This, from one of my fellow bloggers, reminds me of how much we can miss our routines from the pre-coronavirus times. No matter how exciting or uneventful our lives might have been, the virus has disrupted it. The future seems even more unknown.
If you’ve been a follower of my blogs or have read any of them, you probably know that I’m a person who lives with cancer. I won’t bore you with a lot of details here, because I’ve laid the specifics out before. Suffice it to say, I have what’s called Multiple Myeloma. Some really bad stuff that takes the lives of 11,000 people in the United States each year. The overall five-year survival rate is about 30%. I’m one of the blessed ones. I’m a twenty-plus-year survivor. My journey has been one of fear, tears, boisterous laughter, faith, love, thankfulness…whatever emotional and mental dynamic of which you could possibly imagine.
Tomorrow starts a new decade. What does that mean? I’ll tell you. I was diagnosed with this disease twenty years ago, March 12, 2,000. So, it’s been twenty years and four months for me that I’ve lived with this burden. I emphasize, live. I can recall when I received word of my diagnosis. As you can imagine, it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. And I must admit, I did go through some emotional trauma at the bottom of that dark pit that one can find themselves in at certain stages of life. If you’ve experienced receiving some heart-stopping news before, you know what I’m talking about. Not only does it seem as if your heart stops, but also the world around you.
If you’ve been doing the math, you probably are already asking yourself what in tarnation am I talking about; March 12, 2020 was twenty years since diagnosis; therefore, the new decade started four months ago. That’s true, and I’m praying that I will live another twenty years with this disease, even better than that, I’m hopeful that a cure will be found soon. That’s not the new decade to which I’m referring. Tomorrow will be my seventieth birthday.
Looking back, I didn’t expect to be here pecking out some of my thoughts on a laptop, preparing to share them with my small number of followers. I’m grateful for each of you, and especially for the times you’ve given me feedback. I’ve been able to see my three kids grow into adulthood, and I now have six grandkids and one great grandchild. I love them all, and I think that’s quite the God-given legacy to leave behind. Of course, I’m not ready to go just yet. They, along with my dedicated and loving wife, Chris, have provided much of what I consider the reason I’m still here. I know medical science has played a huge role, but one must have a reason to live. God gave them to me, and He has blessed me with the gift of being around to be a part of something that will stretch out for years to come. Thank God for seventy! We’re about six hours away from tomorrow, but I’m confident I’ll make it.
I’ve been giving a considerable amount of thought about how I could pay the proper homage to you. You came into my life continually some fifty years or so ago. Before that time, you were an occasional visitor. I really didn’t need you as much then; however, the short forays I made into the comfort zones you provided gave me an enjoyable respite each time. There was a time, during my early childhood to young adult years when I barely gave thought to you. Others, more privileged, had the joy of your company at those times when your comfort was most needed. Of course, being raised in a poor family, who could barely survive hand to mouth, you were one of those dreams I would conjure whenever I indulged in fantasies of a better life.
I was raised during a time when the people in the community to which I belonged couldn’t appreciate you. As a matter of fact, many thought you were an unnatural additive to the formula of life. These folks could just as well live life without you. They weren’t brought up with you in their lives; therefore, acclimation to you never occurred. I can even remember my grandfather saying on more than one occasion that he could stand you but for a short while. He was always anxious to quickly rid himself of your presence whenever you would saunter into his life. I couldn’t quite understand his sentiment, but I never argued with him. Kids back then never argued with their elders. We were brought up that way. Being a grandparent now, I often wonder what it would be like to have grand kids, and kids for that matter, who demonstrated those kinds of respectful attitudes, regardless of how out of touch I might appear at times.
Excuse my diversion into the generational dynamics that don’t occur anymore. Let me get back to discussing this friend of mine, who has become an important companion in my life. Reverting to the second person manner of speaking, it’s obvious that you have had a rather interesting developmental history, with many milestones along the way. You started to share your blessings on more folks during the decade of the 1940’s. Once I realized that, I began to understand why my grandparents-accounting for them being poor-couldn’t appreciate you.
We’re going through a time now, when the Coronavirus is brutally capturing all news headlines. I can’t turn on CNN, MSNBC, NPR of any other news outlet, local or national, without hearing horrible statistics about the devastation being visited upon the world by Covid-19. But you, my friend, are there with me 24/7, making the absurd amount of time I’m having to spend at home all the more bearable. Without you, living in the southern part of the United States during this time of year would be tortuous. From the weather forecast for the next ten days, your contribution to my enjoying a comfortable life is most welcomed. I even find myself praying for your continued operational health. You make being cocooned in my humble abode a comfortable, cool, and welcomed experience. Without reservation, I pay unfettered homage to you, my faithful air conditioner. I trust you to be with me in the miserable heat and humidity of Arkansas from now through the end of September. Of course, there have been times when you have been needed well into October.
I’m old and blessed (@ 95° Fahrenheit/35° Celsius) …hope you will be too.
Chris and I went to a wedding this past Friday. This is the first ceremony of its kind I’ve attended since the Coronavirus took hold of things in March. I felt I had to attend this since it was the nuptials of our niece. I have multiple chronic health conditions; therefore, I’ve been hesitant about going to any kind of social gathering. This was our niece and I didn’t want to be a disappointment to anyone. It was made clear when the invitation was extended that there would be no more than twenty people at the ceremony, and that there would be abundant room for social distancing. With that assurance, how could I choose not to go. The ceremony was shown over some social media platform, so anyone who wanted to see it could.
When we arrived at the church parking lot, we immediately noticed that there weren’t very many cars. The church was a large building, indicating that the sanctuary must have been capable of accommodating several hundred individuals. As we approached the front entrance, we noticed decorations in the foyer in the colors we had been told would be the thematic colors of the event. It did seem somehow strange to see decorations, a guest sign-in book and no people. This was the first time I had been in a church in almost four months. Normally, whenever I enter my local congregation’s house of worship, there are people everywhere, greeting each other and slowly meandering into the sanctuary for the weekly service, the mid-week Bible study or whatever event taking place. A desolate sanctuary in a church…strange to say the least.
Instead of going directly into the sanctuary, we decided to checkout an area adjacent to the foyer. There, we found our niece’s brother, who had come into town from Atlanta. He was there to give our niece away. Her mother died almost three years ago from kidney disease, and her dad is a resident in a nursing facility, battling the effects of Alzheimer’s. It seemed somehow unfair that she wouldn’t have either of them present at a time when she was making a commitment that would change the course of the rest of her life.
I hadn’t seen my nephew in quite some time. There was a bit of time before the ceremony began, so we talked a bit. Our conversation consisted of the normal topics to facilitate catching up on things. Out of all that he said to me, the thing that resonated the most was him saying, “We’re all getting used to the new normal.” My immediate response to him was, “What’s new about it?” Psychologist normally say that it takes about ninety days to change a habit. I know we can have debate about whether the habit is new. I prefer to think that if it’s part of your normal way of doing things, it’s set in stone. Whether it’s new or not is immaterial. Chris and I have been attending virtual church, sitting in on virtual meetings, wearing masks when we go to the store, and practicing social distancing for almost four months now. This stuff has become habitual. We’ve been doing it for longer than ninety days. New normal or not?
The pandemic upturned our world. Initially people around the globe experienced cascading states of panic as the virus fingered outward from its birthplace in Wuhan, China. We looked on with grim awe as the numbers of critically ill and dead grew in China, then in Italy, and then exploded like an ingloriously potent firework around the planet. Little was known about how the virus spreads and precisely how it attacks the human body. Quarantines and lock-downs were the first lines of defense against a mysterious enemy that silently stalked its prey.
Scientists, spurred by horrific death tolls, worked round the clock for six months trying to get a bead on this disease. Initially, the greatest tool they had was containment. Quarantines and lockdowns slowed the progression. Infection statistics seemed to decrease in direct proportion to the plunging worldwide economy.
Some countries fared better than others. The reasons for this disparity…
Dictionaries usually give two or more common definitions of milestone: 1) a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a place, and 2) an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Since mid-March, the latter has suffered from what we normally do to acknowledge noteworthy accomplishments in the lives of others. Spring is the time that we celebrate graduations from high school, college, graduate programs, medical school and more. The young, old and those at various ages in between are excited to achieve educational milestones in their lives. They’ve work hard, made sacrifices that effect their lives and others, to mark a point in their development that calls for celebration.
I was one of those odd kids growing up. My mom struggled to buy the senior ring when I was nearing the point of high school graduation. I wore the cap and gown, and I unenthusiastically participated in the hallowed ceremony of marching and receiving my diploma. But I never really had a sense that I needed the pomp and circumstance. My family enjoyed the whole thing. Later, when I went off to college, I told myself that I wouldn’t do the graduation ceremony thing, and I didn’t. It’s been so long ago that I graduated from college that, if memory serves me right, I think my degree was mailed to me. Yeah, I know, you might be saying that I denied my loved ones the opportunity to see the first in our family to attend college get his degree in a glorious graduation ceremony. We introverts do things that others can’t always understand.
As I think about my attitude regarding participating in pomp and circumstance, I must remember others don’t think the same as I. This year’s graduation season has been visited by the dark visitor sir named the Coronavirus. This creature from Friday the 13th, or some other dark and shadowy dimension, has crept unto the stage of normality just in time to disrupt so many transitional events of life: graduation ceremonies of folks who have worked hard to move onto another stage in life; the joy of playing and watching many springtime sporting event; time in parks and numerous other green spaces to enjoy the annual budding of spring colors, etc.
When given a challenge, people have this ability, this creative nature to find a way. Back in May, I was working in my front yard, and suddenly I heard the honking of horns and loud music coming down my street. I looked up and there for all eyes in the neighborhood to see was a parade of vehicles passing my house and turning into the cul-de-sac in across the way. This parade was headed toward the house of one of our neighbors to celebrate the college graduation of their daughter. The moment contained all the pomp and circumstance you would expect to see in a college campus auditorium, except the fine regalia and modestly inspiring speeches. Some of the passengers even got out of their cars and proceeded to dance in celebration of the event. One of the local television stations had assigned a photojournalist to capture the event, which was later broadcasted. The whole thing was a moment to remember, and I’m sure our young neighbor will never forget.
Humans love celebrations. Since the start of 2020, we’ve been amazingly creative in finding ways to mark milestones with appropriate celebratory actions, despite the Coronavirus.
We’ve all been a bit down, some of us because we’re so frustrated … with people who think only of themselves … with those who refuse to understand that quarantine/isolation procedures are designed to get us out of pandemics more quickly or that wearing or not wearing a mask isn’t a political statement …
Still, we see kindness out there in good samaritans, essential workers, and everyone who tries their best to keep us sane with stories, jokes, and music, and those who are there just to lend an ear to a friend. This is for them.
I’m sure those in the blogging community will know what I’m talking about when I say that transferring an idea you have to a bright screen is often quite the challenge. If you’re reading this, and you’ve ever read any of my musings, you know that I get most of my ideas for blogs from observing things around me. I had the urge to write something today, but I didn’t want to write about the stuff that’s been going on since the turn of 2020.
I don’t want to write about the Coronavirus and how it’s been wreaking havoc with lives, governmental operations, economies, and just causing everyone to look at completely different ways of how to do things in a new-normal way. The toll of sick and dead continue to rise, as governments around the world seem to be struggling in trying to figure out how to get their economies up and running full speed again.
I don’t want to talk about policing in the United States and how the live and in living color death of George Floyd at the hands of one in blue, whose job it is to serve was seen around the world squeezing the life out of Floyd’s body. Floyd’s senseless death quickly resulted in a reflection on all the other African Americans who have ceased to exit while having an encounter with the people in blue. These encounters often began in normally unremarkable fashion and escalated into situations where the breath of life was sucked out of a human being.
I don’t want to talk about the politics of divisiveness which has taken hold of families, communities, local city halls and legislatures at both the state and federal level in the United states. Service to community and country seem to be a thing of the past, while drawing lines in the sand for another fight is the order of the day. Politicians for some ungodly reason are too consumed with fighting across the aisle versus serving (all) of the people who elected them to office.
I don’t want to talk about the lull in school shootings we’ve seen over the last three months, which obviously has resulted from there being no schools opened due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It saddens me to think that it took the closing of schools because of the Coronavirus for there to be no more school shootings. If you question my cause and effect theory here, that’s alright. I’m simply expressing my opinion, and I’ll stick with it.
I don’t want to talk about how things might be when we can get back to normal (?), and how emotionally scarred some of us will be. Some have accepted the idea that we will be operating under a new-normal. At what point does a new-normal become normal? The iPhone was released by Apple June 29, 2007. It become normal very quickly. After all, normal is that point where conforming to a standard is expected behavior. I ventured out to run some errands today. There were masked hombres everywhere. I didn’t see that three months ago.
It’s 11:00 pm, on a Saturday night, and I’m at my laptop. I’ve been having some difficulty sleeping the last week or so. I’m normally an early-to-bed person. I’ve been that way for many years; however, here I am trying to tire myself to the point that I can easily fall into slumber when my head hits the pillow. Tonight, that probably won’t be possible.
The world has been experiencing a dark chapter this past three months. The pandemic has had its way on global populations. In addition to that, there was the apparent senseless taking of a George Floyd’s life by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota that has resulted in emotionally troubling conversations around the world. Those conversations have evolved into protests in the streets. It’s fascinating how small the world has gotten during my lifetime. I think that has happened because many of us are global citizens. We jet about the globe with the convenience our grandparents experienced walking down to the local mercantile. But even if we don’t commute by jet, we have access to all that’s going on around the world with our choice of digital devices. Look at how quickly the Coronavirus spread to the far reaches of the planet. It has no legs. It cannot fly. It was carried by us.
I’ve been a benefactor of God’s graces for almost seventy years. I’ll be seventy next month, and during that time, I’ve seen many demonstrations in the streets. There have been demonstrations for the civil rights of those with Americans of African ancestry; demonstrations against the Vietnam War; demonstrations against politicians who have been elected to certain offices. It seems every imaginable constituency has felt the need at some point to demonstrate. I think people believe-to various degrees-in the promises contained in the documents that established the republic called the United States of America, but when these promises aren’t forthcoming for some, people take to the streets when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Why aren’t these promises (life, liberty, and happiness) reigning down on all, 24/7 like manna in the wilderness for all Americans? I could go into a long diatribe as to why, but simply put the dream is always better than the reality, especially when factors such as race, class, economic status, and other categories of the human existence are viewed in light of justice and equality.
For some reason or other, we always seem to have an external enemy. Is that because the powers that be create common enemies to whom our attention can be diverted, resulting in us not continually looking at ourselves in the mirror? America has not seen a prolonged period of peace since it came into existence. Ninety-three percent of the time since the Declaration of Independence was signed, this republic has been embattled; four of those years were spent in war with itself. Oftentimes, I feel as though the Civil War is yet going on.
As we go about what too often seems like a miserable existence, wasting resources on endeavors such as war, policing ourselves against crime against ourselves, imprecisely addressing injustice and inequality through legislation, and just being downright inhumane to each other, we fail to realize how better things would be if we became true keepers of each other.