Bob McKinney

Although for the time being, our mother city to the north will continue with all the restrictions of the stay-at-home orders, we here in Williamson County will slowly begin to emerge from quarantine this week.

My wife and I have discussed it, and we’re not sure things will be much different for us just yet. We’re no spring chickens, even falling into the “elderly” category in some folks’ estimation (those folks play fast and loose with definitions, by the way), so we plan to continue with caution.

I don’t see COVID-19 magically going away simply because things are loosening up.

As rule followers, the two of us have strictly followed the CDC guidelines. Our three adult children, two with families of their own, are in three different cities.  Ordinarily we spend a lot of time circulating among their homes or welcoming them here.

That’s come to a halt. It’s been difficult, to say the least.

Other than meeting some friends for social distance walks or visiting on front or back porches while sitting six-plus feet apart and talking loudly (see previous reference to spring chickens), our social life has also waned considerably.

We’ve subscribed to one of those shopping services that delivers groceries. When we do run in somewhere for something quick, we are now wearing masks.

Our hands are dry and cracking from all the washing.  

I go to work each weekday morning in our walk-in closet that has a built-in desk. Thankfully, it also has a window. There have been days I have not left the house at all.

My previously cherished weekends now stretch before me with a big question mark with nothing on the schedule except online church Sunday morning. To be sure, there is always home and yard maintenance, but you know the adage about all work and no play.

Although we’re cooking more than usual, we’re also enjoying takeout to give ourselves a break and support local businesses.

We order online or call. Then we drive near the door, where a nice person will come out and put food in our car. My favorite local brewery does the same with their beer.

I try not to think about the fact we would have been well into baseball season by now, although I keep wondering what, if anything, MLB might do the salvage the season. I’m fine having games with no fans on site; just give me something to watch.

And speaking of watching, my beloved and I have realized we’re simply not the binge types. We have not burned up Netflix, nor watched an inordinate amount of TV at all, for that matter.

We have, however, hauled out the Yahtzee, Mancala and Chinese checkers games from the playroom closet. And in the last week, we’ve had some intense rounds of gin rummy. (If we’re keeping a cumulative score -- and she is -- I’m way behind).

I had never heard of “Zoom” or “Teams” before all this started, but videoconferencing is now a way of life.

I’ve had plenty of them for work, but also a couple for a non-profit board on which I serve, and our church small group. Some of my college friends have even convened that way.

After watching newscasts in which reporters are broadcasting from stylish living rooms or lush back porches overlooking manicured lawns or pools, I’ve become self-conscious about what people on the other end of my conferences are seeing when they talk to me.

For my first work videoconference, I was in the closet I mentioned earlier. When my wife realized my back is to her side of that closet when I’m at my desk, she quickly suggested (well, she didn’t really suggest) I find another location in the house for video meetings.

Apparently, I can choose a faux background, but I do well just to get video and audio functioning at the same time. I’m not going to try to get fancy with it.

According to those knowledgeable about such things, I’m that conflict-avoidant personality type. Because of that, I’ve not joined the debate as to whether the stay-at-home orders and accompanying economic shutdown have been an over-reaction, or necessary to slow the spread of a horrendous disease that, if kept unchecked, would overwhelm, if not dismantle, our healthcare system.

I am well aware of both sides of the argument, and I’ve done my share of reading about herd immunity (in which, supposedly, immunities develop by letting the virus spread as it will) and utilitarianism (where a minority sacrifices – in this case, becomes gravely ill or dies – for the sake of the majority).

While those philosophies seem harsh, if I were a restaurant worker who lost my job because of the virus, I might be more open to them.

I have friends and acquaintances who firmly believe the cure (shutting down the economy) is worse than the disease, and we’ve let the government become way too involved in our lives.

But for someone who has had a loved one die from COVID, alone in a hospital, there is likely an entirely different – and understandable -- point of view, if not a belief we could have done more.

For me, I know I don’t understand everything and I’m certainly no scientist. I have no working knowledge of epidemiology or medicine. It makes sense to me to listen to those who do.

My main objective has been to not catch the virus and, more important, to not give it to anyone. Thus far, that has required six weeks of behavior modification that has at times been painful, but not anywhere near impossible

When I have been prone to whine, my very wise spouse has been quick to gently remind me I am healthy (as are my family members); I am employed (with a job I can do remotely); I have (some) cash in the bank; and I have a lovely home in which to quarantine. I have food in the pantry, stacks of books to read and communication devices at my fingertips.

And happily, this bizarre life alteration did not happen in the dead of winter when it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. Daily outside walks with my wife and sitting on our back deck in the late afternoons have -- perhaps literally -- saved my life.  

What happens now is anyone’s guess, but I hope I’ll be able to shake your hand or give you a hug soon.

And I will never again take for granted the freedom to do so. 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at bmac1018@yahoo.com.

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