The Winter of Life

Walking the waterfront with son and grandkids.

It’s the winter of life. Ads for funeral services pepper my mailbox. Mortuaries stalk people my age. The implication, I suppose, is that I don’t have too many decades left. It’s nice to be wanted. Eventually, I’ll buy what they have to sell. But, for now, I’ll wait. There are more songs to write.

It’s no wonder I cherish time spent with our grandkids. Keeping their company is like walking on the sunny side of the street. Their youth, innocence, and promise put spring in my heart. 

Yet, grandparents must show caution due to Covid. Our opportunity for babysits declined to minimize the dangers. It’s been a big loss to the emotional highlights of my wife’s and my life. The pandemic is not something about which to be casual. We limit our time to the occasional safely managed interaction. 

Our, woe is me, situation, though, barely rises to the level of a complaint about life under Covid. Among the haves and have nots, we belong to the former. The degree of community hardship far exceeds any expectation we might have about family activities.

The street where I live, looking east. February’s blast of winter weather was welcome.

At our supermarket, I observe long lines of people waiting outside in winter weather to redeem recyclables for store credit … day after day. This reminds me of how fortunate it is to be retired in this economy. People my age with pensions realize that what they have is better than the nothing of those whose work was disrupted by Covid. The pandemic world for so many is brutal. The primary threat to us oldsters is illness, perhaps death. To the young and middle aged it is gut wrenching insecurity about money, perhaps financial ruin. I’m not sure which fear is worse.

My granddaughter’s birthday is Pi Day, March 14th. Last year’s birthday party, her sixth, occurred under the approaching cloud of the pandemic. Word was out, warning of a serious, highly contagious virus. Yet, the party went on. The celebration included a bouncy house, a piñata, and shared food. Masks were not yet a thing. That party was my last normal activity of 2020.

At the same time, Italy was experiencing an extraordinary level of disease spread and death among its elderly. By March 11, 2020, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, had instituted a nationwide quarantine and prohibited most commercial activity.

We live in town now, but this is the house in the upper Hood River Valley where our sons grew up.

Here, in the USA, our ex-president downplayed the danger. On March 10th of last year, president Trump was quoted saying, “Just stay calm. It will go away.” 

500,000 American deaths later, this year’s birthday party is going to be a more subdued affair. Guests, if any, will dress as if attending a masquerade ball. Activities will occur outdoors. 

Supplies of vaccine to counter Covid stutter step their way into our small town. Our Health Department has managed the pandemic well. Diligent contact tracing in our bi-lingual community succeeded in minimizing disease spread. Messaging on preventive methods to counteract the virus worked.

The risk level remains high but there are no recent instances of spiking numbers. State mandated protocols for vaccine distribution are now dipping into the senior age groups. I have an appointment for my first dose.

The beauty of winter sprawls away to the west above Indian Creek.

Is a return to normal possible? I don’t know if I want to or should go back to normal. As a cancer patient with immune system deficiencies, normal for me used to be an upper respiratory viral infection at least every three months. Sore throats, nasal congestion, and a hacking cough are fashionable for patients with multiple myeloma. Yet, my last “cold”, so to speak, occurred mid-January of 2020. The quasi-quarantining and Covid precautions protected me from opportunistic infections. I may wear a mask for the rest of my life. Frankly, the pandemic has been good for my health. The irony … I know.

Links to:

Timeline of Trump’s Coronavirus Responses

Pi Day, Time to celebrate numbers

Latest disease status and numbers in The Drill

And, here’s another song, The Winter of Life


13 thoughts on “The Winter of Life

    1. First dose of vaccine yesterday evening and I scheduled my 2nd dose for the end of the month. Glad you are well Gary and survived the “snowpocalypse” in Texas.

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  1. Beautifully written thoughts, John. I am there with you in most all respects. We are comfortable in our little house on 3 acres at 4300 feet; retired from our jobs and with modest material needs. My second Moderna shot is this coming Friday. Hillary ‘s is at the end of the month. We count our blessings daily.

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  2. I’m blown away by your calm optimism! Your outlook on life reminds me of one of my favorite poets – Billy Collins. He often contemplates death, but without getting too heavy. Also, he loves his dog. Look up his poem “Dharma.”
    I’m jealous of your grandkids. I so wish I had one or two. I hope your granddaughter’s birthday is as groovy as possible!

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    1. Hi Ginger. Thanks for commenting. I am also a fan of Billie Collins. The poem Dharma is wonderful.

      As to grandkids, I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up: a grandpa.

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  3. Nice song, John. I share your thoughts on how lucky we retired folk have been during the pandemic compared to those who are working and trying to raise a family. I also share your contemplative nature regarding the sunset years. Anyway, get that second shot and go hug the grandkids.

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