My god, what a year. It’s difficult to find a 12-month period more globally painful than the one we’ve just experienced. It’s been a year like no other.
As I began sketching out this post, the “Seasons of Love” song from Rent popped into my head and refused to leave. “525,600 minutes…” seems a fitting way to describe such a long, grueling year. The song asks the question, How do you measure a year? That’s the question I want to pose as we begin to see light at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel. How will we measure this year?
The most obvious measure is in the pain and loss we’ve collectively shared. In this country alone, the virus has claimed over 530,000 lives. When you put those two enormous numbers next to each other – 530,000 lives lost in 525,600 minutes – you realize that is more than one COVID death every single minute of every single day of these past twelve months.
When you move past the enormous loss of life, then you think about the loss of jobs and businesses. People lost their homes. We stopped buying and consuming and gathering in order to stop the spread of the virus. And if you’ve had loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals, you realize the psychological pain of not being able to be with them to spend possibly the last moments of their life.
That’s not even acknowledging the simple family traditions and milestones we’ve missed: graduations, birthdays, weddings, funerals, holidays, sporting events. Remember what used to be simple pleasures? Going to a new bar or restaurant with friends? Playing bridge or poker? Going to the theater?
Sadly, the easiest way to measure this past year will be in terms of loss of life, loss of jobs and income, and the list of many things we could not do.
But you know what? It’s not just been a year of losses. There’ve also been positive results from the 525,600 minutes we’ve spent quarantining at home. Because we had to live differently, we devised new ways to spend those minutes.
One new ritual Carole and I’ve begun is cocktails & crosswords. We tackle the New York Times daily crossword puzzle every afternoon. On weekends, cocktails are part of it. Who knew how popular Etta James and Eugene O’Neill are to crossword puzzlers? And… who cared? Now we do.
Dinners at home have gone from “pretty good for a Tuesday” to amazing recipes Carole has not done in years. And I even help. Thankfully, I’ve managed to halt the severe weight loss I’d been experiencing.
I read more now. In addition to our book group selection, I read more of the Sunday Times and New Yorker. I’ve started taking OLLI courses (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, out of Northwestern University), which operate via Zoom during the virus. You’ve probably noticed that I’m a lot more knowledgeable of federalism than I used to be. And soon, I’ll be able to tell you all about the history of homo sapiens, or at least the last 13.8 billion years. No more long painful silences at dinner parties.
Because my young wife and I have spent most of these 525,600 minutes in close proximity to each other, we spend much more time just talking to each other. We’ve learned things about each other. Did you know that she was married before? Who would have thought that? (She looked so innocent 35 years ago.) I was married before, too. We’re finding how much we have in common.
Because our son and figlia-in-law are extra careful about exposure to the virus, they don’t spend time with their friends. The four of us have formed our own safety bubble. The kids have us for any semblance of a social life. Want to have a nice dinner? Mom and Dad. Get together for cocktails? Mom and Dad. Watch the Bulls game? Play Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit? Mom and Dad. They’re stuck with us. And we take anything we can get.
When lockdown goes away, they’ll start spending evenings with their real friends again. But not to worry. Our granddaughter will be here in April, and they’ll need sitters. Enough said.
There’s another positive result of the season of COVID. Because we’ve spent a year deprived of simple pleasures, we’ll soon welcome those pleasures back in our life, and give them the respect they deserve: dinner with close friends, an evening of bridge, a more raucous evening of poker, going for pizza and the Lake Theater. Simple delicacies we’ll appreciate a lot more than we used to.
Okay, so what’s the point here? The Rent song ends by answering the original question, How do we measure the 525,600 minutes of the past year?
Remember the love…
Remember the love…
The seasons of love.
It’s schmaltzy, perhaps. But true.