Happy New Year! I’m writing from nearly 11 months in your future, a few days before Thanksgiving 2020.
Last Saturday, “College Game Day” aired from the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia where no onlookers were permitted.
Calm down! Nobody is hallucinating. Yes, the Masters is always in April and it’s the hottest ticket in golf, with fans paying big bucks to gain admission, walk among the blooming azaleas and watch golfing legends.
And yes of course, the Game Day guys come to us from a different college campus (not from a golf course, for crying out loud), site of a premier college football game, every Saturday of the season. Throngs of students and fans jam together behind them waving signs and banners, trying to claim their 15 seconds of TV fame.
How about Major League Baseball playing a 60-game season starting in late July? Or the NBA playing all its games at Disney World? Or college football conferences announcing there will be no games, but then deciding maybe they should play after all?
Absurd, you say? Take a deep breath. You have much to learn in the months ahead.
Let me tell you more of what you can expect after you have celebrated the dawn of 2020. (This is where you say New Year’s has never been one of your favorite holidays and you could barely stay up long enough to watch the ball drop in Times Square. Humor me and stay with me here).
In only a few days, you will begin to hear about a virus in China that, word has it, has the potential to spread around the world. You’re not going to get too excited about it because we’ve lived through things like the bird flu, Ebola and SARS without disrupting day-to-day life too much.
But soon you’ll begin to pay a little more attention as you hear the virus has reached the U.S. But it is way out in the Pacific Northwest and you’ll assume there’s not much chance of it affecting you.
In early March you’ll be planning a trip to Florida for MLB Spring Training, and another one to Phoenix for Opening Week with the Diamondbacks playing the Braves. Spring will be in the air and you’ll be pumped.
Before that first scheduled trip, however, you’ll listen attentively as President Trump holds a press conference and introduces his coronavirus task force, led by his vice-president who, last I checked, had no medical credentials. You will be assured there are only a dozen or so cases in this country, and with the president’s leadership and these experts in place, this thing will be tamped down in no time.
But only a few days after that, to put it bluntly, all hell’s gonna break loose. You’re not going to Florida or Arizona. All sporting events will be canceled.
Schools are going to close for the remainder of the academic year. Restaurants and retail establishments will shutter, as folks are ordered to stay home unless they’re something called an “essential worker.”
You will start working from home, a/k/a your walk-in closet, and you’ll become well acquainted with terms like WebEx and Microsoft Teams. You will start live-streaming church.
And you’ll begin to wish you had never heard words like COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, social distancing and unprecedented, to name a few.
As spring takes hold, instead of watching the Braves play, you and the love of your life will become better acquainted with Netflix. You’ll resurrect your game playing skills, pulling out Yahtzee, Mancala and Chinese Checkers from the playroom closet. You will also relearn Gin Rummy and your wife will soundly defeat you over and over.
You’ll go two months without seeing your children or grandchildren, and you’ll cherish seeing their faces on video calls. You and the wife will take long walks and, at times, long drives. You’ll beg friends to come sit on your deck for happy hour, six feet apart from you, so you can interact with other humans.
Along about May, you’ll expand your bubble to include your immediate family, all of you agreeing to be careful about personal interaction and day-to-day activities. When you head south to Alabama for that first visit, you’ll half-wonder if you’ll be stopped at the state line.
Hugs and handshakes will be awkward, if you bother with them at all. You will start wearing masks when you go out, and masking or not masking will, amazingly, become a point of contention among people across the country.
When the wife becomes ill in May and has to be hospitalized (not with the coronavirus, thank goodness), you’ll sit helplessly in the parking lot of Williamson Medical Center, praying for her recovery and trying to get someone inside to talk to you.
It’s an election year, but interest in the presidential race will be slow to gain traction, with folks distracted by the virus. Former Vice President Biden will eventually accept the nomination of the Democratic party, as will President Trump for the GOP. Neither of them will do it in the traditional sense, in a big convention hall, but Trump will make his acceptance speech from the lawn of the White House.
To be sure, there will be bright spots in the long days ahead. You will come to appreciate your sweet spouse and those walks you take, perhaps more than ever. The time you do get to spend with the children and grands, especially when you quarantine together in a beach house in Florida in June, will be extra special.
As I mentioned, sports will eventually resume, and they will be life-giving. You’ll welcome the start of baseball in what should be the second half of the season.
Speaking of the grands, a new one will join the family in September, and she’s a sweetheart. You’ll be up to four – two boys and two girls – and your heart will swell.
In October you’ll have another birthday and you’ll feel every bit your age, while still being thankful to get there.
In early November, Biden will defeat Trump and will be set to become the 46th president, although President Trump still won’t accept the election results. That’s all you need to know about that for now.
I’ve omitted a lot of details, but that’s a pretty good overview.
On a sad note, your father-in-law, the man who assumed the role of father to you after your own died 14 years ago, will pass away on Nov. 13 at the age of 92. This is when the coronavirus will hit home for the family, with his testing positive the day before he dies.
And because your mother-in-law and wife were with him in the immediately preceding days, they will go into quarantine. Even as I write this, you/I work remotely from the dining room of our son’s house in Atlanta, awaiting test results for the wife, trying to figure out when it’s prudent to go home.
Cases are surging, but hope is on the horizon as a vaccine appears imminent. Folks might even start receiving it before the year is done. If we’ll hang on a little longer, we should be getting to the other side of this experience in a few months or so.
Clearly, November will feel much different from January. As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s not clear what that will look like, and it’s the same for Christmas. These are challenging times (and you’ll hope it’s a long time before you hear that again, too).
But remember there are still many blessings to count, and much for which to be thankful: a family who gives you more joy than you have ever deserved; solid friendships; a good job; a sustaining faith; and the privilege of living in a country filled with folks who have a history of coming back from adversity stronger and more resilient than ever.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].