Day 4 of Self Exile

Today, I slept until 9:00 a.m. That is highly unusual for me, but I’ll take it. My body must need the rest. I chopped scallions, three kinds of pepper, red, yellow, and green to sauté. Then added garlic to some beaten eggs for a scramble. I needed a little bit more so I added a dollop of cottage cheese to the plate. While eating I watched the horrible news about corona virus. That blended into the “Stump Trump Hour.” All the while I wondered if there were less than ten reporters in the room. Certainly they were not six feet apart, and certainly they do not have brains. The questions were repetitious, and boring. Don’t these people listen to the answers? Some of them impressed me as attempts to stump Trump into changing his first response. When experts tell you that a vaccine is twelve to eighteen months away why is it necessary to ask if the system is fast tracking the process? When the Vice President reports that 3M is making 30 million face masks a month why is it necessary to push the answer toward why St. John Doe Hospital in Podunk is out of face masks?

Industrial grade face mask

 

 

Respirators that the press believes we should have millions on hand at each hospital

The whole thing could have been over in fifteen minutes, instead the President patiently answered the questions. The strangest I thought was why are you calling this the Chinese virus , isn’t that being racist? Duhh, lady where is your brain? It came from China and who care is the virus is racist? It will still kill you the first chance it gets even if you call it the honey coated-critter from space. The brains really stopped functioning when Dr. Deborah Birx reported that there has been a large increase in cases reported since last week, but that it is due to the fact that the backlog of tests has been corrected, and now reported. Then, the brains really began smoking when she reported that there are more positives now that all the test kits everyone complained about not having two days ago are now available. The dumbest question goes to the reporter who asked what the President is going to do for those in prisons? Isn’t a prison the ultimate form of quarantine? All the wardens have to do is to shut off visitors and check prison workers for the virus, end of calamity.

President Trump threw a fast one at them by reporting that several cruise lines offered to let the government use some of their empty cruise liners as hospital ships or quarantine centers. I gave one reporter credit for changing the subject by asking what the President was doing to rescue some 300 Americans stranded in Peru. If it were me answering that one, I would have told her “nothing, they got there on their own they can get home on their own.” President Trump, however, was again very calm and politely explained that he most likely would have to use military to bring them out. The reporter heard military and must have envisioned a war with Peru, because Trump had to correct his statement by adding “military aircraft” to the statement.

Throughout the conference I kept asking myself why are these people expecting the Federal Government to perform miracles and to take care of their every need, face masks, respirators, drugs, etc? Everyone of us lives in a State within the Union called the United States of America. Each of our States is an independent government with departments identical to those of the feds. State responsibility is first and foremost before the federal government should step in. If your state is not getting things done, you should be harassing the governor not the president. The problem is that the states are all broke because they have too many retirees to send pension checks to and not enough money to spend on disasters.

The President’s daily Task Force report via press conference to the American people was very informative and calming. He does not convey any sense of panic on any of the subjects and did not have to defer any questions to later or to someone else, he knew the answers. Twice, he told a reporter he would not answer the question.

After the conference I donned my rain gear and went for a 45 minute walk in the rain. It is the first day of Spring, and it was refreshing but cold. It is also the feast of Saint Joseph, my namesake, so it is special to me.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Days 2 & 3 Of My Quarantine

As luck has it something strange always happens when you schedule a large home improvement project. Making breakfast was an adventure because all the cabinets  were sealed off with plastic sheeting. I wound up poking holes through the sheeting in front of cabinet doors and drawers to get stuff I needed. I was stuck in my home quarantined by the floor refinishers. After a breakfast eaten in my bedroom I descended into my shop to get away from the noise and dust.

I was in my shop grinding on a piece of padauk wood forming a rose while the Rumanian floor refinisher was grinding the floors above me. I was attired in  face mask, heavy apron, and shop-hat turned backwards to protect me from the dangers of padauk-dust when I heard someone shouting at me. It was Johnny, the Rumanian. He told me I had until 12:30 p.m. to vacate the house, it was 11:30. He had begun to apply the stain on the floor where the refrigerator and stove sit. He would finish the final sanding while that stain set.

I hustled to pack a bag to get out and headed for a hotel. Thankfully, I thought about it for a few minutes when they first told me I would have to vacate for a day. I picked the hotel where Peggy and I spent our first nite of wedded bliss together. It is six miles from our house. Last night was not even close to that night.

Checking in was not a problem because they had many vacancies. In fact, I think I was one of a dozen people who stayed. The hotel bar and cafe were both closed by government edict which left me to fend for myself. Usually, when I check into a new hotel room, the first thing I check is the condiment bar for goodies. They had one of those new Keurig coffee machines. I followed the instructions and pushed “BREW” the light went on and I proceeded to check out the bathroom. Nice shower and lots of towels, I liked it. I expected a fresh cup of coffee but got nothing. I tried three more times to make it happen, but nothing. I left the room to buy some lunch. On the way out I stopped at the desk to report the Keurig wasn’t working and that someone should come up and check it out and/or teach me how to use it.

It is election day and I wanted to vote for someone who would not win so I drove to the high school which is where I voted the last time. It was a ghost town. I went to the library which is within sight of my house. It was the wrong place, but the nice ladies there looked up my precinct and found the church. Afterwards, I moved to the super-market next to the church and bought a pre-made sub-sandwich and a couple cans of soup. It was enough for lunch and supper. Back in the room a maintenance guy showed up to look at the coffee maker. He also had trouble, but solved the problem by unplugging the unit and replugging it into the adjacent outlet. After breaking my KETO diet with the sub-sandwich I spent a few hours reading until it was time for the soup.

I fully intended to write this diary every day, but I experienced too much trouble getting onto Word Press on my lap top last night. Its been five years since I used the laptop for posting. In those years the world has gone slap-happy with the need for user names and passwords. I tried my best to find the right combination but failed. I could have written a post in Word and then posted it today on my Mac, but I chose to play Solitaire instead. I used up my battery, and my charger was on my desk at home, so I was stuck watching TV. I spent the evening watching a new episode of Life Below Zero about a totally new region of Alaska. I will watch the program religiously again.

Day three(today) my internal clock got me up at seven and I sat on the bed watching the traffic move by. Normally, there are hundreds of cars speeding through that section, but this morning it was relatively empty. I dressed and went to the lobby hoping to find some food, but first I decided to use the Keurig again. It took me three tries, but I finally mastered the combination of latch closing, water addition, and proper button pushing before the damn thing started to drip coffee. The morning food service was suspended as advertised, but the manager left baggies with an orange, cupcake, and a granola bar for departing residents. They also had a pot of coffee available. I picked up the USA Today and the Wall Street Journal for the room.

I spent reading and watching President Trump’s press conference on Covid-19. I thought he is doing everything right and he reacts with new action as new facts emerge. He doesn’t wait to cogitate with his advisors before acting because they discuss and brainstorm together and decide on the next course of action. He doesn’t need any more thought about what to do. He reminds me of the man I worked for. When he wanted a problem solved he called his experts and we discussed and brainstormed together. We never left the room without a plan. His only course afterwards was to follow up on our actions. Many times he was following up and looking for results before I arrived back at my office.

Another can of soup and a coffee later I cleaned my debris and packed my pajamas to leave. On the way home I stopped at the bank to deposit a check and then went to Mickey’s for a hot dog to go. Mickey’s is allowed to stay open because it is mainly a carry-out place. The bank doors were locked, and I had to use the drive through window. Traffic seemed normal for the day.

By the time I arrived home there was not sign of Johnny or his partner. My plan was to enter the house through the garage into the laundry room where I would sit on the ceramic tile floor and watch the varnish dry while I ate my hot dog. I touched the floor, it was dry and not sticky, so I took off my shoes and said, “what the heck” go for it.

I stepped on the beautiful newly refinished floor, and was able to negotiate the house. Everything is white with dust. I thought the plastic covering everything and blocking doors would keep things clean, but it didn’t so I spent an hour doing my most favorite housecleaning chore, dusting. I couldn’t sit anywhere looking at all the dusty surfaces. I stopped after I hit all the spots I would be looking at today, and this computer desk was one of the targets. I went for a haircut and now I am at this moment in time thinking what adventure I will undertake next while I sit in isolation waiting for the Covid-19 bug to come out of somewhere to attack me. It is raining and cold, so I will avoid my daily walk to nowhere which usually lifts my spirits. I will restart my KETO diet with my next meal. Darn that sub-sandwich, muffin, and hot dog and tasted good.

 

 

Day One Of My Corona Quarantine

Never in my lifetime has the government been so worried about a virus threat. Today, begins a shutdown of many public spaces. My Lions Club activities are shut down, the library is closed, all bars and restaurants are closed, only drive through windows will be open. For the first time in my life I missed a Sunday mass because the church was closed. Food suppliers will remain open. Hopefully, they will have stock to sell. I’m not sure about banks.

Back in the nineteen forties during World War Two we experienced shortages, and blackouts, but I don’t recall shutdowns of any sort. My parents were issued a ration booklet with coupons. The coupons were for food items, gasoline, etc. I know my Mom used them to barter food with friends. Dad did the same with his gasoline coupons. Back then we were fighting Germans and Japanese not an invisible microscopic virus. The Civil Air Patrol watched the skies for enemy airplanes and the Coast Guard patrolled our shores to ward off enemy ships. I remember when we traveled by car to see my grandfather in Michigan we raced PT boats along Lake Michigan shores. Every car trip involved fixing flat tires on the roadside because tires were not available and our car had some pretty bald tires. When we reached the bridge over the St. Joe river there was always a huge navy ship tied up there.

In the nineteen fifties we did have a serious virus attack, Polio was the enemy. It was headlines everyday in all the newspapers, and on radio news. Because we didn’t have TV’s we didn’t have 24 hr news programs spreading panic all about the world. The pictures of people in iron lungs were enough to get our attention. The government recommendation was to stay away from crowded beaches and from mosquitoes. It was August, and I just turned fifteen, I was invincible. That morning I played golf at Jackson Park GC with my buddies, in the afternoon I delivered groceries for a grocery store that was several miles from home. I rode my bicycle to get there. After work, I hung out with the neighborhood gang until ten. The following morning I couldn’t wake up, I had a headache that felt like my skull would blow up, my throat was on fire, and my neck was so stiff I couldn’t bend my head. Mom took my temperature and called our family doctor. He came by at five o’clock after his office hours. An ambulance arrived within two hours to haul my sorry ass to the Contagious Disease Hospital on 26th and California. That is where I existed until October. It wasn’t fun, and I am one lucky man because I recovered with a minimum of paralysis. I thank God for that everyday. The vaccine for polio came a couple of years after I recovered from it. I still think about all the kids I met along the way that didn’t make it. I laugh when reporters question medical authorities for how quickly will a vaccine be available. During polio the vaccine took years to develop. In fact it didn’t happen until the electron microscope was invented and researchers could finally see the virus. President Roosevelt started a private enterprise called the March of Dimes to raise money for research and help for victims. He did that because he had first hand experience with the disease having been paralyzed from the waist down from polio.

At this moment I have two workers in my house sanding my wood floors to refinish them I am sealed off, and by myself in self quarantine. This time I believe the warnings are valid and pertain to me. I am in the primary age group for this bug. I must do everything in my power to stay healthy and away from contagion, or face the music. At the end of February, a close friend of mine died. I went into shock when I learned of it. She got sick suddenly with a lung infection that took her out.  Her family swears it wasn’t Corona, but in my heart I believe it was.

Pray, pray, pray that we will stop this virus in its tracks.

Boredom Yields Grief

A few days ago I completed a project that took me several months to execute. Begun in March of 2019, and then set aside in May of 2019 to spend time with my wife. I restarted again in January 2020 a full six months after Peggy died. During the time I worked on this animal, my life was never lonely. This week, I found myself with a couple of hours of free time that I didn’t know what to do with.  I missed going to my shop to cut and grind, sand, and finish wood pieces. I found myself getting lonely and wishing Peggy was still alive, what a terrible feeling. Not that I didn’t want her to be with me, but that I wanted her to be with me so badly.

To ward off the loneliness, I dressed for winter and took a long walk. Exercise helps ward off grief. My shoes are beginning to show signs of wear because I am walking so much. Somedays, I will walk several times. If I need a book, I’ll walk to the library, if my hair needs cutting, I’ll walk to the barber shop. If i am meeting friends for a drink I’ll walk to the bar. Today, I’ll walk to a noon meeting with my men’s group for lunch. (KETO for sure.)

Loneliness is an emotion that causes me to be depressed. Therefore, I must avoid it with a passion. Instead I find more powerful activities to fight depression. I pray when I walk, I watch movies that absorb, I read books with stories that engulf my mind, the last thing I will do is nothing, because then the mind begins feeding me bullshit about how tough I have it when the exact opposite is true. My blessings far out number my adversities, and I thank God for having blessed me so much.

Yesterday, a friend texted me with a link to a Lions event which is in September. I texted back that I have not been able to think that far in advance. Then immediately, I signed up for the event, a three day training session called the USA/Canada Leadership Forum held in Louisville, Kentucky this year. I thought, what the hell. there is nothing holding me back but me. I have looked at this event for three years always thinking that when I am free again I will go. I am going.

While on the Forum website I was reminded of a newer Lions educational program. One can earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s and a Phd in Lionism online from Lions University. I signed up for it while Peggy was still alive and I was President of my club, but put it aside. I clicked the button and completed the first of ten sessions required for my Bachelor’s Degree. I want to receive the degree at the forum in September. Why not? I can be a widower who sits and watches grass grow, or I can be a widower who attends Webinars to get a degree.

Activity, activity, activity, is the key to trudging through grief, along with writing about it.

 

To Die For

Learning to be single in one’s eighties is really different. Throughout my life I always had some type of support. From birth until college it was my parents, brother and sister. In college it was a room mate. After college it was back to my parents for a short while, then, marriage. That phase lasted forty two years, and I was single again, living alone, then marriage again. The second time it lasted fourteen years, and that brings me up to today, single again. I vowed never to get married again, but never say never. I am determined to stay single.

Life has become a battle between grief and loneliness, but after nine months of it I  can claim I am gaining on the task. To combat loneliness I have developed a daily pattern. Basically, it is get up, make breakfast, clean up, read mail, listen to my radio show, make lunch, go for a long walk, surf the net, work on my art, make supper, cleanup, work on my art some more, watch movies, read, then go to bed. Exciting? Not really, but it takes my mind off my loves and keeps grief away. After seventeen years I still grieve for my first wife Barbara, and now my second wife Peggy, such is life.

I thank God for allowing me to have Xfinity On Demand, and Amazon Prime, both services are keeping me going. I stay away from zombies, terminators, cartoons, satanic, comic characters, and stick with drama. Do you know how many movies are in the genres I just listed? Thousands. I do like action movies involving espionage, and mystery. All of them have to be included with the service, I refuse to spend money on rentals to get recent selections.

Most of the films I watch are family oriented stories. Most of them have plots based on the effect of someone dying. I estimate nine out of ten stories depict the hardship that life brings after a family member dies. Knowing a little bit about life after losing a partner I can attest to the truthfulness of how life gets screwed up. Many stories are about the effect of death on children. I watched one last night called “A Father’s Choice.”  A cowboy falls for a city girl, and they marry. They have two daughters. Their marriage falls apart and the mother raises the girls alone. She meets a man she wants to marry. The happy family to be is returning from a night out at dinner and the movies. As they exit their car and approach the house the new man notices strange things, like the dog is out in the back barking, the front entry light is out, etc. They take two steps toward the door and a man in black jumps out of the dark and begins shooting. He kills the mother on the spot and nearly kills her fiancé, the girls are spared. Think of the impact of this scene on the kids. The rest of the story involves how the kids cope and how their estranged cowboy father learns to be a parent after a long absence. I love this kind of plot, but there are too many off them that rely on death to become a story.

Many of the better films are not produced int he USA, but rather in Canada or Australia. Folks in those countries are not as focused on the weird zombie stories like we are in America. come to think of it, zombie movies are dependent on death also.

I got hooked on a series called Jack Ryan, based on author Tom Clancy’s stories about espionage and intrigue. The remarkable thing about these stories is the unbelievability of the central character to endure enormous punishment and his bullet dodging capability to stay alive while killing untold numbers of bad guys shooting at him with machine guns with single shots from his pistol.

If Hollywood ever decides to quit making this genre I am in trouble.

 

Snow or Summer Which Shall It Be?

The Lord gave me a huge gift this week-end, He routed the predicted snow storm away from Frankfort. We did have snow, cold, and wind but the inches of snow and ice did not get here. I”m sure somewhere north of us the situation is different. As a kid I loved snow, I couldn’t get enough of it. Snow  meant building snow men or snow forts, snowballs, and snowball wars. It meant sledding down hills and rolling off at the bottom. It meant getting so covered in the white stuff that our pants would be frozen stiff from the knees down. It also meant getting sick with sore throats, and fevers. If we were lucky we’d have some frozen ponds and then we could add ice skating to the fun.

As an old man, I love to look at snow, but despise having to go out into it. It means being cold, or getting the car stuck, and of course it means shoveling walks and driveways clear. It means parking a car is harder, and walking through piles of it from the car is a chore. I would much rather be in a warm sunny climate where snow is something that makes the mountain look pretty. One of my not favorite pastimes is shoveling the drive clear after the Village plow comes by cleaning the street and deposits the street snow onto my newly cleared driveway.

I love sitting in my nice warm house looking out at the bird feeder watching the birds as they feed in a frenzy. I also love seeing tracks made by the squirrels, raccoons, and deer. It is rare to see the actual animals but they are there because after a week the back yard looks like a children’s playground with all the tracks they leave.

Photography in the snow is another favorite passion for an old guy. Winter scenes are among the most beautiful on planet Earth, they project peacefulness and purity.

I guess there is a balance between what I like about snow, and what I don’t like about snow, and I am neutral to it, and if I get really tired of it, I’ll pile onto an airplane to fly to a southern climate. The problem with moving to a warmer climate is that my ass is too firmly rooted in Illinois with family and friends. I recall when I spent the winter months in Arizona with Peg experiencing a strange emotion that something was not right in the Valley of the Sun, I missed snow. Now that is crazy isn’t it? I found having endless days of sunshine without dark cloudy, rainy days boring. I did enjoy not having to bundle up to take a walk. I also enjoyed the greenery and the colorful flowers, but deep inside me there was this nagging feeling that I was out of place there.

Then the days began to get warm, I mean hot. By the end of April ninety degree days were the norm and we had an occasional hundred degree day. The greenery began to turn brown, and It was time to come home. In my mind I envisioned greenery, and colorful flowers and warm, not hot, sunny days. We loaded up and drove home, only to find it still cold, still freezing at night, and mountains of snow piled in parking lots. It would be another eight weeks before we hit the hot humid days of an Illinois summer.

All I can say at this point is that living in midwestern USA prepares one for every type of weather experienced on the planet.

Taco Tuesdays With Tracy

This story begins five years ago when my friends Donna and Al began having dates every Tuesday. Their routinely went to a movie, ate, and then to a local bar for a drink. The bar is different from normal saloons. This one has couches and easy chairs in addition to the standard bar with bar stools. It smacked of a living room setting and it was lady friendly. Al is a super friendly guy with a dynamic personality and often invites walk-ins whom he doesn’t know to join Donna and him for a drink and conversation. It started slow, but then people he knew came in and he corralled them to join too. That is how I got involved, he asked me to join them at the Stray for a drink on Tuesdays. I joined. My wife Peggy and I both came. By then the group was regularly up to six, most were established friends. I watched Al as he looked for people coming in.. He has magic when it comes to getting people to like him.

One Tuesday he spotted a young lady with long jet-black hair sitting at the bar alone and called her over. That was the beginning of a lasting friendship until two weeks ago.  Tracy was young fortiesh with jet black hair that she rolled into a chignon. Her eyes were dark, almost black and she accented them with make-up. Her skin an olive white, she looked very Italian or Greek, She was a beautiful lady. Both Al and I have children that are older. Tracy’s personality was bubbly and upbeat. Occasionally, Tracy showed up with her hair long and straight and looking glamorous. On the days she did we called her Stacy because her person was so different. She easily fit into the group and was able to withstand the teasing she got.

To speed up the story I fast forward to where I am now going to the Stray Tuesdays by myself. Peg’s dementia progressed to the point of her not enjoying the outings any more. I hired a caretaker to be with her full time, but I also stayed home to be with her. For a few weeks the three of us came to the Stray, Peg, me and Irene. All of us got a respite from the house. Eventually, It became too hard on Peg and ergo I took advantage of the time off.

Tracy didn’t have a car, and often walked to the Stray from her apartment a few blocks away. I always gave myself a curfew and when it was time for me to leave I asked her if she wanted a ride because I drove right past her apartment on my way home. She took me up on it. Many times, it was winter, dark and cold, and riding was much safer than walking.

I developed a habit of leaving the Stray at six-thirty to give me enough time to grab a taco or nachos bowl, and I could still be home by seven. I felt I could leave Peg’s company for two hours without me feeling guilty.

Time moves on, and so did Tracy. She moved to a more affordable space. Actually it was a room in a condo owned by a lady who needed some extra cash. Tracy rented a room from her. Tracy loved it. On one evening on our way home I asked her if she wanted to stop for a Taco. She jumped at the proposal, but didn’t like the place I suggested. She instead liked My Taco also on the way home. That is when I started going for Tacos every Tuesday with Tracy. It was a regular thing for us until she got sick and nearly died with liver failure.

Miraculously, Tracy slowly came back. She had to apply for disability which she received from the state. But as soon as she started getting income the state took its piece of the action. She was defunct on a student loan and State said ye shall pay up. Her meager disability-income diminished by a whole lot. To offset the difference she took a job as a part-time property manager with her former boyfriend. He loaned her an old car to allow her to do this. She still struggled with survival. In addition to the rent collections she became a hostess for Capri, a four star restaurant. Because she no longer needed a ride home and because her time was crunched we could no-longer go for a taco together.

About six weeks ago, Tracy was not her usual bubbly self. She sat quietly and watched but didn’t participate. We all suspected she was having a problem, Then she stopped coming. Donna texted her and asked why. She received no answer. Donna called her sister to learn that Tracy was back in the hospital. Then two weeks ago we got a text from a friend that Tracy died that morning. She was fifty years old, a mother of two, and a grandmother of three.

Today, the Stray group attended a memorial service for Tracy. We sat sullenly before a vase with her ashes surrounded by flowers. Several of her friends came forward and told stories about their relationship with Tracy. I was just about to do the same except the reverend stepped in and began the homily/eulogy.

No more Peg and no more taco Tuesdays with Tracy, I thought to myself. How wild is that? It got me to thinking and asking, just where does a person’s soul go after the body craps out? I believe we all have a soul but I can’t fathom where it goes. Are we just a whisp of ethereal light or gaseous matter floating about the universe? What? That is something I will not discern until I too crap out.

Saints Barbara of Prestwick, Peggy of Brown, and Tracy of the Stray I miss you, I need you, I love you, and will be with you soon.

LUV, Grumpa Joe

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