Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Into deep storage


     The end of the second year—"anniversary" sounds too festive—of COVID arrives in February. But it's not too early to start brooding—"reflecting" sounds too upbeat— about the loss. Not just the 800,000 dead. That's impossible to fathom; how do you comprehend just one life, never mind nearly a million? None I knew, thank goodness. Luck, combined with lots of mask-wearing, vaccine-getting, social distancing and good old fashioned staying at home.
     Much, much staying at home.
     There's also the loss, or temporary suspension, of a future. What with omicron showing up, which we don't yet understand, and other variants no doubt waiting in the wings. A lot of Greek alphabet left. What are you doing this week? Nothing. Work. How about next week? The same. And onward into eternity.
     So the path ahead seems at best hazy. Except for the staying at home part. That's crystal clear. Lots more of that. Stayinghomepalooza.
     I don't think I quite realized how much I'd been out of circulation until I looked deep in my closet, at my suit jackets, and saw that dust. Ah. Nearly two years of neglect will do that. Not worn because there are no events when I might wear them. Or maybe there are, but I didn't go. 
      I've worn a sports coat three times in the past two years. Twice on Zoom calls—one with the head of the Taiwanese economic development office in Chicago, because the Taiwanese tend to be formal folks. A second when I made a video for the Chicago Journalist's Association, to be shown at their awards dinner. And a third time, last month, into the living world, to Evanston, to a party at a mansion on Sheridan Road, previewing the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.  
     I couldn't not go. I like puppets. It was a swell event, and I'm glad I wore it. The puppetry they previewed was marvelous. People were masked, though would dip their masks down to nibble on hors d'oeuvres, like these little cigars of confit, served in ash trays, the wrappers grape leaves, the ash being, I'm not sure, special poppy seeds or some such thing. I had never seen that before. Tasty and whimsical. 
     I suppose I could have pushed myself, found other things to do, other parties to attend. Toward what purpose? Not getting dressed up is only the surface of the social loss. You get out of the habit of human interaction. I can think of a number of people I fancied friends, or close to it, whom I kept up with in the first six months of COVID and then just let go and watched them float away. I figure, if I haven't talked to you in a year, in a year and a half, during all this stuff,  then I never have to talk to you again. No big loss. We'll both survive, if that is what this is, survival.
     Things could change. There could be other occasions. But December is half over, and nothing on the calendar. No need to keep the suit coats handy in my bedroom closet, with the flannel shirts and fleeces and stuff I actually wear. Better to pull them out, dust them off, tuck them in suit bags, and exile them into a closet in one of the boys' rooms. The better to endure the passing years to come, though as I put them away, it occurred to me they'll be out of fashion by the time I finally put them on, assuming they're not out of fashion now. Might as well give them to Goodwill now. No, that takes effort, physical and mental. And there's a shortage of that. So for now, out of sight, out of mind, hidden in the boys' closets. It's not like they're going to be using those closets anymore. But that's another somber reality, and it's best to limit ourselves to one loss at a time.


  1. I wonder if there were variants from the Spanish flu. I would think so. But eventually the Spanish flu did go away. This is way different. While I don't blame you for staying at home, this does not seem to be a good way to live. The flu might go away, but the psychological damage it has done might take longer to go away. I am vaccinated and getting a booster shot today. I can't say I have totally isolated myself. We go to Minneapolis once am month or so to see my son and grandson. We have gone to baseball games and hockey games. Up until now because I have a health issue I had not been wearing a mask at the baseball games. But now I have a health issue so I do wear a mask when we go to hockey games here in Milwaukee. While the vaccinations are not the cure all, you are probably not going to die and most people who are vaccinated and still contract covid are not getting deathly ill. I don't know if enough anti vaxers will ever get the shots. I have no sympathy for those who won't get vaccinated and then die. Why would you take that chance of leaving your kids fatherless or motherless or probably sometimes both?

  2. Yes, Goodwill, Salvation Army, ORT, wherever. Donate your threads to those who could use them. Let them go and feel the freedom of decluttering your stuff in addition to your kinda, sorta friends.

  3. Somber, indeed, and you've gotten "out" more than we have.

    On a cheerier note -- you're a truly erudite columnist, yet yesterday you covered clowns, today gave a shout-out for puppets. You do contain multitudes! : )

  4. A couple of comments. 1) Why didn't they start in order with alpha, beta, gamma, etc. Why are they jumping around the Greek alphabet? 2) I think it would be cool if they used the NATO alphabet (alpha, beta, charlie, bravo, etc.) A zulu or foxtrot variant would be more interesting than omicron. 3) I wish I could find someplace to donate in-good-condition clothing where it would go directly to the homeless. It's nice, I guess, to donate to Salvation Army where they use profits from their thrift shops to help fund programs, but it would be nice to know that clothing went directly to people who can use them. 4) I finally found the upside of being an introvert during the lockdown. I missed doing stuff that I normally did (bridge, movies, restaurants), but fortunately don't actually miss people all that much. I'm quite happy at home by myself. Now that I think about it, it's probably a little creepy to admit that, but it's the truth.

    1. Shari,
      The WHO haS been going pretty much along in order with the Greek alphabet when naming variants. While skipping a few that might cause confusion or be culturally intrusive or insulting.

      The named variants aren't the only ones discovered but were important enough to name.Most variants kinda fizzle out because they aren't as contagious or harmful. When they rise to the level of of interest then we hear more about them. When they rise to the level of threat is when the WHO is concerned for human heath.

      Hopefully we don't run out of Greek letters but it seems likely we will and then they'll do some other naming process much like hurricanes.

    2. 4) I know how you feel Shari, but I'd certainly never admit it on this blog! ; ) Plus, if your avatar is any indication, you're not really by yourself. : )

  5. I think I used "cool" in my previous comment which is certainly inappropriate in discussing COVID. "Interesting" is better, maybe. I was trying to be amusing. Sorry for my poor choice of words.

  6. Except for a few hikes in the parks and on trails, we stayed home for eleven straight weeks when the Plague began, and our summer activities were sharply curtailed in 2020. Then our luck ran out last February, and we were sick until early spring, which was followed by a fairly "normal" summer...whatever that meant in 2021. Nnow we're back to hunkering in our bunker. It's not only the Plague. Just can't deal with winter anymore.

    Looking back, we've been involuntary homebodies for much of the last two years. And I've become painfully aware that I have very little tolerance for crowd situations now. Hate shopping, now more than ever. Even lost interest in ballgames, after sixty years. Only live music will still get me into a venue, and even that is pretty iffy. Not saying that we don't get out. We do. Even to the occasional restaurant.

    Had to go to a huge family wedding last month. Three hundred unmasked celebrants. First time in about twenty years that I actually had to dress up. People tend to dress down now, for almost any occasion, even the major life events. Got fitted for a new suit. None of my old ones even came close to fitting me. Gave them to a program for men who have been incarcerated. There was a matchbook in a pocket. From a wedding. Apparently, I had not worn that suit to an event in twenty-four years.

    In the meantime, I've worn out countless pairs of blue jeans and T-shirts and New Balance shoes. If that tags me as a low-rent slob for the most recent third of my life, so be it. It was what it was. A lot of water under a lot of bridges.

    But, what the hey, at least I now have that one good gray suit. Maybe I'll wear it to another wedding or two, but mostly to funerals. There will be plenty of funerals. Not gonna need it for my own, though, if there is one. When my ashes are in the hourglass on the mantel, I'll finally have that good steady job.


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