The tragicomedy of the coronavirus

There are, as far as I know, only two people in my extended family who were paid to write for publication. The other one was my great-aunt, who worked at the Morrison County Record in Little Falls, Minn., and doubled as their cooking columnist.

That does not mean the non-writers in the family cannot tell stories. And so my mother makes her worldwide writing debut:

Yesterday Steve went into panic mode since he was eating his last banana for breakfast. He says he’s going to go to the store and get three or four. He is very picky about his bananas and won’t eat one if it has a brown spot so can’t stockpile.

That is, by the way, my father (Steve is his middle name), not the writer of this blog. His actual first name is Paul, the same as his father’s, but back in the days when many people went by their middle names he was Paul Stephen, since he was born on St. Stephen’s Day, and not Paul Leonard. Their decision to name me for Paul Stephen, but in reverse, set in motion years of confusion over the intended recipients of phone calls and mail.

Me: You’re going to risk life and limb for a few bananas?

I tell him I’ve got it covered, so at bedtime I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. to take advantage of the store’s senior early hours, 6:30–8:30 a.m. Didn’t sleep well knowing I had this daunting task that I was committed to.

That is apparently hereditary. Back in my business magazine days I would make 6 a.m. morning TV appearances at a Green Bay TV station an hour from the house. I was paranoid that I would not get there in time, knowing full well that if you don’t get there on time, they’re not going to move you elsewhere in the show. I always did get there in time, but I spent the rest of the day in a caffeine-fueled haze due to my lack of sleep.

At 6:13 a.m this morning my eyes pop open — I beat the alarm clock. Ran and shut the window (I like it cold to sleep), ran to turn up the furnace since I like it warm to get dressed, started my first cup of coffee in the Keurig. Did my daily blood sugar test and it was good — yay, more carbs today! Day is starting off great. Checked out the window and it is dark and raining. Great, since it might keep the old farts indoors. Went to the bathroom for a quick tooth brushing, used a cold wash cloth to wake myself up, applied lots of moisturizer so wrinkles don’t resemble the Grand Canyon. Penciled on two misaligned eyebrows (I’m not going anywhere, even for bananas, without my eyebrows). They work if I don’t smile or squint. I’ve got this! Serious case of bed head — rainy and cold so a knit hat works, plus I have matching cloth gloves to wear in the store. No touchy anything! Gloves can be washed or left in the car until spring.

I am dressed, in the car and on the road at 6:48. Weird because there is not a car in sight. Made me wonder if the store would be open. I take a risk and drive 30 in a 25 mph zone. Figured no cop would give a ticket to a “fragile” (doctor’s label, not mine, since I think of myself as a flyweight Ninja Grandma) senior who is doing an emergency food run for the family.
Get to the store — wait, there are cars in MY store’s parking lot. I don my gloves and bravely walk in the door. Wow, only saw a couple bodies and they were stocking, etc.

Good news — there were muffins. Hooray, since I allow myself one-fourth of a muffin as a treat. God is soooooooo good — bought two packages. No, that’s not hoarding because there were plenty on the table.

Go to produce and found four perfect greenish yellow bananas, beautiful raspberries that I plan to do a reverse mortgage to afford. (If hunky Tom Selleck says reverse mortgages are good, I’m there.)

Peppers look good though with my neuropathy glove-covered hands there is no way I can open up the freaking plastic bags — was holding up progress so gave up. My beloved grapefruit were plentiful so I grabbed a bag of seven, and my favorite lettuce blend.

I’m definitely on a roll … until this young guy invades my personal space. I’m thinking about giving him the finger but have never been able to determine what one to use.  I’m told a thumbs-up gesture does not convey the message appropriately. Oh well, the glove probably would make it difficult anyway.

Observation: women are being respectful; men are clueless! Nothing new there. Probably a dozen or so people in the whole store. Shelves are bare in the toilet paper area, but I did find some Pinesol liquid so I can make my own spray if my supply runs out.
Picked up one dozen eggs and several of my low-carb yogurt. I’m definitely on a roll since I was able to find most of what I wanted/needed. Hooray and worth the trip!

Stopped to profoundly thank a manager type who was checking prices. Seemed to make her so happy and she in turn thanked me for shopping their store. I’m thinking people are going to bigger probably better stocked shelves.

By this time my stomach is growling so loud that my social-distancing fellow shoppers are looking at me probably wondering if one of the first signs of the virus is noisy stomachs. They’re definitely looking fearful. So as not to offend, I head to the checkout where I am delighted to find my favorite youngsters at the register — a cute little Asian guy bagger and a young woman who is sooooooo good at her job. She remembers everything and always reminds the bagger to not make my bags heavy since I have a bad back. How sweet is that?  I thank them both profusely and ask what time they had to get to work. Turns out they reported in at 6 a.m. but she has the day off tomorrow.
It is now 7:31 a.m. and I push my treasures in my cart and can’t get the right button (remember gloves here) to open the back door. Finally throw caution to the wind and open it myself. I duck as it raises up. I load my bags in the car and drive home. Still no traffic on the road.  So eerie!

Get home and take only the perishables into the house.  I saw the instructions of how to handle groceries. I spend the next hour cleaning everything — if the peppers taste a little weird so-be-it.

At 8:36 sleeping Jesus emerges in his jammies from the bedroom and says (drum roll, please) “Are you going somewhere?” Dane County has another C-19-related casualty.

I have never heard of my father referred to as “sleeping Jesus.” Apparently he outgrew being a morning person.

I must say I haven’t had such an adventure since I skipped an afternoon of school in the ninth grade. I was terrified the whole time and vowed it wasn’t worth it. Didn’t get caught but I believe I’m still being punished by getting frequent urinary tract infections.

Of all the people I know, my mother is the last person I would have thought would have ever skipped school. Proof of the cosmic unfairness of the universe: Had I ever skipped school, or for that matter done one-tenth of what my father allegedly did when he was in school, I would still be locked in their basement on lifetime grounding.

While this is meant to be a joke, I sit here with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I am so blessed to live in a country where the aged are being treated aggressively for the virus, unlike some other countries who triage them out as hopeless. My beloved family and friends are well at this point and the grocery stores are making special hours to help us seniors stay healthy. What else could I wish for except for solutions to be found to fight this terrible disease.

I close by wishing you continued good health. Stay well!

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