“Let us pause for a moment.”
We’ve all heard those words on television and radio many times. Now, like most of America, we sit here in a COVID-19 induced isolation, our lives temporarily placed on hold.
It is Sunday afternoon. The house is as clean as it ever needed to be. I just finished mowing the lawn. There is a jigsaw puzzle on the card table. The border of the puzzle is still missing a few a pieces. The middle of the puzzle is scattered around on the table waiting for us. We fiddle with the puzzle several times a day.
We had our adult Sunday school class this morning at 8:30 using a program called Zoom. It allows people to meet face-to-face, online. I didn’t know Zoom existed until a little over a week ago. Now, I’ve used it almost half-a-dozen times for online meetings.
Sunday school was followed by an online church service using Facebook. The pews were empty, but several dozen people logged in to listen to the sermon.
Yesterday was Debbie’s birthday. She wanted to eat at the General Denver. We had to make-do by phoning in our order. I drove downtown to pick up our food while maintaining proper “social distancing” with the GD staff. Once I got home, we sat our tasty dinners on TV trays so we could continue to binge-watch the TV program “Justified” while we ate.
My son and his family dropped off a Dairy Queen ice cream cake earlier in the day. (The plastic box holding the cake had been thoroughly cleaned with Clorox wipes before they left it with us.) The night before, Josh came over in the wee hours to tape a large “Happy Birthday!” poster to the outside of our patio window. The next morning, as the coffee brewed, Debbie smiled. It made her happy.
She was delighted, but she was also going increasingly stir crazy. Just a few days earlier, we drove out SR 73 west to Collett Woods to take a hike in one of our county parks. We have about 25 parks with woods and hiking trails scattered around Clinton County. Collett Woods is one of our rustic parks. The wooded trail is only marked with white paint on trees. Debbie was struggling on the uneven path, so she got comfortable on the trunk of a fallen tree. I went on for a while. It was a beautiful day and great to get out of the house for a while.
It has only been two weeks since Governor Mike DeWine started clamping down on travel, business and social activity throughout Ohio. What started with gatherings of over 100 people, quickly shrank to groups of 50 people. This was followed by the closing of schools, colleges, restaurants, bars, barber shops and beauty shops. Even opening day of Cincinnati Reds baseball has been delayed. Eventually, churches and almost every other business has been forced to close.
A lot has changed in a very short time.
But a lot hasn’t changed.
Families still love each other and care for each other. Church families still gather, if only online. Debbie and I haven’t hugged anyone, other than each other, in nearly two weeks. My daughter was in town with our two youngest grandchildren last week. She called and told us to step out on the porch. She stopped out front and blessed us with a van full of virtual-hugs.
As they waved through the open van windows, it was great to hear those little voices shouting, “We love you Memaw. We love you Pappy.” As they pulled away, we heard, “Bye. We love you. We love you. Bye.”
We could hear them shouting their love as they drove down Washington Avenue. We almost cried. Well… maybe we did cry a little.
This is not the first time our society has been thrown into quarantine. Hanging on the wall in our front room is a photograph of my Papaw Bridges that was taken about 100 years ago. Papaw was leaning against a window frame. He was in quarantine because he had smallpox. He was sick for quite some time and his face remained horribly pocked and scarred for the rest of his life. However, praise God, Papaw did survive.
We will also survive. In the future. we will also thrive. For now, we are bracing for a spike in the number of cases diagnosed in southwest Ohio. The numbers of cases we have will go up. Until then, we must get ourselves better prepared.
One-hundred years ago, while Papaw Bridges recovered from smallpox, his life was put on pause. Now, all our lives are on pause until the COVID-19 virus runs its course.
For now, we wait, we isolate, and we brace ourselves for what may come.
We will get through this.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.