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Lessons in letting go define pandemic years

It’s been ...

... more than 503 games of Scrabble against Zoe the computer, 171 days of Wordle — maybe it’s endemic.

Don’t ask me what I’ve accomplished in the past two-and-a-half years. I’ve avoided picking up my ukulele, found a counselor who sees — and even marries — people in person and welcomed two more grandchildren.

Yes, I’ve been vaccinated, boostered, had a moderate case of COVID and watched Kate, myself, friends, couples and, yes, our country hop-scotch, turn the tables, one-up and pooh-pooh our way around what’s safe.

I’ve learned to switch from the rhythm and blues station to the classical music station to calm down.

I don’t know why it’s taken me 70 years to first open the Sunday paper to “Peanuts,” “Dilbert,” “Doonesbury” and “Pickles” and laugh out loud before I move on to the hard stuff. And I do move on. And there’s plenty.

Strangers have helped me. It’s been 380 poetic prompts since I found Laurie Wagner’s free online Wild Writing sessions. If ever there was a time to write as quickly and as poorly as possible for 15 minutes, three times a week, this is it. Laurie reassuring us that “We already love you” helps.

Who needs a long dining room table when it’s almost never been more than two for dinner? Instead, we’ve pushed the table to the wall and done Zumba and Salsa to YouTubes of the Honduran Dance Crew.

Zoom isn’t my jam, but I did get to see a fourth grader, who had never spoken in the class where I volunteered, hold court like a talk show host, showing off her stuffies, the thyme growing in her window box and introduce us to Zoe, her pet goat. Another girl, in a separate square on the screen, endlessly somersaulted off a trampoline onto her bed.

It’s been a productive year for some.

I moved from a beloved flip phone to the iPhone my 94-year-old mother gave me on her deathbed. By March 2020, my phone told me I was doing 5 miles and 10,000 steps while listening to music on Air Pods my daughter gave me.

I had no idea how handy the adage my son’s principal told me at an elementary school reunion would be: “Just look at their eyes.”

More than anything else, I’ve learned yet more about letting go.

There are quotation marks around “plans.” A niece’s wedding, a visit to a new grandson and my uke group fell by the wayside.

And while I have friends and family who have been traumatized by the loss of homes in the Almeda Fire, I know how fortunate I am that I haven’t lost any dear ones to COVID.

There’s another adage that goes: “Man plans, and God laughs.” With a deep bow to tradition and modification, I’ve distilled this down to “We plan. Ha ha ha.”

Steve Neuberger lives in Ashland.