J.B., 79, a retired university professor in Avondale, AZ

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This post is in collaboration with the NoiseFilter podcast

Last year was pretty much “Bad day at Blackrock” making depression my default frame of mind. Talking to friend, who’s the same age and with whom I therefore share the same clock, it occurred to us that while we’ve never seen a crisis exactly this we’ve seen a lot.

Our parents lost everything during the Great Depression and while we grew up with the economy improving we knew poor.

We grew up hand writing letters beginning with “We’ve been sick with the Measles” because sickness and death were always with us. As we shared what Covid-19 is doing to us we realized everyone in both families has a nice place to live, good food to eat and none of us have died from this plague. “We’ve got it pretty darned good.”

“It’s not where we’re at but who we’re with that counts.” Retiring my wife and I had a summer trip to Europe booked and paid for when she had a stroke. Instead of touring Europe we were together in hospitals 24/7 for seven weeks. Europe would have been nice but being a full-time caregiver, helping facilitate complete recovery, was much better. We’re together.

Reconnecting with family revives memories. My sisters and I chat about things that happened years ago more than ever as does my wife and her sister. Listening to each other’s “sister talks” is a waste of time since most conversations are about events only each immediate family experienced. Not much conversation about current events because we’re all on the same page.

Politics are hard to ignore. A neighbor works in the United States Post Office which is experiencing the greatest volume of package delivery ever. She does this covering for absent fellow employees too sick to work, or with sick colleagues who can’t afford to stay home given they’re only allowed two sick days off before pay is reduced. Providing an essential service, while constantly being denigrated by President Trump, impacts morale.

Our eldest Grandson’s a true hero. One of the “Red Vests” managing the “Front-End” of our local grocery store he calms irate customers who don’t want to comply with quarantine and rationing regulations. He’s been continuously exposed to Covid-19 every day for months. Exposed to a hidden enemy that’s infected millions, and killed more Americans in three months than died in all wars combined since World War II, is much more heroic than what almost all us military veterans did. I’ll never again take grocers for granted.

Quarantine’s been an education. We have a decent library, both of us read books and magazines and then there are Public Broadcast System (PBS) documentaries. Plate tectonics was just a geologic theory, and genetics just an advanced probability course, when I took these courses in 1959. Discovery of the homo sapiens genetic code, how DNA and RNA and Chromosomes work and what the Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us about life leave me wishing I’d been born 30 instead of 79 years ago.

And finally, I’ve been lucky to enjoy the privilege of having a place to do work that makes a difference. Many mornings, a little after the sun comes up, I go to our church where there is a campus of bushes, lawns, gardens and a columbarium to care for. Not an employee, a volunteer getting physically tired doing useful appreciated work.

Crises clarify. Yes, we are experiencing a real-time lesson in what it is to live through a pandemic in a nation temporarily led by a seriously mentally ill narcissist. But in reality our lives have been and are being incredibly blessed. Born to the right parents, at the right time in the right country makes us recipients of an incredibly wonderful unearned gift – and my wife and I are still alive and together with healthy, well-fed and housed adult children and grandchildren nearby.

[submitted on 5/14/2020]

The NoiseFilter podcast featuring this story is available on Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pockets Casts, RadioPublic and Spotify. Click here to listen!

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Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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