Octo Observations – Grooving in Place!

“Grooving in Place” during the Covid-19 pandemic is a once-in-a lifetime challenge for all of us. We Americans are being tested unlike ever before. It is inspiring how so many are adjusting to this new reality. Each day we hear of creative efforts by people all over the country rallying to fight this horrendous virus. Each day we hear gratifying stories that show the grit and determination revealed by so many intrepid folks. Everywhere we are finding acceptance of a New Normal…willingly and positively.

The more we EACH do our part, the sooner this crisis will mitigate. The more we EACH follow the social distancing rules; the more we EACH adhere to the mandates of the CDC, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and ALL the experts who are working night and day to help us lick this disease, the sooner we will be free to resume our lives. This is the irrefutable truth. Not one American citizen or illegal immigrant is exempt. 

Recently the Virginia governor proclaimed “social distancing” to continue until June 10. (Yikes, that is a long time to go without fresh hair-color or cut!) However, with the passing of each day, we are realizing that this June 10 date makes sense. The old song, “Que Sera Sera…whatever will be will be” comes to mind.,.. Covid-19 is a reality none of us can duck….not if we love our families, our friends and neighbors. Not if we value our own lives. As Michael Paul Williams, a Richmond Times Dispatch journalist writes, “Time to Be Our Best Selves.” Indeed.

My husband and I live in the most protected and CDC adherent retirement facility anyone could envision. Our staff is incredible. Three weeks ago all visitors were banned. Next the health and wellness amenities, such as fitness and swimming pool rooms, were closed. Weekly housekeeping services were redirected to keep every surface in the common areas of The Big House sanitized. Residents living in apartments were forbidden to visit neighbors. And now, all dinners are delivered to each apartment, cottage on campus. Each week more stringent rules are put into place. Although we independent living folks are still allowed to shop early in the morning at the grocery store, security checkpoint officers take all temperatures and track destinations upon return, One day soon, if a resident is cited leaving campus too frequently for any non-essential destination, privileges will (and should) be revoked.

Sadly there are a mere handful of people who bend the rules. Neighbors are aware, and angry to think that someone else’s thoughtlessness could put them at risk. I am one of those who sees purple flashes if a neighbor, and we have one, blithely goes about her business as if these were normal times!

From early March our staff jumped on board to apprise themselves of all CDC guidelines. Not all facilities were as pro-active, as is evident by the heavy loss of lives in Seattle, and even at a major Rehab institution here in Richmond. Yesterday morning our newspaper headlines reported a total of 17 dead at this place, versus four five days ago……and now 91 patients are infected. Can you imagine how families of loved ones must feel? Apparently a cleaning service, unknowingly affected, was used and hence the contamination and subsequent outbreak. Tragic.

HOWEVER…..let’s talk about the good news!! It is all around us. It is happening in every county, every state every day. Tales of heroism, tales of sacrifice by tireless health care workers. Tales of families making masks to send to local hospitals or others in need. Tales of people preparing meals for those in need. The list is endless. Tales of people stepping up to pay for others’ groceries….those who have lost jobs.  One man I read about in the paper noticed a lady ahead of him struggling to meet her grocery bill. “Hey, I got that,” said he….after that he repeated his generosity for many others…spending over $2500 in one visit to the super market. Tales, also, of countless phone calls to elderly and those living alone. Those and glorious “random acts of kindness” are comforting and gratifying.

History proves people are survivors even under much worse conditions. Yesterday afternoon my husband and I watched Gary Cooper in the 1940 movie adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Wow, talk about tough times. Not only did the Great Depression deprive honest hardworking people of their meager livelihood, but it forced poor sharecroppers working their land to abandon their pitiful homes in the Dust Bowl state of Oklahoma. 

Watching the  movie opened my eyes wide. Yes, I read Grapes of Wrath 50 years ago, but much of the plot was lost to me. For two plus hours, this remarkable movie unfurled an incredible story of loss, strength, determination, humiliation, deprivation and overwhelming COURAGE of the human spirit. All ages were affected: mothers improvising to create a pitiful “chicken dinner” from tasteless globs of rolled out flour and water tugged my heartstrings. Forlorn children standing around a boiling pot, hoping for a bite. Watching the predatory acts of greedy men planting false hope among these migrant workers willing to work for 5 cents an hour, well, evil personified. Yet through it all,  beautiful poignant examples of love. Beautiful vignettes of selflessness, sacrifice and remarkable courage. If you feel so inclined, watch this movie with your family. It will take your mind off the inconveniences of the corona virus. It will help you count your blessings.

Over the last three weeks, like millions everywhere, John and I felt the ying-yang of changing routines. Indefinite postponement of our six month’s planned family gathering to celebrate my husband’s 85th birthday. Disappointments galore. No more pool exercise for my hubby, no more bridge games, no more onsite work outs with Nadine…no more inviting neighbors or outside visitor friends over for a drink. No more attending church in person to share worship service. No more this and that. We are spoiled like so many others in this country. We are used to living life unencumbered by rigid restrictions. But we are adjusting. Days are good, some better than others. We can pick up the phone, text, email, Facetime, ZOOM and stay connected thanks to modern technology. We are not on an ice-float to oblivion. We are finding our groove.

And the emergence of email jokes, original ditties, vaccine fund raising performances arranged by Elton John and other celebritiesYouTube videos abound, and we see marvelous original songs played and sung by clever amateurs and people staying at home while creating amusing distractions to share online. So much fun. 

We may be social distanced, but hearts are melding together. Efforts to offer ideas for maximizing this at home time are endless…..and we can learn from each other. Children are pushing vacuums, cleaning bathrooms, learning to cook, and parents are playing games with their kids, as they take a break from working at home. In our own family, one daughter in-law resurrected her high school sewing machine and made dozens of masks for N95 equipment needed desperately by doctors at Yale New Haven Hospital. Our Boston daughter is sewing masks for each member of our large family, as she extracts precious time from working at home. As a champion crafter, she is lucky to have a treasure trove of materials available. Her older brother is getting a JETS theme mask, while her younger brother wants a PATRIOTS mask!! (Maybe he will settle for Boston Red Sox motif, instead!!) Two granddaughters, one home from college and the other home from high-school, made dinners to take to people connected to an outpatient addiction facility….

When I speak to grandchildren, my first question is “What good do you think will come from this crisis?” Our 23-year-old ballerina, currently laid off by The Washington Ballet, said, “I hope everyone is nicer to each other. I hope my generation learns how lucky we are.” Another granddaughter, home from college said, “I just want everyone to think of others. I want to do all I can to social distance. I want to tell everyone I know to do the same so that we can return to college as soon as possible.”  Another answer is,  “I hope people are more considerate of each other.” So, anyone who thinks these young people are not learning while away from school or their jobs, is selling them short.

My guess is that each of you readers could offer your own stories about lessons learned so far during this coronavirus crisis…..about how you are “grooving in place.” Don’t forget them. Write them down to save for your young children or your grandchildren, many of whom may not even be born. You just may be glad you did.

 As I close this story I am drawn to the 1970ties recording made by the Rascals called “Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon.” What a yummy song for today……it is Palm Sunday, and as unreligious as it may seem, it tells me to be thankful….for all the beauty of nature and all those people who fill my heart….I hear a  soothing voice from a different time as well as a reminder that “this too shall pass,” and we will always thank God for each good day of our lives.

Teresa Edwards, a lady about whom I know nothing except what she wrote after listening to the Rascals sing, said:  “People need to chill, life is short….be kind, stop being so sensitive and politically correct. Just enjoy the music.” 

Your time to Groove in Place won’t last forever.

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

Top photo: Bigstock