“When we’re back to normal.”
That’s become the catch phrase of optimism during this COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to gnaw away at us like a dog on a hard, rubber ball. Unfortunately, “normal” is a word with as many personalities as Sybil.
My normal isn’t your normal and Jill’s normal isn’t necessarily Jack’s normal.
For example, I normally awaken when morning is night and night is morning, between 1-2 o’clock.
Outside my eighth-floor window in those small hours, the world is always deeply dark and dressed in a silence disturbed on occasion by the barking of a dog, the skirl of sea birds, the wail of an ambulance siren, or the pained yowl of a tortured soul wandering without direction on the uncluttered downtown streets below.
(I can hear one of the unfortunate souls as I write this, shouting at and into the darkness, scolding demons unseen by the rest of us for their bad manners. “I told you all!” he bellows in a raspy, fractured voice. “I told you all this is how it would end!”)
That’s the cadence to my writing.
I long ago discovered that the small hours are the most productive for the carnival between my ears, and I don’t shut down until 7-9 a.m., whereupon I begin to read and/or watch retro TV shows and/or movies until it’s time to lower my eyelids, which arrives anywhere from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
That’s my “normal.” Very early to rise, very early to retire, not much ballyhoo in between. Sounds boring, I know.
I should point out, though, that I do step into the out of doors once a week for groceries, doctor(s) appointments, a drug run as required or, as was the case this past Saturday, a long walk.
Once upon a time that now seems very, very long ago, my Saturdays would also include an afternoon shift at Bart’s Pub, where I’d exchange giggles and thoughts with a select group of people who’ve somehow determined that there’s merit in spending an hour or two at my corner roost. I’ve often paused for ponder, wondering why they gravitate in my direction, but I don’t dwell on it. I just count it as a true blessing at a stage in life when age dictates that the social herd tends to thin out.
They make me laugh, without fail, their notions are calisthenics for my grey matter and, because I’m a touchy-feely person, I yearn for a return to the close-encounter component of my weekly routine.
I need to hug one of my friends before the grip of prolonged isolation cedes to crippling loneliness.
That, of course, is the peril. As much as many of us seniors are accustomed to living on our own, the longer this pandemic drones on with no end in view, the greater the risk of mental meltdown.
It’s been a month since I last saw any of my friends, and I began to feel the separation with heightened awareness last week when a surge of emotion rolled in unannounced. It wasn’t a ripple. It was a wave, the kind we see here in Victoria during the winter winds and rain—fierce and strong and bashing against the craggy shoreline with violent force. It was five minutes before the final tear fell and my limbs ceased trembling.
I’ve experienced two episodes since, each as harsh as the first.
I wonder, though, were these Patti melts strictly about enforced isolation and distancing, or was there something else at play? Like the loss of life as we’ve known it and the uncertainty (fear?) of what’s on the other side of COVID-19.
I’m completely confident that intelligent people who squint into microscopes will force the coronavirus to tap out, but it’s only a guess what our “new normal” will be like.
Hopefully, it will include plenty of the old, most notably my Saturday afternoon gatherings with Cullen and Jeff and Paul and Donna and Brian and Terry and Lucy. They might not need a hug right now, but I sure as hell do. And when I get it, I’ll know we’re “back to normal.”
So what’s your definition of normal? Sunday mass? A backyard BBQ with all the neighbors? A summer music festival? High school or college finals? Yard sales? Grocery shopping where there’s no plexi-glass barrier between you and the cashier?
Or maybe it’s sports.
“We all want to know when we’ll get our sports back because it means life will have returned to normal,” writes Nancy Armour of USA Today.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Michael Traikos of Postmedia Toronto: “A world without sports is a world we really don’t want to live in.”
Initially, those comments struck me as a hopelessly myopic view of the world. I mean, I haven’t attended a live sporting event since my retreat from the rag trade. That was 20-plus years ago.
But, yes, I still watch sports on my rapidly dying flatscreen. At least I did before this pandemic shut down the planet’s playgrounds.
I am, however, quite picky in matters of sports viewing. Only elite curling and the Canadian Football League rate as must-see TV, and I also make time for the golf and tennis Grand Slam events and horse racing’s Triple Crown gallops. Beyond that, it’s a not-so-much proposition. I didn’t watch a National Football League game last year until the playoffs. I’ll check out the Winnipeg Jets if they drop the puck prior to my early bedtime. Watching a ball game from Wrigley Field or Fenway is an enjoyable time-waster. I also used to catch the highlights and listen to the gab guys on SportsCentre and Sports Central, just to keep up with the flow for my late, not-so-great sports blog. The rest of it? Meh.
Old friend Peter Young seems to be of a similar mindset.
“Sports has been part of my life since Pentti Lund gave me a newspaper job at 16 and Friar (Nicolson) soon got me a radio gig,” the longtime Fort William/Port Arthur/Thunder Bay/Winnipeg sports broadcaster tweeted recently. “Now, sadly, I could care less when the puck is dropped or ball is kicked. Wonder how many feel the same. Now I just want to see my grandson.”
Sounds totally normal to me.
And, finally, this from former wrestler Ronda Rousey on her time in the WWE ring: “Running out there and having fake fights for fun is just the best thing.” Excuse me? Pro rasslin’ is fake? Who knew?