I was a shy child and could spend hours playing alone. My family is of solid Old Yankee stock and we rarely touched one another. It was a world of the mind. I would read stories of prisoners held in solitary confinement for long periods. How did they manage? How would I manage in such a situation? Would I close down? Hibernate? Or would I go crazy, as so many of them did?
In ancient times, the ultimate punishment was not death but exile. Humans are social animals. Not only do we rely on each other to do the things we cannot, but we thrive in association with one another. I’m beginning to find this period difficult, at least it is today. Perhaps tomorrow will be easier.
At times this feels like some sort dystopian novel. Here in Oregon, we were told to distance ourselves from one another. That weekend, the beach towns were crowded with people — almost like a scene from the 1959 movie “On the Beach,” where the Australians knew that they would all soon die of radiation. They crowded out to the secluded fishing streams, stepping over each other in their frenzy to get one last pleasure.
Or it could be Orwell’s “1984,” where Dear Leader tells lie after lie and then denies the previous lie. The faithful back him up, denying what everyone knows was said before. It’s disorienting, perhaps purposely so.
Or perhaps it is Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake,” where a pandemic ravages an autocratic world of the rich in their enclaves separated from the mobs of the destitute, the disease killing rich and poor alike.
Trying to write this blog this morning, I could not save the file. The computer insisted I didn’t have permission to do that. I spent a frustrating time trying to reset file permissions only to find that I still couldn’t save the file. Finally, Andrea said what I know: “If in doubt, reboot.” After I rebooted, the computer is again being cooperative.
All this makes me wonder about my abilities. I know that I am not as sharp as I once was. Am I losing it? Perhaps my brain isn’t getting enough exercise.
I think that if either Andrea or I get the virus, the other will too.
I started smoking at an early age. I always looked young for my age, and being young and foolish I thought smoking would make me look older, perhaps even a bit sophisticated. I quit smoking before my daughter was born, over 40 years ago. But then when I was at a Navy school, one of the duties was to stand watch alone at night, sitting at a table in an empty building. We were to stay awake. We were not permitted to read. It was long before smart phones, so I couldn’t sit all night staring at Facebook in a daze. To give me something to do, I started smoking again. Four years later, when I was stationed on a ship in Alaskan waters, the winter seas were often too rough for us to be permitted out on deck. We had to stay inside. The ventilation was poor, especially with everyone smoking. Disgusted, I thought perhaps if I didn’t smoke the air would be a little better. I quit smoking and have stayed quit.
I also lived in Los Angeles in the 60s, when the smog was so thick we couldn’t see a quarter mile down the street. And I lived on Governors Island during the 1970s, when too often we couldn’t even see nearby Manhattan through the thick orange haze. I’m sure all this didn’t help my lungs any.
Andrea was never a smoker and lived most of her life in Iowa and Oregon. Her lungs are probably in better shape than mine, and that gives me solace.
Our doctor sent emails out asking us to update our advance directives. We have wills and advance directives and medical powers of attorney, but this is a good time to review those.
For about 25 years I have had a letter to my daughter in my desk, for her to find after my death. In the letter I explain what bank accounts I have and where the safe deposit box is and who to call for assistance and which things in the house I got from my parents and grandparents. I update it now and then, trying to keep it current. Oddly enough, last Thanksgiving when she was here I told her about the letter and had her read it so that she could ask any questions she might have.
After a day of clouds and rain, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming. This is a beautiful time of year in a beautiful part of the world. We still have food to eat and a warm house to wait in. I wish the same for each of you.