Long ago, our coffee group met at Coffee at the Point after the gym on Saturday morning. We ate egg sandwiches while we fumed about Trump. We still get those Saturday sandwiches. Everything else is different. We go to the café as soon as we get up because there’s no gym, no coffee group and the seating is roped off. We wear our masks, get breakfast to go.
Last Saturday we arrived later than usual. Another couple stood at the cash register. Phil immediately got impatient. “We should have called the order in,” he said, checking the floor for the six-foot marker, looking at his watch.
“They’re finishing up.” I soothed, but secretly thought they were taking forever.
“I’m used to no people.”
“You are pandemic spoiled.”
We are blessed. Our retirement income is unchanged, our house paid for. We know the stories of suffering are true. We’ve driven past the long food lines, the makeshift tents pitched beside our city streets, the shuttered businesses. We have been lightly touched by this national crisis.
Phil readily agreed to being pandemic spoiled and listed the ways. Less traffic coming down here. Always a good parking place. Seldom a wait to order. Suddenly I flash on full tables, standing in line, asking Judy to save us seats. Shaking the memory off, I added, “able to see the art at the museum, instead of peering on tiptoe around a bunch of excessively tall people.” We’re short. Short people suffer in this world.
“More home-made muffins for coffee,” Phil offered, renewed love in his eyes. The way to a man’s heart has not changed.
We quickly ticked off more perks: driving less, buying less gas, never going to a movie or eating out results in extra money at the end of the month.
We miss going to a movie and dinner with friends. We miss having breakfast at Zaidy’s, which we’ll never do again, because like many other restaurants, it’s a casualty of the pandemic. I pause to think of those who worked there, cooks and wait staff, some for twenty years or more.
I no longer click daily on the coronavirus death count, can’t comprehend the hundreds of thousands who have died. Someone said in the time it takes Bing Crosby to sing “White Christmas” five more Americans die of COVID-19. For months we knew no one who died. Now we know two, relatives of friends, people we barely knew. Such deaths have little weight in our hearts, in our minds seem unreal.
We watched “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the new film of the August Wilson play we saw in the 1980s at Eulipions Theatre in Five Points, when Five Points was a black neighborhood. Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman are breathtaking. Wilson’s writing is as powerful now as it was then.
We eat early, settle on the couch with dessert, start movies when we want. In the old days, we’d adjust our schedule to show times, eat later than we like, leave the house. OMG, leave the house! We see movies now in our slippers.
When I do have to go somewhere, I’m undone by the need to dress, to put on earrings in spite of the mask, to be presentable. I’m losing the knack of making myself presentable. I’ve been wearing this pair of yoga pants for a week.
Phil went to the mall that contains his watch repair shop. “It’ll take them an hour to fix it,” he said, ‘so I’m bringing a book, will get a coffee at the Starbucks.”
Right, I nodded, not remembering that it isn’t like that now. No seating anywhere at the mall. Drink your latte standing. People wait outside a store in a socially distanced line for someone to leave so they can be let in. Phil went back to the car, sat in the dim parking garage, unable to read, spilled his coffee.
It’s been hard to gear up for the holidays. Not having children around has that effect under any circumstances. We’ve gradually stopped the wasteful tradition of getting gifts people might not want or need, the wrapping, the packages, the shipping. For years, we’ve sent the grandkids money, and made donations to charities in their names for friends and family. The pandemic only made that practice more needful.
This year we’ve given to American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Metro Caring, Denver Teachers Club, Denver Inner City Parish, Food Bank of the Rockies, The Navajo Nation for COVID relief, Pen America and the Red Cross. We also supported Colorado News Collaborative (COLAB), Denverite, The Colorado Sun—where would we be without local, fact-based news sources?
While the pandemic inspired more giving than usual, I was nonetheless surprised by holiday cards arriving in the mail. Who knew people would carry on under these conditions? We display the cards, for no one but ourselves to see, put our lighted wreath on the door and electric candles in the window, reminders that the impetus may not yet be exhausted, of goodwill to humanity.
Pat Dubrava lives in Denver.