would be disloyal to use it elsewhere. I realized these were life lessons and if not used I would be nothing more than inert.

Some of it is effective in survival, looking out for others and bolstering the environment with no reflection on myself. But this virus? Totally out of control. People have lost a sense of perspective over this thing.  Yes there are inconveniences. If one chose to travel someplace after the disclosure of this illness there are consequences due to normal precautions regardless of whether you think a cruise or trip out of your country would be harmless. There are other persons, no one knows where from so please keep your wits about you if you test positive for this virus about which no one knows much and have to be quarantined.

Then there are the efforts to stock provisions in the unlikely event you will be stuck at home

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Our local hospital announced it would be preparing for this virus. Sensible. Everyone should. This was even before the one case of the virus surfaced in north-central NC because for some unknown reason an individual traveled to the same retirement home in Washington state where a few people have died from this. But panic? Doesn’t help.

How is it we have lost our collective sense of humor? Is death that terrifying? Or illness? There are many things that were never hard to find, now even amazon is price-gouging. $14 (in some cases, more) for an 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

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At least we can still find dog cookies. And toys.

And toilet paper.

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