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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Daily Life in the Pandemic

Visiting a historic town recently, I stepped into the town’s museum and cultural center. Immediately, the woman in charge asked me to sign the center’s register, so they could do contact tracing in case someone got the virus while visiting. A bit unsettled by that intrusion of reality while just wanting to enjoy something historic, I grabbed a pen to write down my name and address, but she groaned. I had picked up the pen from the “used” pile instead of the “new” ones, thereby potentially contaminating myself.

Through her mask, she tried to explain the current exhibit, but I didn’t comprehend everything she said. Somehow, I needed to navigate the rooms just right—clockwise, starting in one room and going to the next, and leaving by the back door. By that time, I felt slightly overwhelmed. How could something enjoyable—viewing paintings of the local area—turn into something that required me to think about every step I took?

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