It was nine months ago, almost to the day, when I wrote my first column about the world’s new pandemic — a term usually found only in crossword puzzles — and its impact on our lives.
“Ireland can wait” was the caption of my column on March 18. Only a day or two before our scheduled departure for a two-week tour of Ireland sponsored by the FSU Alumni Assn., Mary and I decided to cancel.
We had consulted our three adult children (you know that you are old ... and fortunate ... when you have reached the point in your life when you can do that) and all three said that while there was a degree of uncertainty, they wouldn’t object if we chose to take the risk.
Our age put us in a high-risk category, and flying on three airplanes and passing through four international airports in the space of 24 hours put us near the head of the line of risk-takers.
Though not a deciding factor, it helped that we had excellent trip insurance that would refund our prepaid expenses. The Tallahassee hotel at which we had made reservations for the night before our departure and the night after our return agreed to cancel our reservations without penalty.
We decided to let our visit to Ireland wait. It is still waiting.
Within a week after our more adventurous classmates had left on the tour, many thousands of American travelers were scrambling to find flights back home from Europe and Asia.
After Bartow’s St. Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled, I decided to don my official Irish uniform as the event’s Big Arsh Potato King and do a door-to-door walkabout in downtown Bartow.
In an abundance of caution, I shortened the route to four stops: Bartow Christian Books and Gifts, the Polk County History Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and CenterState Bank.
Mary and I made what would be our last shopping trip to Publix (we have been using a delivery service ever since).
I gassed up my car, because when you live in America’s Hurricane Heartland, that’s what you do when a crisis approaches. I wasn’t sure I could drive far enough to escape the Coronavirus, but I knew I couldn’t do it on a quarter-tank of gas.
We acquired a supply of medical-grade face masks to protect both ourselves and those around us from exposure to the toxic virus.
We learned how to participate in church and civic club meetings using an unfamiliar technology called Zoom. I have even given one speech via Zoom, and have another scheduled in January.
The only bad thing about Zoom is that I cannot tell if the audience is laughing at my jokes.
In one of the many columns I wrote about this new malady called Coronavirus, I quoted a message making the rounds on the internet: If our parents’ generation could endure four years of World War II, we can put up with a few months of isolation in our homes. I silently predicted three months.
That was nine months ago.
Last week, after an unprecedented medical research and development initiative, the first of several forms of immunization was released for the public. Others are on the way.
It is an encouraging milestone.
What we have missed most, beyond spending time with our children and grandchildren, is being unable to attend the funerals of friends and a wedding of relatives.
But being retired gives us the ability to remain quarantined in our home, an option not available to those who are in the workplace. And the modern conveniences of cell phones and the internet allow us to stay in regular communication with our family. We are fortunate.
Despite the unconscionable politicalization of issues surrounding the pandemic — masks, social distancing, closures, rapid-result testing, research protocols, immunization safety, stay-at-home orders, curfews, quarantines, stimulus bills, and others — Mary and I plan to be inoculated as soon as our age bracket is reached in the immunological food chain.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Is the development of an immunization the beginning of the end of the pandemic? His track record hasn’t been very good at predicting these things. He hopes that if nothing else, it is at least the beginning of the middle.)