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
Six months; an unanticipated anniversary
Occasionally, our family observes half-birthdays.
Never heard of a half-birthday?
That’s the date on which you can state your age (especially if you are a kid counting down the days until you can get your driver’s license) as half-way to your next birthday.
For example, I turned 79-and-a-half on July 15. There’s not much to celebrate about that half-milestone except that you achieved it, and that in itself is its own reward.
A few days ago Mary and I achieved a half-anniversary of one of the most bizarre events of our lives: the day we went into self-imposed house arrest.
It was shortly after St. Patrick’s Day (which was March 17) that — with some encouragement from our daughters — we joined the incipient movement toward isolation.
As parents (and grandparents) who had achieved advanced age, and were living full lives despite our share of the ills which generally accompany that privilege, we were in the high risk group for contagion of an ailment whose name doctors still hadn’t agreed on: either Coronavirus or Covid-19.
Although not a death sentence, it had been shown to be a particularly dangerous ailment for people whose age substantially exceeds the speed limit on Interstate highways. It was not a risk we chose to take.
Bartow’s St. Patrick’s Day parade had just been cancelled, and I had planned a downtown walkabout in my St. Patrick’s finery, a one-man parade if you please.
I shortened it to brief visits to four of my favorite haunts: Bartow Christian Books and Gifts, the Polk County History Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and CenterState Bank.
Mary went on a long-planned visit to her family in Apopka a few days later, and we took advantage of the “senior citizens hour” first thing in the morning that Publix introduced for its chronologically gifted customers.
Within a week or so, we began wearing surgical masks whenever we ventured farther than our curbside mailbox, and our Sunday dinners for our Polk County family members were put on hold.
I figured this commitment to hermitry would last maybe three months.
Mary and I committed to each other that we would remain in isolation until we both agreed that it was safe to return to a normal lifestyle. One thing we didn’t need was an argument over when it was safe to go out and run and play like the other boys and girls.
Six months into this new experience, predictions from doctors and scientists are that we are a few months to maybe a year or more from having a reliable vaccine, and who knows how much longer before we are ready to resume flying in sardine-like comfort.
As retirees, our lifestyles are less affected than those of many people.
We attend church, club meetings, and public forums on a technology called Zoom. Depending on who pushes what buttons, we can even be seen and heard.
We have it easy.
I heard a middle school principal describe his faculty’s conversion to on-line teaching as equivalent to the first year on the job for new teachers. It is a new beginning.
The ability of students to adjust to home-based learning via tablets and laptops amazes me.
The initiative shown by employers and employees in embracing home-based job performance seems to know no limits. There are predictions that even when this pandemic ends, “going to the office” will continue to mean going to another room in the house.
I take encouragement in the growing number of signs, especially at schools, that bear a message to the effect: “We are in this together, and we’ll get through it together.”
In the meantime, stay well.—S. L.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. In the midst of all the uncertainty over a Covid-19 vaccine, he reminds you to get a flu shot.)
Reprinted with permission of Polk News-Sun