The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
Dear COVID Diary,
Today my adult daughter texts me, exasperated with her three beasts struggling with remote learning. Can Grandpa help via FaceTime? I give my grandbabies an essay assignment titled “What I did last winter, day after day, staring at a screen, with no friends to play with, while every grown-up idiotic boomer did nothing about the unfolding apocalypse.”
Daughter texts me. I’m not helpful. I point out my video teaching the 4-year-old the correct way to pick your nose with kitchen utensils was a monster hit.
I fall asleep rummaging through the road trips, camping adventures, Nerf duels and treehouse fort projects yet to come.
I go for a bike ride. Pass by the nursing home. Took the kids there every Halloween. Fun. Cute. Sweet. It’s a ghost town, a pandemic prison. I wave at someone’s grandmother. Parking lot’s empty as a promise.
After lunch, over the fence, I ask my neighbor how she’s been. “I have no income, huge debts, and no clue where their next meal’s coming from. I lost my dad to COVID in October, and I can’t sleep because we might get evicted.”
I had no clue. “The kids?”
“I make them turn off the lights they aren’t using. Make ’em take quick showers. We can’t waste food. A couple of times I’ve gone without so they’ll have something to eat. We haven’t eaten out since last March. We recycle pop cans. Soda pop and paper towels? Luxuries. We all wear Goodwill. Nothing but tough choices.”
My toughest choice today? Which wine to pick up at Trader Joe’s. “Your car still run?”
“I drive super slow to save gas. Never fill up the tank. Groceries come first.” I will help.
Later, I visit a Zoom-circle of friends. Again, the disparity. I notice every Latinx person has heart-crushing stories of COVID decimating their families. I add candles for Maria, Jesus and Paul to my COVID shrine. Lit, they glow like a California wildfire.
In the produce section I turn to see a man shopping next to me wearing a military vest, military boots, khaki shorts and a field hat. Trump guy?
Later I find myself frozen in the frozen food aisle trying to decide which ice cream to buy. I joke to the customer next to me, “So many choices. I can’t believe it’s takin’ me 10 minutes to decide.”
The customer next to me, the man in the field hat and the military vest, opens the freezer door, reaches for a tub of Breyers and says in a thick, Borat-like accent, “I always know what I want. In my country there was no choice.” A wink. Dark laughter. “That’s why I’m here.”
“We’re blessed,” I say and immediately think, “Why on earth did I say that? Thirty-one flavors! One of the many blessings of Liberty?” Moscow-on-the-Hudson smiles through his mask.
At the check out, the clerk holds up one of my purchases. “Sir, only one to a customer.” Guy behind me snaps, “You got two 6-packs of toilet paper? Buddy! That’s twelve rolls.”
A woman shoots video. Through her mask she mumbles. “Jerk. Posted!”
“I heard that.”
My phone rings. “Martin Savage here, with CNN. Have you seen the shares and retweets the shocking video of your shocking behavior is getting? Why are you a hoarder? Do you realize we’re in a pandemic?”
I hang up. And leave. Joke’s on them. I’ve been hoarding corn cobs since March.
Perseverance lands on Mars. Much better name than Percival, Perseverance. Perfect metaphor for this moment in history. Will we persevere?
First images back: rocks, sand, Matt Damon’s bones, B-52 missing since 1957, boulders, craters and Ted Cruz on holiday.
What in the heck! Ellen tripled my life insurance!
It’s been a long year but Ellen and I get along great. Just ask me. She’s up late again. “What are you watching?”
“‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. Taking notes. It’s about minerals and doilies.”
For fun she’s taken to gardening “exotics” with weird names like “hemlock” and “nightshade.” Says they’re herbs, like oregano and thyme. Cool! So quiet lately.
Big hero. Brought home pot pies. The legal ones.
While I was out picking them up I saw lanes of cars! My shot at a vaccine!
Got in line. Waited forever. Finally. Asked the kid with the clipboard, “Is this where I get my vaccine? Can I get tested? Do you do testing?”
“Emissions testing. Turn off your engine.”
“Not now. I got pot pies thawing in the back seat.”
“Check your tailpipe?”
My vaccinated teacher pal is ready to go back. Says it’s been such a long time since he’s seen his students he expects his seniors to be senior citizens. “Our cafeteria should be offering prune juice, marmalade and Metamucil.”
Ha! Finally got my vaccine appointment. Online. For March. Hope the vet knows his stuff.
David Fitzsimmons: email@example.com.