Making Choices in the Pandemic

I have friends who are playing golf and enjoying happy hour, and friends who won’t leave the house until a vaccine is found for Covid-19. Just as the virus reveals the fault lines between those who take responsibility and those who seem oblivious to the threat—seen most easily in those who wear masks and those who refuse—I’m also seeing the different safety thresholds in friends and acquaintances.

It feels like everyone needs to make their own decision, weighing the inherent or possible risks against the rewards. You take into account your health but also your comfort level. For some people feeling secure is the most important factor, while others, like me, need to be out in the world. Stuck inside, I can easily fall into dark thoughts. Outside, even if just a walk around the block, my mind opens up and experiences other worlds besides the claustrophobic one inside my head.

But it’s a different decision for everyone. I have friends who are staying inside and enjoying what they call the “monastic” life—quiet, contemplative and simple. For introverts, the pandemic is proving to be a legitimate reason not to be social.  

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The Last Time

Of course, we don’t know it’s the last time. It’s only in the future that we’ll look back and think that was the last time I hiked the six miles to the alpine lake or the last time I got together with friends at our favorite watering hole. During this pandemic, a restaurant that had become an institution in town closed permanently, and I think of the last time I had drinks and tapas there with friends—a place we had been hanging out at since we all worked together at the newspaper across the street (which also is no longer there), more than 30 years. It’s hard to imagine that a place that came to symbolize good times with good friends is gone forever.

When I first moved to Colorado, I learned how to downhill ski (back when lift tickets were $15 and lift lines were almost nonexistent), and for at least 30 years, it was one of the great pleasures of my life. I loved surveying the world from on top of the mountain, floating through the powdery snow and afterward enjoying a burger and beer as well as the pure pleasure of feeling physically exhausted.

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The Family Historian

Every family has one: the person who signs on to Ancestry.com, puts together a graph of the family lineage and gets excited about a rare photo of great-uncle Martin. In my family, that’s me, because no one else seems to care as much as I do about our ancestors.

In the previous generation, on my father’s side, my aunt was the one who kept all the family stories and scrapbooks of black-and-white photos. She was a wonderful storyteller, happy to pass on all the family tales to anyone interested. Whenever I visited her—she lived halfway across the country—or talked to her on the phone, I would hear stories of how my German grandfather came to this country at the age of 16, leaving his family behind, how he started a tool-and-die company in Chicago, and how he met my grandmother.

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