During COVID-19 pandemic, I’m doing my bit by staying home

As a vulnerable old-timer, it has become my patriotic duty to stay home all day, read novels and newspapers, and walk the young dogs in late afternoon.

SHARE During COVID-19 pandemic, I’m doing my bit by staying home

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, emergency room nurse and President of the New York State Nurses Association speaks as Montefiore Medical Center nurses call for N95 masks and other critical PPE to handle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on April 1 in New York.

Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP

Back when we lived in the country, I sometimes wouldn’t leave the property for days at a time except to walk the dogs. We were unique along our gravel road, where a dog on a leash was an unusual sight. Otherwise, our pets roamed free like everybody else’s.

Actually, I suppose, my wife and I walked each other, a daily ritual of connection.

Having worked at home for many years, I’ve practiced social distancing to the point where Diane sometimes worries about me. An old friend in France, a boar-hunting retired professor, reports that his wife, too, had been expressing concern about his hermit tendencies. So maybe it’s an old man thing.

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A bookish old man thing, certainly.

Alain also reports that in his home of Montpellier, the fine for being out and about for no good reason is a stiff 135 euros, and French cops are notoriously strict. We’d talked about making a pilgrimage to Dordogne later this year to see the cave paintings at Lascaux and to meet with our friends. Now that’s not going to happen. I wonder if we’ll ever see Alain and Claudie again.

Best not to whine, though. I do expect to survive. Health-wise, I’ve always been lucky and so has Diane, apart from the macular degeneration that’s dimmed her eyesight and caused our move back to town. The good news is that after decades of marriage, Diane and I enjoy each other’s company more than anybody else’s.

We ain’t rich, but we’re OK. Besides, what would be the point of expensive furniture with three dogs in the house, the smallest a basset hound? A yacht would be a big bother; I don’t even own a canoe anymore.

Our small home in a pleasant older neighborhood in the city Diane grew up in fits our needs just fine. A couple of thousand books, an internet connection and a satellite TV — what else could we possibly need? These days, we can spend hours sitting in different rooms reading, sending each other emails — too often about Trump’s latest follies and outrages — and also, in her case, keeping up with our sons and her army of friends over the phone. Not to mention emails and texts. The woman is a one-person human relations department.

More than anything, I miss baseball. Three blessed hours a day in an all-absorbing alternate reality in which he-who-must-not-be-mentioned will not be mentioned. When opening day comes, I may cry.

As a vulnerable old-timer, it has become my patriotic duty to stay home all day, read novels and newspapers, and walk the young dogs in late afternoon. Every evening soon after sundown, I escort our elderly Great Pyrenees, Jesse, down the street to where Albert the cat spends most of his time surveying his realm from an elevated perch on a neighbor’s porch. He set up headquarters there after we adopted an excitable younger dog.

Albert and Jesse have been close friends since he was a tiny kitten.

Albert climbs down talking, sniffs noses with the dog, rub-a-dubs against his legs and mine, and then gets up on his hind legs, asking to be carried home for supper.

The other orange tabby, Martin, often accompanies Jesse and me and sets up ambushes along the way. As near as I can tell, he’s never surprised Albert yet. He’s younger and larger, but loses every tussle. It’s all a big game.

They share the supper dish, and then Albert returns to headquarters. The deal the cats have accepted is that when they’re in, the annoying young dog is out.

Watching CNN, I saw Don Lemon interview Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, an E.R. nurse and the president of the New York State Nurses Association. Hers is a different duty from mine. She explained her colleagues’ desperate need for protective gear — masks and gowns.

“You know, we started off being concerned,” she said. “The concern turned to worry. The worry turned to fear and then to abject terror. And now we’re just almost numb. Many of us are ill. We’re still trying to work. But the need for protective equipment is essential.”

Lemon also interviewed a 28-year-old doctor who’d written her last will and testament. He asked the two women how they found the courage. “Nurses do what they do because that’s what we have to do,” Sheridan-Gonzalez explained. “We’re like the Normandy of this viral invasion. We are on the front lines. We have had casualties. We hope we’ll win.”

The young doctor, Laura Ucik, begged viewers to take the coronavirus more seriously than she herself had at the start, and to please, please stay at home.

“I had patients who I saw in the office, you know, a week and a half ago, and they were fine,” said Ucik, “and now they’re dead.”

So, yes doctor, I’m staying home.

Hardly feeling heroic, but doing my humble, grateful bit.

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