The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
Dear COVID diary,
The whole family got vaccinated. We still mask up. We’re role models for the fools acting like the credits have rolled on this epic horror flick. Apparently they haven’t seen the trailer for “Episode 4: The Virus Strikes Back,” opening at a hot spot near you.
Spring is here and summer is careening toward us like Tiger Woods in a semi. So long sweatpants. Hello shorts. So long T-shirt and sandals. Hello T-shirt and sandals.
Next day, my 19-year-old said, “We should do Tumamoc.” Why? Because Golgotha’s booked. After three days of walking up a vertical slope I arrived at the summit, fifth in line, behind Moses, Tenzing Norgay, Edmund Hillary and the Latina cast of Sex in the City. Our desert is where I find spiritual restoration and relief from the madness.
Days later I wept when my longtime friend Mike Gordy died from COVID-19. Eternally smiling Mike, the master educator, the happy warrior, threw his heart and soul into every social, economic, education, peace and justice cause west of the San Pedro. I know for a fact Mike’s spirit was at the first “Make Peace with Cochise” rally in 1888, that he marched with suffragettes in 1918 and right now is offering to sand Woody Guthrie’s guitar to perfection in his heavenly wood shop.
Centuries ago, Mike invited me to give my pep talk to his students at Pistor Middle School. Top of every hour I entertained his students for 15 minutes, then sat in the back and watched Mr. Gordy, an inexhaustible vessel of kindness, inspire, provoke, question, amuse, mentor and teach. Like so many amazing teachers, Mike saw every interaction with a kid as a shot at changing the world for the better, making it smarter and kinder.
This week, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill protecting lethal weapons from federal gun safety laws. If Ducey protected Arizonans from COVID-19 during this pandemic with the same zeal he rushed to protect guns from sensible regulation, thousands of Arizonans would still be alive.
Next day, we were two weeks out from our vaccinations, thank you, Joe Biden, which meant tomorrow for the first time in over a year we were going to see my daughter, her husband and our three grandkids in Phoenix.
Ellen gave me that “Time to groom Yoda” look. “Let me trim those wild silver hairs.” Were the electric hedge clippers necessary? “Ears grow back.”
Next day we were so happy to be on the road for the first time in eons that when Kool and The Gang came on the radio we did the lariat dance.
I said to my wife with glee, “People are driving responsibly on the Interstate today!” Ellen noted I just lost the game we call “Things an Old Man Would Say.”
“What happened to the man who used to say, ‘Let’s see if this baby can hit light speed. Where’s the nitro-thruster-afterburner switch?’”
“That same man is up every night saying, ‘Let’s see if I can find the light to pee. Where’s the nightlight switch?’ ”
We brought keto snacks for the ride: Twigs, nuts and leaves I found foraging on the forest floor of a “Whole Sprouts” run by Chip ’n’ Dale. Not wanting to win the trifecta of “Things a Really Old Man Would Say” I did not discuss my digestion.
We arrived at their front door, rang the bell and flew into each other’s arms. I thought to myself, “You are the luckiest father, grandfather and father-in-law on Earth.”
Note to self: Next time bring kneepads. With grandkids if you’re not on your knees racing matchbox cars, wrestling, fighting with dinosaurs, finding lost doll shoes or making Lego castles, you’re on your knees begging your daughter and son-in-law to let you take your grandchildren home with you.
As I draw maps to assist Emma and Cass in running away to Tucson, baby Chloe falls asleep on my chest for a dreamy moment, inducing the most heavenly drowsiness, transporting me, coo by sigh, to memories of all of the small souls who slumbered on my chest on lazy afternoons. The only pleasure more sublime is listening to Nana Ellen read bedtime stories.
Next day I help son-in-law Joe secretly fetch a playground to assemble. My father, the Master Sergeant, wouldn’t have approved — because it was built with safety in mind. He thought the best swing sets should catapult children out of the yard. “Builds character.”
The next morning we said goodbye, buoyed by the promise of better days ahead. Packed, buckled, ready to go, we waved, they waved and tears welled. We didn’t want to go. I wanted to be “Grandpa” forever.
And then I thought of Mike, and all those we had lost, reminding us nothing’s forever. I turned the key, looked in the rearview, and muffled a sob promising myself we’d return often.
David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.