Monday, May 25, 2020

After The Virus Is Gone

Just as Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn harmonized on the classic 1971 hit “After The Fire Is Gone,” I’ve been singing my own tune. It’s about things forgotten, trivial though some may be. Human interaction, mainly, and everything that entails.
My version is called “After The Virus Is Gone.” Not everything here applies to me, but to someone it matters.
What have I noticed?
I miss going to the store.
I miss eating in restaurants and complaining about the service, food, and cleanliness.
I miss eating in restaurants with children screaming and throwing food off their high chairs and booster seats six feet away from me.
I miss salad bars, self-service coffee, tea, and doughnuts.
I miss casino buffets.
I miss going to work. I miss the drive and getting up an hour early to beat the morning traffic jam. I miss the office, oh, so much, because there are people there — not just little kids. My kids, precious, though they are, are ready to self-isolate, too. Away from me.
I was terrible at old math, and I can’t figure out new math if my life depended on it. I miss the office so much because they have toilet paper there.
After the virus is gone.
I miss the gym. Not really, but I know some people do. I miss waving at the other moms in the bus lanes and at the soccer fields. I miss wondering if takeout is okay to eat for the fourth time this week.
I miss school fundraisers.
My cat wants to miss me, but I’m never gone.
I miss going to Walmart — I do the pickup, but I haven’t used a coupon, bought any day-old bread, or peered at the marked-down organic chicken because the “best by” date was tomorrow.
I miss driving. Anywhere. I miss yelling at people in traffic, watching people on their phones, reading, applying makeup, and picking their noses.
I watch myself do some of those things in the mirror sometimes, but it’s just not the same.
After the virus is gone.
I don’t really miss going to WW because the number hardly moved, but I go and keep trying. (I wonder if Oprah has gained the quarantine 15?)
I wanna go to a convenience store and get scratch-off lottery tickets, a 128-ounce fountain drink, two mini-packs of Little Debbie powdered donuts, a Twizzler, Slim Jim, and a Red Bull just because I’ve never had one.
After the virus is gone.
I miss going to the movies. Weekend getaways canceled, writer conferences postponed, the library is closed. I miss going to church, the synagogue, the mosque, and Saturday Mass. Seven weeks since the last potluck.
It’s spring when everything is fresh, new, and vibrant after the cold and brown of winter. Spring in the south doesn’t last long — a few weeks maybe between a Blackberry winter, severe weather, and the choke-filled breath of new pollen before the humidity and heat close all the windows to begin a six-month cycle of chilled air and more confinement because I can’t take the heat. Especially in the kitchen. I’m so tired of three meals a day for seven people.
It’s a time of festivals, proms, and graduations. I won’t miss any of that, but people I love will. In 30 years, what will they remember? Disruption. Chaos. Apart from the norm — how will we cope? None of us has seen anything like this.
Rites of passage stolen. Lives taken. Normalcy paused. It wasn’t over in two weeks.
Hugs. Muted conversations. It’s hard to read body language through a screen. A computer. A phone. (Can they please make a flashing sign or light to tell people where to look on a phone?) A door. From six feet apart.
For now, I’m alive. Not infected. Who knows, I haven’t been tested.
I keep my distance from everyone. I am medically fragile. I am still employed. I still have food. I still have shelter.
Thank you to the essential — the healthcare workers, the grocery workers, the truckers, the food manufacturers — I ordered commercial TP from Staples because they had it — the postal employees, law enforcement, and everyone who stays home. Thank you, you might have saved a life. Or mine.
I really need a haircut.
I miss my Mom. We’re not a hugging family. But this Mother’s Day, that’s gonna change. From six feet away, anyway.
After the virus is gone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

In Through There

I talk a lot about my family and the adventures that we have. I've mentioned several times about growing up on a small farm on Cherry Fork Road and the struggles that Mom and Dad had to keep us clothed and fed. I can't say that I remember every little detail because I can't. Sometimes, at family gatherings, one of us will mention a story that we had long forgotten, bringing us to tears and cracking us up at the same time.

Our family likes to tell stories. Nobody could tell a story better than Dad. And every time he told a story each important part would be punctuated with the saying "in through there". I don't know why he said that. He probably didn't realize he was saying it. Maybe, it was how he collected and ciphered through all of those tall tales in his head. One such story might go like this:

"Back when I was a kid, in '43 or in through there, there was a boy lived up the holler that we scared so bad, that he lit up a tree and didn't come down for three days. Damn, chicken shit, what he was. See, one night we was coming home from coon hunting and he got distracted, in through there and got left behind. Us fellows decided to teach him a lesson and hid behind a rock down there on Island Creek. You 'member where that is, don't you? Shit, he come around the corner, in through there, and we all just jumped out at him and he jumped back, screamed and took off a running, straight up the holler and up that big old oak tree, pissing his pants and carrying on like a girl. That was the funniest damn thing I ever have seen."

I've heard this story many times and I still get a laugh out of it. Besides being a great storyteller, here are some other things, in through there, about Dad:

He got drafted into the Army in the 50s and saw Elvis over in Germany.

He was scared of heights.

He loved watching Westerns on television.

He taught all of us how to play poker and shoot pool.

He could cuss a blue streak like no other.

He got up at 3:30 AM every morning without an alarm clock. (We never knew why)

His nickname was Diddy.

He planted a garden big enough (we all helped) to feed our family and still have enough left over to give away to family and friends.

Both of his pinky fingers had been cut off due to accidents as a child.

He liked Hudepohl beer.

He was a pattern marker for the Hercules Trouser Company in Manchester, Ohio, for 25 years.

He could outrun anybody in the neighborhood, including Sheldon, the boy from Hawaii.

He loved his family, deeply.

Sadly, he left us 18
years ago on this date.

Wherever you are, in through there, we miss you very much.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tough Times

I had to go to Walmart Tuesday morning, along with all of the elderly people, to pick up a few things I needed, mainly seeing if they had any toilet paper.

I'm not elderly, mind you, but I got enough crap wrong with me, that if you're one of those that ain't been practicing social distancing and all, and get within 10 feet of me, I can't be blamed for my less than pleasant reaction when you sneeze toward me.

I know the pollen count is above 20 million, but don't come during Senior time at the Walmart, when all us fragile folk are here. Or better yet, stay the hell home!

Rant over.

Anyway, I was unsuccessful in acquiring any toilet paper or Cadbury Eggs, but I did score the first box of chocolate frosted doughnuts of the morning. To hell with the diet and upcoming swimsuit season---I just want to make it through this trip and my next 14 days of self-quarantine since I left the house.

I finished up my shopping and took my cart over to the checkout lanes where happily, everyone was maintaining an acceptable distance from each other. I just settled into line behind a little old lady that closely resembled my late Granny.

"Oh, my goodness!" she exclaimed. "I don't know how these people can get away with charging three dollars for a loaf of bread. I'm just a little old lady on a fixed income, and I can't afford these prices. I stayed at home my whole life caring for my husband and my children only to be left nearly penniless by some fat cat insurance company in New York. Health Care reform, I think that's what they are calling it. A thousand dollars a month for health insurance, who would pay that? I was hoping to have an easier time in my Golden Years, and now I can barely afford food for my handicapped son and me. I had to leave him out in the car because I upset him when I get to complaining about these prices. I don't mean to, but I'm doing the best I can."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. I felt sorry for the lady, I really did. Times are tough all over. I knew exactly how that lady felt about those astronomical premiums, I've been paying them myself.

It was finally her turn to begin placing her items up on the register belt, and she started talking to the cashier and pointing to me in a friendly manner. I wasn't really paying attention to what they were talking about. I had just discovered a copy of The Global Wacko News that had Tim Ruse on the cover saying that he was the reincarnation of Lon R Cupboard and was trying to convert the world into his new class of Cosmetology that would be opening new centers worldwide whenever he had another hit movie and earned enough money to do so. (Good luck with that.)

The little old lady kept gesturing and smiling at me. I didn't want to be rude, so I gave a little half-smile and nodded in agreement to whatever they were so animated about. I was maintaining my own acceptable distance from her and trying to keep my hand out of the doughnuts. You know what I'm talking about. When somebody tells a joke, and you laugh along anyway even though you don't get it.

By now, there was enough space on the belt for me to begin placing my purchases alongside the lady's items. My first item was a huge 8-roll pack of paper towels that were on sale (You can always cut it in half and then use as TP if need be), and it separated my things from hers. It also separated me from her as she gave another wave and headed out the door.

"That was awfully nice of you," said the cashier. "Your Great Aunt said you was going to pay for her groceries. That will be $88.32."

"Excuse me...I don't know who that woman is, I've never seen her before today." I replied.

"Well, ma'am, she said she knew you. You were being very friendly towards her, and we're maintaining the required six-feet of separation. Are you running some sort of scam? If you are, you could be charged with shoplifting or as an accessory."

"Six feet of bacon?" I questioned as I placed the bag with bacon in my cart. What is this Footloose or something? I don't know that woman, and I am not running some sort of scam. Why do you let people walk away without paying for their stuff? You better call security."

At that moment, the cashier, the security guard, the manager, and I went running outside to see if the lady was still in the parking lot. We looked at each other, realizing that we were no longer socially distant, and all took several steps in opposition directions. Someone behind us sneezed, and we all took three more steps.

As we looked over the parking lot, the Walmart employees began to look at me suspiciously. They thought I was a part of this lady's scam. All I had been doing was being nice--lending a sympathetic ear. I had been taught to be polite to my elders, and now, I might end up in jail.

A slight breeze stirred the dust around us, bright yellow in color, three of us sneezed, and I choked out "There she is," while pointing to the other side of the parking lot.

I really didn't want to go to jail. I know they provide three hots and a cot, but I got this thing about confined places. They make me a little edgy. The lady was putting the last of her bags into the trunk of her 2018 Cadillac SRX--that nice old lady who was trying to stick me with her grocery bill. The nerve of that woman--telling me such a sob story about her finances, her son and paying a thousand dollars a month for insurance premiums.

I pointed to her car, and all of us went running over to where she was parked. "Lady, what are you doing? What are you trying to pull? You almost got me arrested for shoplifting. I've never seen you before today. I didn't want you to think I was rude, so I listened while you went on and on about all of your troubles, and here you are, driving a Cadillac. Would you kindly tell me and the others here what kind of scam you are trying to pull?"

At that, the lady took one look at the cashier, the manager, and the security guard, and her shoulders just slumped in surrender. She looked past them and began to shuffle her feet as she fought for the words to explain this situation. "I bet you're wondering what this is all about," she said.

Then someone in the car sneezed, and we all stepped back.

We all nodded our heads in unison and waited patiently for the answer. "All of that stuff I told you in the store...about my finances, raising my kids, losing everything I had because of those high insurance rates...Well, I was just pulling your leg just like I'm pulling yours now.

Happy April's Fool Day!

P.S. Springtime in Georgia turns everything yellow from pollen. 


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