What We Missed
So you grow a little older and things slow down a bit. The to-do list – never absent – grows a little shorter. Sometimes you grow a little shorter. You marvel at the younger families and how frantically busy they are – work and play and engagements and activities dominate giant calendars taped to refrigerators. You remember when your life was like that and you're not sure you really miss it all that much. Many more parts of each day are in your hands, your control, and there's a freedom in that.
Somewhere south of a year ago when we all began to pandemicize I mulled over all the new restrictions and ways of doing things – masks, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, stores shutting down. The common view was that "normal" was now gone and life was going to change – a lot.
On the one hand, I thought, "Change a lot?" I don't think so. Seniors are pretty good with stay-at-home orders because that's kind of what we do. Missing the mercantile life? Not so much. Seniors at any income level tend not to shop all that much anyway. It's because as a group we tend to be a frugal bunch, but it's also because, outside of necessities, we pretty much have everything we need. For us, I told my wife, things aren't going to change much at all.
On the other hand, turns out I was wrong.
I miss the smiles. I miss the chicken.
Your eyes are beautiful and expressive, but smiling with your eyes while your mouth is hidden behind a mask is like hearing a good story and missing the punch line. I miss the smiles.
Early on in the pandemonium I began shopping at Jewel for groceries at around seven in the morning – thence to miss the crowds and the aerosols. It's a fine store and they have a wonderful fried chicken they sell in the deli. Alas, at that early hour the chicken has yet to be cooked so it has been a long time since we've had it. I miss the chicken.
I've never been all that chummy a "guys guy" but, a number of years ago, a high school classmate began setting up a breakfast at a local restaurant for those guys from the class who are still in the area. Usually about a dozen would show up and we'd just eat and talk for a couple hours and then go on about our day. They're almost all former athletes and I never was, but I've written books and none of them have – which is another way of saying none of us gives a damn about accomplishments past or present. We're all just happy to see who's still traversing this goofy world. I miss the guys.
I miss Pizza Villa pizza.
We made a wonderful discovery about five years ago when we bought season tickets to our local playhouse. They put on seven or eight plays a year in a theater downtown that seats maybe two-hundred. Since we're so close to Chicago and the Fox Valley and Rockford the talent we see in the casts – whether musical, drama, or comedy – is simply amazing. They are easily the equal of any small theater in Chicago and in the theater world Chicago takes a back seat to no one. Naturally, last year's season was cancelled, and so far this year three plays have been cancelled but they're still hoping to bring a shortened season back this year. I miss the Stage Coach Players.
Similarly, as Cold Iron readers know, Gayle and I are big movie fans. Years ago, however, due to many things – kids, babysitters, work obligations, work travel – we got out of the habit of going out to see a movie. We sated our habit, of course, starting with the VCR and moving from there to cable and disks and streaming flicks. A while back, though, we finally started venturing out to see a movie in the theater. Slowly, the habit is coming back, especially now when it's so easy to go online, get a ticket, pay for it, reserve a seat, and just walk into the theater. Of course they've been closed for a year so that's another pandebummer. I miss the movies.
I miss Culver's butterburgers.
Writers, as is pretty well known, tend to be a pretty reclusive bunch. We inhabit worlds not open to other people and it can make us seem indifferent, even neglectful. We might seem anti-social which, in a pandemic time, is probably not a bad way to be. It's also not the way most writers really are. Withdrawn, maybe, but it's through the people in our lives that our art comes to be. They are the coaches, the inspiration, sometimes even the subject matter. It's through that art that we say we see them, we hear them, we know what makes them happy and what makes them sad; we feel their victories and their defeats, and we give life to their hopes and fears and terrors and joys. Above all, it's love in its journeyman format; love as work and creation; a way of saying you're here and I see you and you mean something to me. A year of absence then, or just limited, brief touchings is just wrenching. I miss my children, my grandchildren, my sister, my nieces and nephews. I miss the smiles, the laughter, the disagreements, the silly times, and the serious times.
I miss the hugs.
G.K.Wuori © 2021
Photoillustration by the author