By: S.L. Frisbie, IV for Polk News-Sun
S.L. Frisbie IV Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame Member, 4th-Generation Polk County Newspaper Publisher
Can we talk . . . more or less?
Last March, a couple of days after St. Patrick’s Day, when the reality set in that the nation was about to enter a quarantine on a scale unknown for 100 years, my first reaction was, “Wow, I have to be sure to tell my grandchildren about this!”
Being a career journalist (albeit a happily retired one) whose life-time job description was to write the first rough draft of history, that’s just the way my brain works.
A minute or so later, reality set in, as I realized that with three of my six grandchildren in their teen years and two of the other three in elementary school, I didn’t have to tell them about life in a pandemic.
They were going to experience it along with me. Only the four-year-old might have few memories, and his siblings were bound to keep the memories alive for him.
At 79, I have reached the age at which our adult children keep an eye on their parents, and Mary and I appreciate it. We count ourselves fortunate.
One of the first observations I read was, “If our parents could endure four years of World War II, we can endure a few weeks of isolation.” It put things in perspective.
Based on nothing but a hunch, I figured we might have to hunker down for as long as three months. That was five months ago.
Today, traditional Halloween and Christmas events already are being cancelled.
College football, the closest thing to a secular religion in our culture, is problematical.
Parents have struggled with whether to send their children back to school, or enroll them in one of several home-schooling options.
The word “virtual” has assumed a new meaning in our every day lexicon. It means that when we talk to each other, we rarely communicate face-to-face.
Especially for those of us in the high risk group collectively known as senior citizens, face-to-face communication has become a luxury, and a somewhat dangerous one at that.
I have long considered myself to enjoy remarkably good health for someone who had a small tyrannosaurus as a childhood pet.
Today, I don’t venture farther than our curbside mailbox without wearing a surgical grade mask.
When I go to a doctor’s appointment, it is difficult to tell my fellow patients from my medical caregivers. We are all wearing masks that give us the look of a band of health conscious Wild West bank robbers.
On those rare occasions when we enjoy a “socially distanced” visit in our carport with our children and grandchildren, our words are muffled by the masks we all wear. Hugs are a fading memory.
Mary and I “attend” church every Sunday by watching the service over either YouTube or Facebook Live, depending on which technology is working better that day.
I “attend” meetings of Rotary and other organizations with a new (to us) technology called Zoom, which allows me to participate in a discussion only as long as the person in charge decides not to shut down participation with a mute button.
I have even delivered a speech over Zoom. I couldn’t tell if the audience was laughing at my jokes.
“The Sound of Silence,” one of my favorite ballads of yesteryear, has taken on new meaning.
Will this all be behind us by Christmas? Don’t ask me. Remember, I’m the one who predicted last St. Patrick’s Day that it would be over in three months.
Perhaps “Silent Night” also will assume new meaning.
All this said, I have no complaints. I am alive and healthy, as are my family and most of our friends. More than 206,000 Americans are less fortunate.
I close with the alliterative phrase I stumbled across several months ago:
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. One of his favorite anecdotes from the Coronavirus Era goes: “If I had known when I went out to dinner last March that it would be the last time I would be eating at a restaurant for six months, I would have ordered dessert.”)