Sheltering in Place – Look for the Everyday Joys.

Social distancing has changed our daily routines. My wife Melinda gets up before I do, usually sometime around 5:30. Most mornings I don’t hear her leave the bedroom. I can fall back to sleep when I do. That final hour is often good for one more dream. My dreams make night an adventure for me. I usually turn out about 6:15, about the time the aroma of fresh coffee seeps under the bedroom door.    

Kramer on the Arm of My Den Chair
Kramer on the arm of my den chair.

I start the day in slippers and a heavy bathrobe. First duty is let Kramer, our old gray cat, out of his room. I can see his shadow blocking the light in the crack at the bottom of the door. I always greet him with some nonsense talk. “How’s old Mr. Gray Face this morning?” Or “How’s osey bosey, this morning?” (Mother taught me nonsense talk. There are those times where nothing else will quite do). Kremer, for his part, looks up and calls out a greeting of his own. Then he walks ahead of me, looking back at intervals, as we enter the kitchen. I call a greeting to Melinda. She calls back from her book in the living room.

First chore of the day . . .

My first chore of the day is to take care of the litter box. I get a plastic bag from our stash and go back into the laundry room where Kramer spends the night and take care of things. The full bag is deposited on the steps to the basement where I will see it and take it out when I have reason to descend to the lower level. I invariably have reason. Either to bring up firewood or work on repairing one thing or another.All my tools are down there. The previous owner left along workbench. I have cleared it of clutter and now find it serves very for all kinds of projects. Then it’s into the kitchen for coffee.

I fill my Minnesota Vikings mug to the brim and move on to my study a very small room with one wall on the west side that is almost entirely windows. The very first thing I loved about this house what that allowed light to come in. I pass the first hour of the day, sometimes more, on my computer, Mail first. I usually read The New York Times daily briefing. I always respond to incoming from friends and family. Then Facebook. It takes longer. With all that is going on in the world these days, especially with Trump at the helm, I find myself responding to entries and sometimes posting my own. I conclude my session with a look at the bank and credit card accounts. Then on to breakfast

Peanut Butter and jelly . . .

My Study

Breakfast is simple fare. For the longest time, I had homemade bread troweled thickly with peanut butter and gobs of jelly and a banana. It gets interesting is when Melinda makes dill bread or laces sourdough with garlic. These days, though, I keep the banana and measure out slightly more than half a cup of granola cereal with raisins, stir in milk, and pull up a chair to the dining room table. We never have had a kitchen table for lighter meals. My family had one when I was boy. The dining room then was only used for special occasions. Not so for us. Our house is small. Built in 1938 when it represented solid middle-class values of its day. We love it.  

Becoming more Self-sufficient . . .

Before we started sheltering, after breakfast I’d change in to shorts and a t-shirt, pack up my gym bag, and head for the YMCA. The Y has been part of my routine for more than 40 years. A big part of my day socially. Staying away represents a major departure in my routine. The only way I can replace the social interaction is on the phone. I have called a few friends to date but it’s not the same. I can replace the exercise with a walk or working around the yard, but I cannot replace the spontaneous laughter and smiles of friends. On Wednesday and Thursdays, I usually lunch with friends. Now that’s off limits also. I’m a pretty gregarious guy. This kind of isolation might get to me before long. I may need to work at being more self-sufficient.

Melinda typically leaves the house at about the time I departed for the Y. She has kept her daily routine throughout the social distancing edict. She’s out and about but she’s not engaging with people. She seems to draw comfort from maintaining her routines during the day. She returns often with a surprise as a day brightener. Perhaps a box of Fiddle-Faddle. Or sushi from the market. Popcorn. During the colder, wet days, we have a fire in the living room.

We will make it, the two of us.At 81, I am in the orchard of my life and I want to harvest all of its fruit of my years. The pandemic puts some out of reach. but I am not deterred in my quest – just inconvenienced.