When I first heard the word “quarantine” around the middle of March, my reaction was similar to when I heard the word “assassination” on Nov. 22, 1963.
Presidents are no longer assassinated, I told myself. Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Every kid who passed ninth grade social studies knew the names of the only three United States presidents who had been assassinated, and it was implicit that with those three murders, “assassination” had been retired from our lexicon.
“Quarantine” was sort of like that. We knew that in the history of the nation, there had been infrequent occasions when medical science could not control a pandemic (another word retired from everyday usage), but we knew that medical science had made quarantines a thing of the past.
My next thought was that I had to be sure to tell my grandchildren about this unreal development during their grandparents’ lives. Then I realized that three of my six grandchildren are teenagers, and can keep the memories alive for their younger siblings and cousins.
So share with me a few reflections on how this “life as we never thought it would be” has unfolded.
• On a purely personal perspective, I am 79 years old and in pretty good health. If I were a used car, I would still bring a good price. A few things worry me, but not much actually scares me. There is a difference.
• Our two daughters took it on themselves to convince their skeptical parents that, unrealistic though it sounded, our survival just might depend on our adopting a life of self-imposed house arrest. For this, I am indebted to them — but you don’t have to tell them I said so, okay?
• Our son chose to organize a three-generation, two-family talent show, shared on Zoom in Bartow, Lakeland, Gainesville and Atlanta. Mary and I sang the FSU Fight Song in a way it has never been sung before. Our daughter-in-law’s mother led a Gator cheer. There was a mother-son comedy sketch, a mother-daughter dance routine, performance of an original song, a display of amusing anecdotes from the internet, a guitar solo and a variety of other skills.
• Mary and I called a few church friends to see how they were getting along, just to let them know someone was thinking of them. We recommend it.
• One of the more amusing comments on Facebook was about the belief that if you stayed at home and ate your own cooking instead of going out to dinner, you would lose weight. It doesn’t work that way.
• Our favorite Facebook observation was that in six weeks, there wouldn’t be any blondes left.
• A federal plan to help small businesses survive defined “small businesses” as those with a payroll ranging from one to 500. Words fail me.
• Initial listings of “essential businesses” made sense. Within a month, the list had been expanded, at least in Georgia, to include tattoo parlors.
• Some health authorities are predicting that there will be another coronavirus pandemic this winter, made worse by the annual flu season. This is one you can partially protect yourself against: Get a flu shot; no excuses. You can thank me in January.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired, both from journalism and from the Florida National Guard. A month or so before his Guard retirement in 1995, he went through a shot line, getting immunized against most of the diseases known to mankind. The last station was a flu shot, the only one that was optional. He told the doctor in charge that he would pass on the flu shot “because I have a reaction to them.” “Colonel,” the doc said, “if you get the flu, you’ll wish you had gotten the reaction.” “Okay,” he replied, “hit me one more time.” That year, every member of his family and every member of his newspaper staff except for him came down with the flu. From that year to this, he has gotten a flu shot every year.)